This week’s CHAMPion of the Week is Aleshia Jones, MBA, BSBA, CLC, WIC District IX Breastfeeding Coordinator for the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH). Aleshia began her lactation career in 2008, first as a Lactation Specialist for MSDH, who quickly promoted her to District Breastfeeding Coordinator. This July 1st, MSDH will be restructuring their staff, and Aleshia will become a Regional Breastfeeding Coordinator. We appreciate Aleshia’s wonderful participation at recent CHAMPS site visits at newly enrolled Singing River Hospital in Pascagoula, MS; Highland Community Hospital in Picayune, MS; Merit Health-Biloxi in Biloxi, MS; and Ocean Springs Hospital in Ocean Springs, MS; and her continued support with already enrolled Hancock Medical in Bay St. Louis, MS!
As District Breastfeeding Coordinator, Aleshia supervises a team of 6 WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counselors, performs all the administrative duties associated with running a department, and occasionally assists clients over the phone or in their homes.
Aleshia shares, “The thing I love most about my job as District Breastfeeding Coordinator is that I get to assist my staff in being the best they can be—not only as lactation support for the community, but as women as a whole. By making sure that my staff have the love and support they need, it gives them strength to pour into our clients and make sure that our clients get the services, love, and support that they need.”
Aleshia is excited about more hospitals in Mississippi joining the Baby-Friendly pathway, and says it has given her WIC breastfeeding team “a fresh role” with local hospitals in their area. She says they now have the opportunity to serve as a resource on local hospitals’ Baby-Friendly taskforces, to work “side-by-side” in helping these hospitals become Baby-Friendly, and to educate WIC clients about the positive changes they can anticipate at hospitals when they deliver.
As with many of our CHAMPions, Aleshia’s personal experiences, although difficult, have motivated her to do breastfeeding work. Aleshia shares that her son is a twin, and that his brother passed away 16 days after she delivered them due to necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). While Aleshia did partially breastfeed her sons, she says she did not know the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding at the time. She openly shares, “Had I been more educated about the subject and the benefits of breast milk and NEC, my outcome might have been different. So I use this as an opportunity to help other moms get it right from the beginning.”
Thank you for sharing your experiences, Aleshia, and for making a difference in the lives of so many!
Our CHAMPion of the Week blog is expanding! CHAMPS is now under our larger, umbrella center at Boston Medical Center: CHEER (The Center for Health Equity, Education and Research). In addition to our CHAMPS breastfeeding program, CHEER is working on projects in opioid misuse prevention; community health assessments; and prevention of diabetes and of domestic violence. Much of this work is with American Indian tribes. Our new CHEER Champion of the Week blog will include outstanding Champions from all these fields!
The new blog can be found at this web page location. Read the press release about the launching of CHEER here!
Congratulations to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) for its beautiful nursing mothers’ and lactation rooms!
Numerous mothers have complimented these state-of-the-art rooms. One mother said, “I LOVE your lactation room and family rooms! I wish all airports had these. Thanks for promoting breast feeding in luxury! You ROCK MSP.”
“More than half of all travelers at MSP are women, many of them working mothers,” says Patrick Hogan, Public Affairs and Marketing Director at the Metropolitan Airports Commission, a public corporation of the state of Minnesota that owns and operates MSP International and six general aviation airports. “They have needs men don't: the need to nurse babies or express breast milk to feed a child when they return home. And we want to address those needs in style, with sanitary, comfortable facilities designed specifically for them.”
MSP International has 2 nursing mothers’ rooms with a third one scheduled to open later this year. These comfortable rooms include a changing table, sink, mirrors, couch and rocking chair. In addition, the airport has 3 lactation rooms with more scheduled to open later this year. These rooms are designed to allow mothers to express breast milk, and feature a deep sink for cleaning equipment, electrical outlets, soft lighting, artwork and comfortable seating.
These facilities for mothers are just one example of how MSP International strives to “provide your best airport experience,” shares Patrick. Other examples include their "green" roof, thousands of solar panels to generate energy atop the airport's parking ramps, and a program to modernize their restrooms, which garnered them the honor from Cintas of having the "Best Restroom in America” in 2016.
For more information on MSP International’s nursing mothers’ and lactation rooms, visit this website.
This week’s CHAMPion of the Week is Browning Public Schools (BPS) in Browning, Montana, for adopting the “Breastfeeding in the Workplace” policy! The policy, adopted on May 25, 2016, is part of the larger “Poka-Friendly Community” project taking place within Blackfeet Nation. (Poka means “child” in the Blackfeet language.) The policy incorporates Montana and federal workplace breastfeeding laws and makes it into a policy that protects lactating employees of BPS with accommodations such as breaks and a private space to pump or breastfeed their child.
Nikki Hannon, M.Ed., is the Student Support Coordinator for BPS’ Alternative Education Department and a descendent of Blackfeet and Little Shell tribes. It has been almost a year since she was our CHAMPion of the Week for the work she was doing to advocate for this policy and support lactating students.
For BPS to pass the policy “felt like a huge step forward,” shares Nikki. She adds that this policy technically covers lactating students as well, but she thinks it could go further. She plans to continue to advocate for a student policy that will guarantee more explicit and greater protection. For example, she would like to specifically protect the opportunity to make up class work due to the need to breastfeed or pump.
Nikki explains, “If it’s a policy, [the students] don’t have to fight for it. We need to support these young moms who are trying to be good parents.”
Nikki has also made part of her office into a lactation room. It has a privacy screen, a comfortable chair, soft lighting, and even a water feature and lavender diffuser. She invites pregnant students to come and relax in the chair, and tells them this space will be there for them after they have their babies.
“I keep the conversation alive with them,” says Nikki. “I’m planting the seed with them. What inspires me is how many of them want to breastfeed. They have that desire. They say, ‘I want to try it.’ And I tell them, ‘Just do it. Don’t try it, just do it.’”
Nikki’s dream would be to have a lactation room established in each building across BPS, for a total of 14 rooms. This goal, says Nikki, requires momentum and a community behind it. Her efforts have not been met with resistance, but it’s the kind of work that is often “out of sight out of mind” if there is not a present need or someone talking about it.
“It’s about creating a space initially, and then keeping that space sacred,” says Nikki.
Congratulations, Browning Public Schools, and thank you for valuing breastfeeding and your breastfeeding employees!
CHEER Champion of the week
Each Monday (besides public holidays), we will recognize a CHEER Champion for all the support they have provided for CHEER, CHAMPS, or the general public.