Congratulations to CHEER Hospital of the Week, Merit Health River Oaks in Flowood, Mississippi, for becoming Baby-Friendly designated on October 26, 2018! Merit Health River Oaks started their Baby-Friendly journey in 2015 and joined CHAMPS in 2017. They are known in their community as being a family-centered facility that welcomes natural births and has the ability to do VBACs (vaginal birth after cesarean section). They performed 1,470 births in 2017, have a level III NICU, and receive infants from other hospitals into their NICU who need a higher level of care.
“Becoming Baby-Friendly has been a challenging yet very fulfilling experience,” shares Jean Dunn, RN BSN, CLC, CHAMPS Team Leader and OB Education Coordinator at Merit Health River Oaks. “The biggest reward, as described by nurse manager Stephanie Williamson, has been the joy of watching families forming before our eyes. Siblings now do not have to watch their newborns behind a nursery window, but can be in the same room during the transition period. For me as an OB Educator, watching all the departments working hard to change their processes and truly work together has been one of the greatest moments. To have a labor and delivery nurse excited to help a baby get latched puts a smile on my face.”
Of course, Merit Health River Oaks’ Baby-Friendly journey has not been free from challenges. As the OB Education Coordinator, Jean was keenly aware of the overwhelming need to educate their entire staff, which includes hundreds of people, on both short- and long-term goals.
“My motto was ‘change without chaos.’ If it wasn’t working, we made changes,” Jean says.
Thanks to Baby-Friendly practices, Merit Health River Oaks’ family-friendly care has only been strengthened. Interestingly, one indication of this is the noise level in their maternity services unit. Jean says that 3 years ago in the nursery during the morning hours, there might be 10-20 babies waiting to be checked and a “very noisy atmosphere.” Today, babies room-in with their moms and staff go to them for check-ups and charting. Jean recently took a gentleman on a tour of their facility, and he asked how many babies they had on the unit that day. Jean responded that it was full with 18 mothers and babies, to which the gentleman asked why he couldn’t hear any babies crying.
“Babies are happy when they are with their moms,” Jean proudly responded.
Jean says their success in becoming Baby-Friendly is due to the contributions of their entire group, including physicians, nurse leaders, administrators, and “those in the trenches.” She says in the early stages many staff members said it could not be done. In the 6 weeks before receiving designation, those same staff were asking daily if they passed. Jean says the entire hospital is proud of their accomplishments.
Great job, Merit Health River Oaks! CHAMPS celebrates with you!
This week’s CHEER Champion of the Week is Melody Sharp, BA, Owner of Living Foods Wellness Café in Oxford, Mississippi. Melody was nominated as CHEER Champion of the Week for her determination to exclusively breastfeed all 3 of her children despite significant challenges she has faced! Melody is the daughter of Cathy Carothers, BLA, IBCLC, FILCA, CHAMPS Mississippi Liaison & Trainer, and Co-director of Every Mother, Inc.
Melody is the mother of 3 beautiful, breastfed boys, ages 8, 6, and 4 months, but breastfeeding them has been far from easy. Here’s a rundown of the obstacles Melody has faced: 3 C-sections; milk delay with Baby #1 who had to go to the NICU and was supplemented; major milk protein allergies with Baby #1 and #2; poor latching and weight gain issues with Baby #3. Baby #3 is Levi, born May 16, 2018, and it took 2 months of Melody’s perseverance to finally settle into a smooth breastfeeding routine.
“You would think you know what you’re doing by the third but each baby is different,” Melody shared with CHAMPS in August. “He had slow weight gain and trouble emptying the breast. So I had to pump after each feeding and supplement with that. Some days were better than others confidence-wise. I called my mom frustrated more than a few times, but I knew I wanted to keep nursing so we just kept at it. It has finally gotten better and we are at a place where we just enjoy each other now, but it took a lot of work to get here.”
Thankfully, Melody had the support of her mom and of Sabrina Ganaway, RN, IBCLC, a Lactation Consultant at CHAMPS hospital North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo, where Melody delivered Levi. For the first few days when Levi was having a hard time latching, Sabrina helped feed Levi Melody’s pumped milk from a syringe and tube instead of a bottle which may have later interfered with breastfeeding.
“Sabrina was amazing!” Melody said. “She was extremely encouraging and patient, and full of good ideas.”
For Melody, other bright spots amidst a challenging start included rooming-in with Levi and that her husband, James, got to do skin-to-skin with Levi while she was recovering from her C-section.
James’ words capture just how much skin-to-skin can mean to fathers: “Doing skin-to-skin with Levi meant everything to me. Holding Levi on my skin at birth was like a father instinct just suddenly kicked in or maybe I was rewired at that moment. It's as if we came into a place of oneness. As I gazed upon him, I remember being in awe of how beautiful he is and how he instinctively knew to root around looking for momma's milk. I feel like that moment primed him to be ready for Melody to nurse him.”
Melody’s commitment to breastfeed her children eventually paid off, and it also brought her into her current profession. Melody decided to open Living Foods Wellness Café after breastfeeding her first 2 who had severe milk protein allergies and her second son developed gluten-intolerance, all which forced her to become very educated about food.
“I decided to open my store to give people with allergies a safe eating out option and an alternative for those who just want to eat well. We’ve been open 4 years now and I just love it,” Melody said.
Congratulations, Melody! Your story is inspiring and CHAMPS wishes you the best!
This week’s CHEER Champion of the Week is Bertha (“Bertie”) Brown (Northern Arapaho/Northern Cheyenne), part-time co-facilitator at the Dragonfly Project and Indigenous Researcher with the CWard Evaluation/Assessment Team. In the past, Bertie also worked for CHEER as the Onsite Consultant for the Northern Cheyenne Community Health Assessment (CHA). Bertie was nominated for the incredible work she is doing to promote healing and wellness on the Northern Cheyenne Nation and for her valuable contributions to the Northern Cheyenne CHA.
The Northern Cheyenne CHA, coordinated by CHEER alongside the Northern Cheyenne Nation, is a comprehensive summary of health priorities, data, and resources in the Northern Cheyenne Nation. It was completed in August of 2018, and is available by contacting the office of the Northern Cheyenne Tribal Board of Health. Bertie’s main role with the Northern Cheyenne CHA was to assess and invite leaders from relevant community organizations and programs to participate in the CHA.
The Dragonfly Project is a Generation-Indigenous (Gen-I) Methamphetamine/Suicide Prevention Initiative (MSPI) funded by the Indian Health Service (IHS) at the Northern Cheyenne Nation. CHEER provides technical assistance for every MSPI program in the Billings Area alongside IHS under a contract with the Rocky Mountain Tribal Epidemiology Center. Gen-I programs differ from other MSPI programs in that they are focused on youth.
“This is a twist,” Bertie unassumingly begins with a chuckle. “How we work at the Dragonfly Project is that we are going back to the original, traditional method of relating to our community members by making that human connection.”
Bertie goes on to eloquently explain that while other programs might use a more westernized approach of set office hours, she and co-facilitator Janelle Timber-Jones “meet people where they’re at” by modeling their approach after their ancestors who would visit at all times at relatives’ homes. Bertie and Janelle try to revive that “human connection” by visiting community members in their homes, calling them on the phone, or talking to them in the post office or store.
“It still works,” Bertie says. “People are happy that you pay them a visit. They are happy to hear from you face to face.”
With that human connection as their foundation, Bertie and Janelle meet with people individually; talk to groups; provide coping skills; and collaborate with different organizations on the Reservation. For example, they regularly speak with groups at 15-day recovery programs about addiction, coping skills for grief, and other topics. Many community members also view them as a suicide intervention program, and Bertie and Janelle triage those calls.
Bertie is currently completing the Historical Trauma Master Course through the Freedom Lodge in Rapid City, South Dakota. The course looks at the historical traumas experienced by Native Americans through genocide, the boarding school era, and physical/mental/emotional abuses, specifically sexual abuse.
“Our ancestors were forced to attend boarding schools and this is where the inter-generational traumas were passed down,” explains Bertie, who has learned two methods to heal their trauma. One methods is “somatic archeology,” the practice of “excavating memories in the body so that our bodies can heal themselves,” says Bertie.
Once Bertie completes the course, she will be able to go on to complete a train-the-trainer to train others in historical trauma healing.
“Working with grief is my favorite area if there is such a thing,” Bertie says with an ironic laugh that signals resiliency. “It’s my favorite trauma to work with as I, myself, have been hit with numerous family losses at various ages. Helping people to recover from grief is a strength I have; it is very comfortable for me to help others in that way. I still love it, I’m still a student.”
Congratulations, Bertie, and best wishes with your important and inspiring work!
Congratulations to CHAMPS hospital Merit Health Woman’s Hospital in Flowood, Mississippi, for becoming Baby-Friendly designated on September 28, 2018! Merit Health Woman’s is part of Community Health Systems’ Merit Health hospital system (MHHS). MHHS has 8 birthing facilities, which are all a part of CHAMPS and have been supporting each other on the Baby-Friendly pathway. Merit Health Woman’s is the first MHHS hospital to become Baby-Friendly, and CHAMPS is confident the others will soon follow! Merit Health Woman’s has approximately 940 births per year and a Level 3 NICU.
“We are very proud and honored to be a Baby-Friendly-designated birthing facility!” says Rene Simpson, BSN, IBCLC, Lactation Coordinator and CHAMPS Team Leader at Merit Health Woman’s. “On September 28, 2018, we received a very exciting phone call. The words, ‘Congratulations on achieving Baby-Friendly designation,” were met with cheers and tears by team members anxiously listening to results of our on-site survey.”
Merit Health Woman’s Baby-Friendly journey began in January 2016, soon after they joined CHAMPS. Like every hospital on the Baby-Friendly pathway, the changes Merit Health Woman’s had to undergo were not minor, and the road was not always smooth. As a new IBCLC and CHAMPS Team Leader, Rene says she was “initially overwhelmed by the magnitude of the initiative.” However, they steadily moved forward, thanks to some key elements of success, including Rene’s leadership, an active Baby-Friendly taskforce, and the amazing support of Merit Health Woman’s CEO, Sherry Pitts, RN, MHA. Sherry not only supported Merit Health Woman’s Baby-Friendly journey, she coordinated MHHS’ entire effort for all 8 of their birthing facilities to become Baby-Friendly!
Sherry will continue to support the remaining 7 MHHS hospitals on their Baby-Friendly journeys. She will continue to lead monthly conference calls for each hospital to report their progress and encourage each other. Rene will also offer more specific consultative services as needed to assist the other MHHS hospitals in meeting their goals. MHHS recently offered to make promotional videos for each of their hospital’s maternity units. Click here to view Merit Health Woman’s beautiful video on the excellent level of maternity care they provide!
Why is becoming Baby-Friendly worth all the hard work?
Rene shares: “For me as a lactation consultant, the best part of this initiative is the level of education our moms and staff receive. Our staff now feels empowered to assist a mom with breastfeeding, pumping and safe formula feeding. This is definitely a WIN for our moms and babies!”
Well done, Merit Health Woman’s! We are very proud of you!
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).