Our CHEER Champions of the Week are Deidra Wesley (MA), and her baby, Miles. Deidra and Miles were nominated for their excellent work on the IPE filming which took place earlier this year in Jackson, Mississippi. Deidra is a producer, fitness model, and actress who played the role of a new mom along with her 4 week-old star, Miles, who executed a perfect crawl to the breast.
“Shooting the IPE was a great experience. The cast, crew and client were all so nice; they really took care of me and my baby boy Miles! As a first time mom, I was a little nervous about traveling and working with my newborn, but we were in great hands,” Deidra shared.
In addition to being a producer for Warner Media, Deidra has done fitness modeling for Nike, Gatorade, AT&T, and other brands. When she saw the online casting announcement for the IPE, Deidra submitted her headshot, a self-taped audition, and a photo of Miles after he was born. They were both casted for the project and then drove down to Mississippi from Georgia for the shoot. She really enjoyed the experience, “everything worked out so well. I'm so proud of Miles; he was great on set and handled the long drive like a champ!” she said.
Deidra auditioned for the IPE because she wanted to help spread the word about how great breastfeeding is. “I always knew breastfeeding was a good thing, but becoming a mom gave me a new appreciation for how important it is,” she shared. Her son, Miles, is exclusively breastfed and nursed on demand.
When asked what motivates her work, Deidra expressed that she is motivated by storytelling and a love for sports. As a producer, she enjoys the thrill of putting a live show on the air. “You never know what might happen!” she said. As a fitness model, she loves traveling for work and using her athleticism to represent some of her favorite brands.
Deidra is an alumna of the University of North Texas, where she had a track and field scholarship, and earned her Bachelor’s degree in television production. She also earned a Masters degree in Journalism from the Mayborn Graduate Institute of Journalism. In addition, Deidra is a certified track and field, and gymnastics coach who has worked with students from ages 6 weeks to 30 years.
Deidra really loves to travel. She visits a new country every year for her birthday and is looking forward to getting Miles a passport, so they can travel together after COVID. Miles on the other hand, has a very healthy appetite and loves nursing with his mom.
CHEER Director, Dr. Anne Merewood and CHAMPS Physician Lead, Dr. Lori Feldman-Winter, are launching the completed Interprofessional Education (IPE) Modules with UMMC Faculty this week. We are thankful to Deidra and Miles for their talent and execution of the IPE scenes!
Congratulations to our CHEER Champion of the Week, Charlene C. Fraser, B.S (Human Services), CLC, Newborn Care Specialist and Birth Doula. Charlene is an affiliate of the Vital Village Network and Boston Breastfeeding Coalition, she was nominated for her lactation support services to families and her excellent presentation during the CHAMPS COVID-19 Webinar: Community Support (Re)Structures during COVID-19, From New York and Boston .
“I sought membership of the Boston Breastfeeding Coalition to further engage myself within the breastfeeding community with hopes to push advocacy and awareness in MA. Through this, I met many amazing members of Vital Village who have taken me under their wing and provided the spaces for our work and passion to reach the masses.” – Charlene Fraser
For six years, Charlene has worked with Boston Baby Nurse and Nanny, as well as, independently through referrals. In these capacities, she provides newborn care and lactation services to families of the greater Boston community via home visits. Charlene has worked in childcare since 2002, and it was during one of her home visits that she first came in contact with a lactation consultant. “I was instantly intrigued and decided to research what this position entailed. From there I found a training program and I was certified in May 2011 as a Lactation Counselor.” Since becoming a CLC, she has provided lactation support to friends, family, and her community both in a personal and professional capacity.
When asked about how the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has changed her work, Charlene stated that her role has not really changed. “I still have permission to enter homes and work closely with families and newborns, but I am very cautious with my health and that of those who I work closely with,” she shared. Charlene mentioned that her volunteer role as a vital village Baby Café facilitator has transitioned from in-person to zoom meetings and that she helps support the Boston breastfeeding warm line -a resource for moms and families to directly contact counselors with their breastfeeding questions and concerns. “It’s all been extremely heartwarming to know I can still help and serve my community virtually during this pandemic,” she said.
Charlene really values her ability to teach and support mothers through breastfeeding. She appreciates the almost familial bond created when she is invited into warm homes and present with parents during their vulnerable and intimate moments. “I love teaching and learning with parents as much as they love having me in their presence to learn from me,” she says.
In her spare time, Charlene enjoys traveling the world, especially to warm climates such as St. Vincent and the Grenadines, where her family is originally from. She also enjoys traveling within the U.S. and getting together to share love with her friends through food, drinks, and great conversation.
Congratulations Charlene, thank you for your lactation support work and your passion for the families and communities you serve!
LinkedIn: Charlene Fraser
Our CHEER Champion of the week is Dominique Bellegarde, BA (Human Services), CLC, CLE, and CCHW (Certified Community Health Worker). Dominique is a Breastfeeding Peer Counselor who co-facilitates a Boston Medical Center (BMC) Baby Café. She was nominated for her creativity and commitment in providing services to moms and families and her excellent presentation during the CHAMPS COVID-19 Webinar: Community Support (Re)Structures during COVID-19, From New York and Boston.
In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Dominique reports that the Baby Cafes are being offered virtually and that they operate a warm line to contact and include the families who are not already connected to the breastfeeding support resources. She says having virtual classes has been easier for families as they don’t have to travel to participate and that this period has helped to really value time and better understand the barriers and challenges people face in accessing resources. “By attending these sessions, mothers show that they value the resources, community, and togetherness being provided, “she expresses. “It is rewarding to know that they continue to welcome us into their homes and we as workers have to make a point of honoring that by being available and flexible.”
In addition, Dominique runs a “Mommy and Me” Mother Healing group where she harnesses the power of music for holistic healing. During these sessions, she encourages moms to make music using any household instruments as a means of channeling and letting go of whatever worries and negative feelings they may be feeling. She tries to make this space a “concert of healing” where moms can be active participants and shower themselves and their children with love. According to Dominique, this not only allows moms to heal and empower themselves, but also promotes generational healing and empowerment.
“Service is my love language, it makes me feel really good to be able to help someone and to see that they feel special and honored in that moment. Breastfeeding is a vulnerable part of motherhood and I want to be there to coach, cheer, and support moms through that time until they achieve their goals.” – Dominique Bellegarde.
Dominique first encountered breastfeeding when she worked as a nanny at 17, but her work in the breastfeeding field officially began when she breastfed her son 13 years ago. At that time, she participated in WIC and got invited to become a WIC peer counselor because of her positivity and determination to breastfeed successfully. In this role she served primarily families of color in North Dorchester, learned about maternal child health disparities within communities and came to understand the importance of connecting the community to the education and resources they need. She also worked as a Boston Healthy Start Initiative case manager coordinator at a community health center, servicing families who were pregnant until child is 2 years of age.
Dominique is a member of the Vital Village Network, Mattapan Community Playgroup, Lactation Associations such as CAPPA, ALPP, USLCA MLCA. She is a full spectrum doula and recently got accepted into a Midwifery program. She loves to read, work on self-improvement, and spend quality time loving, educating, and being present with her family.
Congratulations Dominique! Thank you for all you do to provide community support, education, and being a village for moms in achieving their breastfeeding goals.
This week’s CHEER Champion is Jordan Kellar, ADN, RN, IBCLC at Highland Community Hospital in Picayune, MS. In her role as a lactation nurse, Jordan provides lactation counseling to patients both in the hospital and post discharge, and leads the breastfeeding task force at Highland. She also helps to maintain the hospital’s Baby Friendly practices by continuing to educate staff and personnel.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Highland has had to make changes to accommodate potential cases. Though her role has not changed drastically, in the sense that she provides the same services to patients, Jordan reports that spouses and support persons have been coming in less educated before and there have been fewer return lactation visits. “This education for our community is even more important than ever because people no longer attend breastfeeding classes and the staff has been doing a lot more re-educating and re-instructing,” shares Jordan. To tackle this issue, she has spearheaded in-service trainings with nursing staff to ensure they are prepared to provide the extra education. She also shared that her team is in the process of starting the hospitals’ breastfeeding classes, since she believes community education is what they struggle with the most.
Jordan’s work is motivated by her absolute love for women’s health and neonatal care. She knew she wanted to work in OB since nursing school, as her mom was also an OB nurse. However, she did not find her love for lactation until after she had been working for a few years. “The more I learned about lactation, the more fascinated I became. I knew that was a field I wanted to grow in,” she states.
In addition to her work at the hospital, Jordan runs a personal community lactation Facebook page, “Lovely Lactation”, which has been so helpful for mamas to reach out and get advice or assistance. Prior to the pandemic, mothers would mostly contact the hospital directly with their questions, but since the pandemic began, moms increasingly contact Jordan via this page with their feeding questions. “All of the staff now refers feeding mothers to that page since it is the easiest way to get a response to them, the moms are using it as a tool now than before” she states. Besides providing help through direct messages, Jordan regularly facilitates discussions around common breastfeeding problems and topics, where she answers pressing questions that moms have around feeding.
Congratulations Jordan, thank you for being such a consistent champion for breastfeeding even in the face of COVID-19!
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.