This week’s CHEER CHAMPion is Jasmine Esmay, BSN, RNC-OB, CLC, and IBCLC. Jasmine works as a Certified Inpatient Obstetric Nurse and Lactation Consultant at Southeast Alaska Regional Healthcare System (SEARHC), Mt. Edgecumbe Medical Center. She has been a nurse for 17 years and currently works in the Obstetric department at SEARHC as a frontline nurse caring for laboring and postpartum families. Jasmine was nominated for recently completing her IBCLC certification and for improving the breastfeeding program at SEARHC.
“Jasmine has been the driving force behind our Breastfeeding Lactation Circle and prenatal breastfeeding classes. She coordinates all the lactation follow ups and support here at SEARHC.” – Susan Ward, Manager Labor and Delivery, SEARHC, Mt Edgecumbe Medical Center
Jasmine has been working at SEARHC, a Baby-Friendly critical access hospital, since 2018. “When I came here the Baby-Friendly program was already in place, but I saw a need for closer postpartum follow up. We have since designed and implemented a follow up phone call program for every family that delivers at SEARHC MEMC, through which check and follow up for up to ten days post-delivery” Jasmine shared. “This timeline was designed to facilitate early identification of feeding difficulties or postpartum health concerns such as delayed milk production, excessive weight loss, postpartum depression and other issues that might point to an obstetric emergency.”
Jasmine also teaches a free infant feeding class and facilitates a monthly support group called The Lactation Circle OR TLC. Here, she focuses on the effects of birth on the breastfeeding journey, as well as equipping new families with tools to succeed when they face special challenges as a result of their birth. She is motivated to do this work by her life’s experiences and the desire to improve attitudes, and promote evidence-based care models in the US, so her 4 daughters and all future generations of humankind have better birth experiences and outcomes.
“I love the 1:1 time that we get to spend helping new families adjust to life events. I think the continuity of care we are able to provide, because we are small, is really beneficial for helping families reach their goals…I am thankful for the practice changes and Baby-Friendly hospitals that recognize how harmful the old practices [such as suctioning, weighing, measuring and then swaddling the baby immediately after birth] are to infant feeding. We still have A LOT of work to do, but there has been improvement.”
Jasmine continues to ensure evidence based postpartum care for her patients during the pandemic. She is happy to be able to provide telehealth lactation consults to the surrounding remote villages that SEARHC serves. She is also currently working on a plan to expand evidenced-based lactation education to the many rural and indigenous villages in Southeast Alaska. “I would like to be able to travel to the surrounding remote villages when COVID is over, to teach frontline healthcare providers basic breastfeeding support techniques.”
Jasmine is a member of the United States Lactation Association (USLCA) Advisory and Alaska Breastfeeding Coalition Boards. She loves to hike, fish, forage, and spend time in nature with her husband and 4 daughters. She also used to sing, play guitar, write music, and perform at local venues, in the pre-COVID era.
Congratulations Jasmine, we admire your passion and commitment to providing evidence-based postpartum care and breastfeeding support for the families you serve!
You can read more about Jasmine Esmay here.
This week’s CHAMPion is Marina Liakis, a French/Greek national who runs the Orange House and Tastes of Damascus to serve the refugee population in Greece, and has collaborated with CHEERing on various projects.
Recently Marina had a baby in Greece and has become a breastfeeding advocate and supporter after learning a great deal through her personal experience.
"Being pregnant while living in Greece made me realize the lack of support for women who wish to breastfeed their children. Throughout pregnancy I kept hearing urban myths such as "women who give birth by cesarean section do not have milk." In the hospital where I gave birth, women were provided with formula right away if they were struggling on their first days with their babies”
“I got lucky because I had a supportive atmosphere in my personal life as regards breastfeeding. When I found out that it was possible to donate your milk to help other babies, I wanted to help right away! I am really proud to donate my milk!” So far Marina has collected 7 liters of her milk in order to donate at Athens' lactarium.
Congratulations Marina, thank you for your service to refugee populations and for donating your milk to help babies in need!
Congratulations to CHEER CHAMPion of the Week, Brittany Isler, MS WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counselor II, and soon-to-be CLC. Known as “The Breastfeeding Girl” in her hometown of Cleveland, MS, Brittany was nominated for her efforts to support breastfeeding moms and normalize breastfeeding within her community.
“My community is so small and everyone knows everyone. I have utilized the small community connections to reach moms and talk about breastfeeding, so it can be normalized within our community. My goal is for us to make breastfeeding the first feeding choice for our babies.” – Brittany Isler
Brittany’s work is motivated by her personal breastfeeding experience with her second baby. When she had her first child 8 years ago, Brittany did not breastfeed because she did not hear about it until it was too late. However, when her second child was born a few years later, she nursed him exclusively until he was three! “The more I learned about breastfeeding from my peer counselor, the more I realized that more moms should do it. When I saw the amazing benefits for moms and babies, I decided to model breastfeeding and share its benefits within my community,” Brittany shared. She documented her breastfeeding experiences, shared photos on Facebook, breastfed in public spaces, and created a space to discuss breastfeeding within her community. “A lot of moms just don’t know and I realized that I could get out there and help them to know about it.”
In her role as a Breastfeeding Peer Counselor, Brittany supports new moms and babies in Cleveland, MS by educating them about breastfeeding, answering questions, and clearing up their misconceptions. “I try to ask them what they have heard, so we can correct some of the issues and help them to avoid some of the rough patches I experienced,” she says. During her home visits, hospital visits, and follow up sessions, Brittany also identifies potential medical problems and refers moms to pediatricians when necessary. Although she can no longer do in-person visits due to COVID, she continues to provide most of these services through phone calls and online platforms.
“I enjoy reading the research and sharing the facts about breastfeeding. I love having shared learning experiences with moms, breaking things down, clearing misconceptions and witnessing all their ‘ah ah!’ moments”. Brittany expressed. “One of my favorite clients had made up her mind not to breastfeed, even after we discussed the importance of breastfeeding for her and baby, but she agreed to do skin to skin. After delivery, the baby was placed on her chest for skin to skin and then the baby latched on, and she has now been breastfeeding for 6 months! I was so excited to see that happen.”
Brittany believes that if all the moms in her small rural community could learn about breastfeeding and its benefits, then they will be better equipped to assist others and further normalize breastfeeding when they move to other places. “I think that’s how we make change, not just for breastfeeding, but for other health issues within the community too.”
Congratulations Brittany, thank you for all you do to champion breastfeeding and support moms in Cleveland, MS.
Project Elea is a global network of volunteers who work collaboratively with the residents of Eleonas Refugee Camp in Athens to improve living standards and community well-being. The project stands out for their emphasis on creative engagement of both children and adults, in addition to providing basic services like food and clothing distribution.
Project Elea is named after the Greek word for ‘Olive Tree’ which represents peace, honor, strong roots, long duration, and is an integral part of Greek culture. True to their name, the organization seeks to bring about peace, stability, and togetherness in Eleonas Camp by making the residents’ time there more pleasant, positive, and productive. They also aim to empower refugees to “begin rebuilding their lives and their families on solid foundation, with hope and inspiration for the future.”
Although Project Elea's work focuses largely on education and community building, they have been unable to continue the usual classes, indoor activities, community events and gatherings since the onset of COVID-19. “During this time, we have adapted our services to the situation,” shares Emily Wilson, Project Elea Coordination Team Member. “Around the time COVID started, Eleonas welcomed many more refugees from the islands which has put a strain on the already limited resources.” Project Elea is now managing the distribution of non-food items such as hygiene items, masks, sanitizers, clothes, shoes and winterization supplies to accommodate the needs of the 2800 people at the camp. “Our organization is collaborating with Refugees4refugees, another NGO, to ensure that the vulnerable populations are being protected from the winter weather conditions. We have adapted our program from an education/integration focused project to emergency response and distribution,” Emily states.
Project Elea and CHEERing (our international arm) have a close collaboration working together in Eleonas camp. CHEERing helps Project Elea with distribution of foods and supplies to residents, while they refer infants to CHEERing’s Grow Clinic for infant weights and measurements. Both teams also share interpreters and the volunteers and staff are always ready to work together for the betterment of camp living conditions.
Congratulations Project Elea, we applaud your flexibility and determination to respond to the specific needs and interests of Eleonas camp residents before and during the COVID-19 pandemic!
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.