This week’s CHEER Champions of the Week are Forrest General Hospital & University of Southern Mississippi (USM) in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. The 2 institutions, located across the street from one another, have formed a great partnership and kicked off this year’s USM football season with a Mothers’ Lounge for mothers to privately care for and breastfeed their babies while attending the games!
“We want to make breastfeeding easy and enjoyable for mothers, and part of that mission is enabling them to attend their favorite events, like Southern Miss football games. Of course, a mother may feed her child anywhere she feels comfortable, but for some, who prefer to breastfeed privately, the Mothers’ Lounge may empower them to come out and enjoy the game with their families when they may have chosen to stay home,” said Millie Swan, Forrest Health vice president.
Millie’s vision has, in fact, been realized. As the football season comes to a close, the feedback from mothers has been overwhelmingly positive. 10-15 mothers have used the Lounge each game, and some mothers even said they purchased season tickets because of the Lounge. Also, based on mothers’ feedback, Forrest General donated and installed a changing table and provided a radio in the Mothers’ Lounge. After these changes, one mom left a note in the Lounge which read: “Thank you for the changing table and radio – perfect addition. I’m so thankful to have this option on game day!”
Tangela Boutwell, RN, BSN, Director of Women and Children’s Services at Forrest General Hospital was Project Lead on the Mothers’ Lounge project. Tangela and Millie brainstormed the idea and they agreed to approach USM for the next football season.
“I noticed that other colleges and universities offered this service and knew of their success,” Tangela shared. “I am very passionate about the benefits of breastfeeding and making it easier for mothers who choose this option. I know that administration at Forrest General feels the same way so whenever I see an opportunity to make our community a friendlier place for nursing mothers, I do my best to help implement a plan.”
Millie spoke with Jamie Martin, General Manager at USM IMG Sports Marketing, and they set up a meeting to discuss the Lounge. Through conversations with Jamie, they realized that USM already had a room for nursing students to use throughout the week in the Cook Union building near the stadium. From there, it was a matter of opening the room during games and ensuring that mothers were aware that it was available to them. Millie pulled in Michael Marks, Public Relations Coordinator for Forrest Health, who coordinates the hospital’s activities with USM. Michael, Tangela, and Millie, along with Jamie; Stephen McCay, USM Assistant Director for Operations, Union & Programs Department; Kim Davis, Patient Care Manager of Labor and Delivery; Leigh Ann Leonard, Patient Care Manager, NICU; and Jami King, USM Assistant Director, Event Services, formed a committee to bring the project together and communicate everything to the public.
Forrest General Hospital was Mississippi’s first Baby-Friendly Hospital, so it should come as no surprise that they are also leading the way in terms of making their community breastfeeding-friendly. The Mothers’ Lounge is part of an ongoing initiative at USM to make their games fun for the entire family. We applaud both institutions for their achievement and for supporting breastfeeding mothers!
Lydia West, MPH, RD, LD is a consultant with the Mississippi Public Health Institute (MSPHI). She has been a staunch supporter of breastfeeding work, and has worked tirelessly behind the scenes to move breastfeeding initiatives in Mississippi forward!
As a consultant with MSPHI, Lydia’s main role is to assist the Mississippi State Department of Health, (MSDH) Office of Preventive Health (OPH), Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity (DNPAO) in addressing CDC-supported efforts to increase access to breastfeeding-friendly environments. Lydia and MSDH OPH DNPAO staff also collaborate with CHAMPS to provide continuing education related to breastfeeding for hospital staff. This CHEER Champion of the Week also works with communities in Mississippi to establish Baby Cafés. She is in the process of gathering data for a resource and referral system of breastfeeding support for clinics and communities around Mississippi. This work included her leading listening sessions to find out what breastfeeding resources community members and health practitioners would like to have included in the resource and referral system. She is now in the process of compiling that information and will convert it into a user-friendly format that can be updated as needed.
In addition, Lydia serves as Co-chair for Mississippi’s State Health Improvement Plan’s Priority Area. The focus of this group is to improve infant health by increasing the number of breastfeeding mothers in Mississippi. She enjoys working with the Mississippi Perinatal Quality Collaborative on their breastfeeding projects. Mississippi breastfeeding supporters have a monthly call to talk about their work and Lydia helps to coordinate and lead those calls. She is an active member of the Mississippi Breastfeeding Coalition and worked with this group and several other Mississippians to get Mississippi 2016 Senate Bill (2070) passed into law. She promotes the meetings of the East, North, and South Mississippi Breastfeeding Coalitions through social media and word-of-mouth.
Lydia shares, “What motivates me to do breastfeeding work is the passion of people who are the ‘boots on the ground’. I am inspired by the collaborative effort of Mississippi’s breastfeeding champions and the strategies they use to strive for their goals every day.”
Lydia is a big supporter of CHAMPS and ROSE. She has attended CHAMPS and ROSE conferences and events in the state. She also feels that it is important to educate people in Mississippi about the work of CHAMPS and ROSE.
Regarding breastfeeding, Lydia believes things are changing for the better in Mississippi. She thinks people seem more comfortable with breastfeeding in public and not as secretive about the issues they have faced while breastfeeding. “It is wonderful to see more places of employments support nursing mothers by providing time and a place to pump when they return to work,” Lydia remarks.
“What does the future hold?” poses Lydia. “I hope that these trends in Mississippi and nationwide continue. I want more people to understand the benefits of breastfeeding, support families who choose to breastfeed, and help families not to feel guilty in whatever feeding choices they make. It is vital for more employers to give paid break time for mothers to pump or feed their child(ren).”
Congratulations, Lydia! In the words of CHAMPS Mississippi Coordinator Cathy Carothers, “Lydia is a delight to work with—very positive and proactive. We are fortunate to have her in Mississippi!”
Congratulations to one of the newest members on our Mississippi CHAMPS team, Felisha Floyd, BS, CLC, IBCLC, for the incredible work she is doing to reduce racial disparities in breastfeeding! Felisha is Lactation Coordinator for the Hospital Corporations of America system in Florida and Owner/Lactation Consultant with her private practice, Beyond Breastfeeding. Her work with CHAMPS focuses on reviewing hospital materials, helping to guide the Mississippi CHAMPS project regarding race, and conducting hospital site visits and mock surveys.
“I am driven by my belief that health disparities in the African-American community can be drastically reduced if human milk was recognized as baby’s first food,” shares Felisha. “I firmly believe access to human milk is a matter of life or death for communities of color. The change I would like to envision is to decrease barriers to lactation support, and to disrupt systemic obstacles which fuel disparities in breastfeeding within communities of color.”
The mission to promote racial equity in breastfeeding is central to Felisha’s various work and roles. She is the founder of Our Brown Baby, a community-based breastfeeding support group for families of color; one of the founding mothers and current President of the National Association of Professional and Peer Lactation Supporters of Color; and a Center for Social Inclusion First Food Equity Cohort member. On social media, she is known as “Blactavist!” (Black Lactation Activist), and facilitates an online community comprised of approximately 38,000 supporters and dedicated to empowering African-American families to breastfeed. Through these roles, Felisha has presented trainings nationwide on the topics of clinical breastfeeding, racial equity, first food justice, mentorship, power of collective impact and more.
Health equity often begins with training providers and increasing diversity, and Felisha mentors future lactation consultants through her private practice. She co-authored the article, “Clinical Internships for the Next Generation of IBCLCs,” published in the Journal of Human Lactation. Felisha also serves with high honor as a member of the Global Board of Directors for Mom2Mom Global, as the Advocacy Chair for the State of Florida Breastfeeding Coalition, and as Secretary of the Board of Directors for the United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC). She has been honored as a recipient of the Inaugural Concrete Rose Award by Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere and recognized by USBC with the Legacy Award.
Lastly, this CHEER Champion of the Week has a fun hobby and special talent, to design costumes around the lactation theme. Past costumes have included a “breastfeeding super hero” who fights to encourage families to continue their breastfeeding journey and “the milk fairy,” inspired by her nickname at work.
Welcome to the CHAMPS team, Felisha, it’s great to have you on board!
This week’s CHEER Champions of the Week are LT Amber Means, RN and LCDR Sandi Olson, RN, MSN. They are both Case Managers at Indian Health Service’s (IHS) Northern Cheyenne Service Unit (NCSU) on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in southeastern Montana. They are doing an amazing job coordinating the “Healthy Mothers, Healthy Tribe” project among perinatal patients on Northern Cheyenne! CHEER is the Billings Area contractor on this project, which is funded by an Inter-Agency Agreement between the Office on Women’s Health and IHS. The project aims to improve prenatal care and drug use prevention and treatment within the Crow and Northern Cheyenne Indian Tribes and the facilities that serve them.
“This work is extremely important for the Northern Cheyenne community,” Amber says, “because without healthy mothers, we cannot have a healthy tribe.”
So far, Amber and Sandi have focused on getting a clear picture of the prenatal population at NCSU and the NCSU system, to see how the prenatal population is managed and where improvements could be made. They have also looked at outside systems that interact with NCSU to identify “gaps and opportunities” for working with high-risk prenatal patients. As a result, they have initiated many changes at NCSU, including developing a clear and concise way of documenting prenatal records and improving substance abuse screening. Sandi says one of their ultimate goals is to “form a collaborative group of key stakeholders that can meet once per week to identify high-risk prenatal patients and staff that person [in order to] avoid having an infant born into neonatal abstinence syndrome.”
In addition to the “Healthy Mothers, Healthy Tribe” project, Amber and Sandi are responsible for coordinating services for patients who have been referred out to other health care providers. This includes coordination of care for complex patients who are coming back into the community after a trauma or significant illness, and all hospital and ER discharges. They also follow all patients who have been referred out to specialists through the IHS referral system. Their goal is to provide continuity of care between health care facilities and improve health outcomes of the Native population they serve. They share a caseload of approximately 400 patients per month.
Amber is an enrolled member of the Crow Tribe and a Northern Cheyenne descendent. She shares, “I was born and raised on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation and many of the people here are family and friends. I am and have always been very motivated to assist the people of my community regarding their health, and have been able to do that through various opportunities as a registered nurse.”
Like Amber, Sandi brings sense of purpose to the work she does. She shares, “My personal motivation is to assist with creating a system where our population has better health outcomes for our next generation.”
Congratulations, Amber and Sandi, and thank you for all you do!
CHEER Champion of the week
Each week, we will recognize a CHEER Champion for all the work they have done for CHEER (Center for Health Equity, Education, and Research)/CHAMPS (Communities and Hospitals Advancing Maternity Practices).