Congratulations to CHEER Champion of the Week, Millicent (“Milly”) Barrios, CLC, Peer Counselor 3 for the Mississippi WIC Program (MS WIC) in the Southern Region/Mississippi Coast. Milly was nominated as CHEER Champion of the Week for her wonderful work with moms and babies on the Gulf Coast, and for her helpful contributions to a recent CHAMPS site visit at Garden Park Medical Center.
As Peer Counselor 3 for MS WIC, Milly counsels and supports prenatal and breastfeeding moms in MS WIC; educates them on the benefits of breastfeeding; prepares them for what to expect during their hospital stay; and familiarizes them with Baby-Friendly. Milly also teaches breastfeeding classes; reaches out to the community to spread the word about WIC’s breastfeeding services; and collaborates with nearby hospitals on their Baby-Friendly journeys, offering WIC services to support Steps 3 (prenatal education) and 10 (postpartum breastfeeding support) of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative’s Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding.
“I don't really think of my role with MS WIC as a job,” Milly shares. “It's simply who I am. I love working with women that might not be able to get support anywhere else, including from their families. I love connecting with women from all different walks of life. I love the heartfelt thank yous. One of my favorite things is teaching classes, especially when dads come and ask questions, or when a mom that's unsure about her feeding choices by the end of class says, ‘I'm definitely breastfeeding.’ I love all these rewards.”
Milly has been a Peer Counselor for over 10 years. For 4.5 of those years, she worked in Louisiana with the Central Louisiana Breastfeeding Coalition, and Milly is proud of the work they did in their community. She has been with MS WIC for almost 6 years. Milly breastfed all 4 of her children, for a combined total of 7.5 years. She has one granddaughter who was breastfed for over 2 years, and another grandchild on the way.
Just as Milly is impacting the lives of others, her life and work have also been impacted by those around her.
“Initially I was motivated by the wonderful lactation consultants that helped me in the past, and I will always will be thankful to them for not only the support, but also for putting me on this path,” she says. “But I have to say what keeps me motivated is the women that I serve in the WIC program. Opening their eyes to not only the benefits of breastfeeding, but also helping them to realize that they really can do it, and that I'll be with them every step of the way is my motivation. I often say that they help me as much as I help them.”
It was lovely meeting you, Milly, and we wish you the best in your important work!
This week’s CHEER Champion of the Week is CHEER International’s interpreter and peer breastfeeding counselor, Shaista Karimi, who works with the CHEER team in Athens, Greece.
Shaista is originally from Afghanistan, and is a trained physiotherapist. She arrived in Greece nearly three years ago with her husband and four children, after trekking over the mountains through Iran and Turkey to seek refuge from the conflict, in Greece. As CHEER International’s Farsi Dari interpreter and breastfeeding counselor, Shaista communicates with the women, children and families living in refugee camps and shelters where CHEER provides lactation and nutrition consulting and support group sessions. She is particularly skilled at counseling women who have questions and doubts about breastfeeding in a different environment and culture from their own.
“I love what I do, and the women I meet have so many questions. I answer and help them ease their doubts as much as I possibly can. As a mother, I understand their fears of having a baby in a different country,” Shaista says.
What motivates her to continue with the work that she does are her four children.
“I want the best for my children, as all parents do,” Shaista shares. “I believe that when given the opportunity and information, all mothers will always do what is best for their child.”
As a peer counselor, Shaista is the main facilitator for CHEER International’s work at the Provocant La Pau’s shelter in Athens.
Congratulations Shaista, and keep up the good work!
CHAMPS is excited to share about this week’s CHEER Champion of the Week, the Mississippi WIC Program (MS WIC), nominated for its outstanding leadership in breastfeeding efforts within the state! Kimberly Dixon Ramsey, MHA, the State Breastfeeding Coordinator for MS WIC, recently spoke at the January 9, 2019 CHAMPS webinar, “Sustaining Breastfeeding and the BFHI in Mississippi.” It was remarkable to hear how much MS WIC is doing to support breastfeeding and about the positive impact they are having. Download the webinar slides and audio recording here!
“The Mississippi WIC Program was established to promote and support breastfeeding as the optimal feeding choice for infants,” shares Kimberly on MS WIC’s vision for breastfeeding in the state. “We strive to promote the advantages of breastfeeding for mothers, babies, and our communities/state as a whole. Our WIC staff is committed to providing positive interactions with WIC families by enhancing the breastfeeding experience and by working to normalize breastfeeding in our communities. MS WIC strives to be the convener of breastfeeding support and promotion in the state. We see our challenges with increasing breastfeeding initiation and duration rates as a ‘call to action,’ recognizing that we have a unique opportunity to transform the culture of breastfeeding in our state.”
In the January 9th CHAMPS webinar, Kimberly explained that even though MS WIC provides assistance with infant formula feeding, they promote breastfeeding as the optimal feeding choice. The ways in which they support breastfeeding mothers include individual counseling with breastfeeding peer counselors, CLCs and IBCLCs; support groups; educational materials; breast pumps and other devices; and enhanced food packages to support mothers nutritionally while breastfeeding.
In addition, MS WIC is doing a lot to support WIC moms outside the clinic, and to partner with organizations to bring about policy, system and environmental change. They are providing CLC training to WIC staff, hospitals, and community organizations; supporting the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI); and supporting Baby Cafés and community events. The impact of these efforts is far-reaching. There are now 105 new CLCs, increasing the total to 203 CLCs in the state. MS WIC has entered into a formal partnership with 21 hospitals, so that MS WIC can support Steps 3 (prenatal education) and 10 (postpartum support) of the BFHI. MS WIC is also establishing Baby Cafés across the state, offering their staff (breastfeeding peer counselors, CLCs, and IBCLCs) as Baby Café facilitators and volunteers, and serving as a lead referral and education source to Baby Cafés.
“MS WIC is also proud to be a leader in using innovative ‘tele-lactation’ services to improve access to WIC services and increase breastfeeding rates among WIC participants,” Kimberly shares.
The “Pacify” tele-lactation service is an app which mothers download to their phones, and which gives them free, unlimited access to IBCLCs in English or Spanish 24 hours a day. Pacify generates reports and sends them to WIC staff so they can follow-up with participants. In 2016, Mississippi became the first WIC agency in the country to offer Pacify statewide. The results of the Pacify pilot were very positive. The Mississippi Department of Health (MSDH) reported a 10% increase in exclusive breastfeeding rates just 7 months after launching Pacify, and outside researchers found that participants who downloaded the app were 2.5 times more likely to exclusively breastfeed at 3 and 6 months than participants who did not. As a result of these outcomes, MSDH was recently awarded grant funding to continue providing this service to MS WIC participants.
MS WIC is indeed helping to change the culture of breastfeeding in Mississippi. In the January 9th CHAMPS webinar, Kimberly shared on the outstanding increase in breastfeeding rates within Mississippi by comparing data from the 2016 and 2018 CDC Breastfeeding Report Cards. Even though Mississippi continues to be last as a state in its breastfeeding rates, there was a significant increase in its rates over the past 2 years. For example, there was an 11.2% increase in women who had ever breastfed (from 52% to 63.2%); an 11.5% increase in breastfeeding at 6 months (from 23.9% to 35.4%); and a 6.8% increase in exclusive breastfeeding at 3 months (from 21.4% to 28.2%). Similarly, there has been a steady increase in breastfeeding initiation and duration at 3 and 6 months among MS WIC participants within the last 4 years. Most significantly, there has been a 9.48% increase in breastfeeding initiation, bringing the rate up to 48.8% in 2018.
Kimberly would like to thank the Regional Breastfeeding Coordinators, Peer Counseling Staff, WIC Central Staff and local WIC dieticians and support staff.
“They make my job so much easier by ensuring these strategies and approaches are implemented in their respective regions,” Kimberly says. “Each one of them give unwavering support to the mothers and babies in this state with tireless dedication.”
Kimberly would also like to thank the State WIC Director, Diane Hargrove, and Kathy Burk, MSDH Health Services Director, for their leadership and support of the work in the breastfeeding program. Lastly, she would like to thank their community partners, hospitals, and other healthcare organizations for embracing the community-clinical linkage to providing breastfeeding education, promotion and support.
Congratulations, MS WIC! We thank you for your invaluable contributions to the work of promoting breastfeeding in Mississippi!
Amanda Sterling, RN, BSN, IBCLC is a Lactation Consultant and CHAMPS Team Leader at CHAMPS hospital Merit Health Biloxi in Biloxi, Mississippi. She was nominated as CHEER Champion of the Week for all her hard work and the excellent job she is doing leading the Baby-Friendly journey at Merit Health Biloxi!
“I truly believe that Baby-Friendly is what is best for all moms and babies,” says Amanda. “I want them all to receive quality, evidence-based care. I loved my personal breastfeeding experience with both of my children, and I enjoy helping others meet their own breastfeeding goals through my expertise and experience.”
Amanda has been a nurse for 14 years and an IBCLC for 7. As the only IBCLC at Merit Health Biloxi and as CHAMPS Team Leader, she does rounds on all patients; coordinates and teaches childbirth classes; leads task force meetings; participates on all corporate Baby-Friendly and CHAMPs calls; collects Baby-Friendly data via chart audits and patient interviews; submits those results monthly and posts graphs for staff monthly; participates in community outreach; provides staff education and training regarding lactation/Baby-Friendly; and organizes and keeps all Baby-Friendly materials up-to-date.
"Amanda has worked really hard to keep Merit Health Biloxi’s Baby-Friendly journey moving forward,” shares Merit Health Biloxi’s CHAMPS coach Becky Knapp, RN, MPH. “Things I remember from a site visit last year are Amanda's organization and the sweet displays she creates to keep staff up-to-date on the hospital's progress, current education, and data. She carries a big work load and does her work so well. She's incredible.”
Although Merit Health Biloxi’s Baby-Friendly journey has not always been easy, Amanda is seeing positive results. Over the last few years, she says their breastfeeding initiation and exclusivity rates, as well as their skin-to-skin and rooming-rates have dramatically increased. And staff are starting to change their practice from “the way things have always been done” to the new Baby-Friendly model of care.
What strategies have worked well for Amanda to keep the Baby-Friendly journey moving along?
“Staying involved with CHAMPS and our corporate team helps keep me on track,” she says. “I try listen to staff and take their concerns into consideration. I try to keep staff motivated and involved by posting a ‘Baby-Friendly Question of the Week,’ monthly data charts on our progress, and by giving the staff ‘Report Cards’ to help them know the areas where they need to improve individually. I have made breast cookies and cupcakes, and given candy to staff for World Breastfeeding Week and annual competencies to help them remember this is a positive thing for our patients. I routinely design bulletin boards for our staff, patients and visitors to educate them about different elements of the Ten Steps in a creative and fun way.”
Outside from work, Amanda is the founder and current president of the South Mississippi Breastfeeding Coalition, and a volunteer with March of Dimes, Girl Scouts and her children’s school PTA.
Congratulations, Amanda! CHAMPS appreciates all that you do!
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).