This week’s CHEER Champion of the Week is Linda Jackson, BS, Peer Counselor II for Mississippi State Department of Health’s (MSDH) WIC Breastfeeding Program. She was nominated by her supervisor, Andrea Borda, SB, CLC, for her 20 years of outstanding service to the MSDH WIC Breastfeeding Program! Linda began as a Peer Counselor working from home in 1999 and became a Peer Counselor II working in clinics and hospitals in 2000.
“I love to encourage mothers, help them understand the benefits of breastfeeding, and see them enjoy breastfeeding their babies,” Linda shares. “I get joy when a mother comes to the clinic or calls to let me know that she is comfortable and will continue to breastfeed her baby due to me taking the time to help and support her.”
As a Peer Counselor II, Linda covers one of MSDH’s largest areas in their central region II. Her duties include: educating the community about breastfeeding and Baby-Friendly; counseling and supporting prenatal and postpartum WIC clients; providing individual breastfeeding education in WIC clinics, hospitals, homes, and/or by phone; issuing breastfeeding devices; completing monthly inventory reports; and teaching postpartum breastfeeding classes at CHAMPS hospital Merit Health Central. In addition, Linda teaches breastfeeding classes twice a month at a local obstetrician’s office, Central Mississippi Health Services, whose patients deliver at Merit Health Central, and she supports the SIPPS Baby Cafe held at Mississippi Roadmap to Health Equity, Inc.
Like many breastfeeding counselors, Linda’s personal experience inspires her to help others.
“My knowledge about breastfeeding’s benefits and my first-hand experience with breastfeeding my own children for a total of 36 months motivates me to want to encourage as many women as possible to breastfeed,” Linda says.
Congratulations, Linda, and thank you for your many years of service helping mothers and babies have the best start in life!
Jenny Zorn, CLC, is a Peer Counselor 3 at Mississippi State Department of Health’s (MSDH) WIC Breastfeeding Program. She has worked at MSDH’s WIC Breastfeeding Program for over 10 years, and has been a Peer Counselor 1, 2 & 3. She was nominated as CHEER Champion of the Week by her supervisor, Andrea Borda, SB, CLC, for her wonderful work educating the community about breastfeeding and Baby-Friendly, collaborating with hospitals and physicians, and helping mothers to breastfeed.
“Assisting a mother-baby couplet that has been having a difficult time successfully breastfeeding and helping them experience success is my favorite part about my job,” Jenny shares. “I love the excitement felt by the new mothers and so many times they are so appreciative of my help. I also cherish moments where new mothers begin to feel confident that they are going to be able to successfully breastfeed their babies.”
Jenny works in MSDH’s largest clinic in the state. Her work entails counseling prenatal mothers regarding breastfeeding; assisting postpartum mothers with latching and breastfeeding; and providing education to both groups. She also spends one day a week at CHAMPS hospital Merit Health Madison, where she supports them in their Baby-Friendly journey; assists postpartum mothers with breastfeeding; and educates and encourages new mothers who are not breastfeeding to try breastfeeding. Lastly, Jenny teaches weekly prenatal breastfeeding classes at a physician’s office whose patients deliver at Merit Health Madison.
What personally inspires Jenny to do the work she does?
“I have loved infants my entire life and they have held a special place in my heart,” she says. “Many of my patients do not fully understand how beneficial breastfeeding truly is for both themselves as well as their babies. Babies need advocates because they cannot advocate for themselves. I want the best for all babies. Teaching prenatal mothers why they should breastfeed and then helping postpartum mothers successfully accomplish that goal is what is best for babies. My desire is for as many babies as possible to have what is best in all aspects of their lives, and certainly being fed breast milk is a huge part of what is best for babies.”
In addition to her work at MSDH, Jenny also authors and prepares a monthly newsletter, "Breastfeeding Buzz," put out by the Mississippi Breastfeeding Coalition for health care providers in the Jackson, Mississippi area that have breastfeeding patients. The newsletter promotes local events related to breastfeeding, lists breastfeeding classes offered at local WIC offices, and publicizes local breastfeeding training and educational webinars. New research and findings regarding breastfeeding are also highlighted. Check out the July 2019 newsletter here!
Congratulations, Jenny, and thank you for all that you do!
This week’s CHEER Champion of the Week is Lakendrea Bush, who gave birth to her first daughter, Aubreigh Rose, at CHAMPS Baby-Friendly hospital, Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi (BMH-NM) on December 7, 2018. In January 2019, Lakendrea shared her positive birthing story with CHAMPS for a news article about a paper CHAMPS team members published in Pediatrics. The Pediatrics paper showcased CHAMPS’ successful implementation of Baby-Friendly practices in the southern U.S. and its effects on increased breastfeeding rates, especially among African-American women. Lakendrea’s story illustrates why Baby-Friendly works!
“My experience at BMH-NM far exceeded my husband’s and my expectations,” Lakendrea shares. “The doctors and nurses were awesome and made us feel safe and secure about delivering our first child there. They also respected all our wishes on what type of birth we wanted to have and supported our decisions. I really enjoyed how all the staff catered to my needs and concerns, especially with breastfeeding, and helped me feel at ease about being a first-time breastfeeding mom. The nurses came in a timely manner and helped put my baby on the breast and showed me different techniques and positions to get the baby to latch! Everyone was awesome! The hospital also gave us a whole hour without any company or interruptions to bond and to do skin-to-skin after delivery. I really appreciated that!”
Lakendrea was originally going to deliver her baby at another hospital, but switched to BMH-NM after hearing about it being Baby-Friendly from her lactation consultant, Chelesa Presley, CLC, Lactation Consultant for Tougaloo College/Delta HealthPartners Healthy Start.
“That is exactly what my family and I were looking for!” Lakendrea says.
Aubreigh Rose is almost 7 months old and Lakendrea says breastfeeding is going “wonderfully.”
“I love every moment I get to breastfeed my baby. Just knowing that your baby depends on you to get the proper nutrients and that it all comes from you is the best feeling ever!” Lakendrea says.
Lakendrea is thankful for her community’s breastfeeding resources, and for the people who have helped her in her journey. She would like to especially thank Chelesa Presley, CLC, Tashunda Vaughn, LCSW, and Breanna Pennington, CLC from Delta HealthPartners, for their support and encouragement.
In addition to being a mother, Lakendrea is a Registered Respiratory Therapist. She says she is enjoying being a new mother, a new wife, and hanging out with family and friends.
Congratulations, Lakendrea, and best wishes to you and your family!
This week’s CHEER Champion of the Week is Dalvery Blackwell, BA, IBCLC, Executive Director and Co-Founder of African American Breastfeeding Network, Inc. (AABN). She was nominated by Erica Morrell, PhD, for being a “dedicated and passionate community leader who meets families where they are at, to transform neighborhoods from within.”
Founded in 2008, AABN has been impacting families in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area for over a decade. Their vision is to “live in a world where breastfeeding is the norm within the African American community” (http://aabnetwork.org/about). They are working to make this vision a reality through their various services, including their signature Community Breastfeeding Gatherings (CBG), which educate families on the benefits of breastfeeding. They also offer breastfeeding support from Dalvery, who is an IBCLC, or their Community Breastfeeding Peer Counselors; hospital and home visits; father support; online breastfeeding support; and bereavement support at their new “Healing Waters” gatherings for families who have experienced pregnancy/birth loss.
“Very few community-led, African American-led organizations last beyond two years,” says Dalvery. “I am proud that AABN is a viable resource with eminent community-will with key stakeholders and leaders.”
AABN has been recognized in local, state and national media and reports, most notably Essence Magazine’s April 2015 article, “Ten Things People Are Talking About,” a January 2015 news report in Associated Press, the 2014 CDC Breastfeeding Report Card, and the 2014 Black Child Development Institute-Milwaukee report, “Being Black is Not a Risk Factor: Statistics and Strengths-Based Solutions.”
This year, AABN received a grant from the Wisconsin Partnership Program for its Community Doula Initiative, a project to help enhance community capacity and strengthen the community of doulas in Milwaukee County. This summer, they will also collect 60 surveys through their WE RISE (Water and Environmental Research for Infants' Safe Eating) initiative, to address the impact of lead in water for families of childbearing age.
“I immensely enjoy working with women and their families,” Dalvery shares. “The positive and immediate result that new moms experience while breastfeeding feeds my soul and provides the daily reassurance I need that African American women love their families and children, and only want the best for them. Working with first-time moms is the most rewarding personally for me. I feel blessed to be able to do this work. Breastfeeding our babies in my immediate family is normal; my 3 nieces breastfed exclusively for over 12 months!”
Dalvery believes breastfeeding awareness, initiation, and support among African Americans is higher than it was 10 years ago. However, African Americans still lag far beyond other ethnic groups when it comes to exclusivity and duration, she says. Her vision is for this to change, to see more women of color become IBCLCs, and to see other systemic changes within the health system.
“African Americans need to continue leading the movement that calls out and addresses systemic and institutionalized racism and inequalities in US health care. With a stronger, wider reach/movement we can change workplace policies, hospital practices and legislation to improve infant maternal health outcomes. No first-time mom living in America should birth without a community-based doula; all health insurances, including Medicaid, should cover doula costs,” Dalvery comments.
AABN is a partner of the Milwaukee African American Perinatal Health Collaborative, a new initiative addressing infant mortality. In 2017, Dalvery received the Woman of Commitment Award from the Wisconsin Alliance for Women Health, and she is a recipient of the Milwaukee Community Journal 2018 Year of the Child: A Game Changer Honoree.
Congratulations, Dalvery! CHAMPS applauds your work and wishes you the best!
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).