Reba Lee, RN, IBCLC, RLC, is a Lactation Nurse and the Lactation Team Lead at CHAMPS hospital, Anderson Regional Medical Center in Meridian, Mississippi. She was nominated as CHEER Champion of the Week for her many years of dedicated service to mothers and babies, and for her help with the Baby-Friendly journey at her hospital.
Reba has worked at Anderson Regional for 26 years. She began as a Nursery/NICU staff RN, then transitioned to Lactation Nurse in 1997. She has taught newborn care and breastfeeding classes since 1997. She became a Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC) in 2000 and an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) in 2012.
The Lactation Center at Anderson Regional offers prenatal breastfeeding classes, inpatient and outpatient consults, and a warm-line for breastfeeding support. In addition to running these services and teaching classes, Reba also writes magazine/newspaper articles and interviews with local news outlets to educate the public on the benefits of breastfeeding. As CHAMPS Lactation Team Lead, Reba has participated in Baby-Friendly task force meetings and CHAMPS phone calls and webinars; and assisted with updating policies, writing prenatal education brochures, obtaining/reporting Baby-Friendly stats, and organizing staff education and skills fairs. Reba is also co-host of the East Mississippi Baby Café-Meridian.
Early in her career, Reba received a letter from a former patient that “rocked [her] world.” Inspired by the story, CHAMPS asked Reba if she would be willing to share it here.
Reba says: “In the letter, this particular mother thanked me for the breastfeeding education and support that I had given. But then she made several comments about the ‘way’ that I spoke to her, the ‘respect’ that I gave her, the ‘tenderness’ that I displayed with her baby, and the ‘patience’ that I shared as she and her baby worked through the learning process. Then she wrote this, ‘In those few visits, you taught me more about being a good mother than my own mom ever taught me.’ In that moment, I was totally humbled as I tried to even recall the specifics of that particular patient. But since receiving that letter, I am daily challenged each time I meet with a patient to remember how easily a new mom may be influenced one way or the other by my words, actions, and attitude. Supporting breastfeeding mothers…what a great opportunity to influence healthy lifestyles of the future!”
Cathy Carothers, BLA, IBCLC, FILCA, CHAMPS Mississippi Liaison & Trainer, comments: “Our patients DO notice us. They see when we are listening to them, when we show respect, and when we help them meet their goals. We might never know how the seeds we are planting will sprout and bloom, but it is a unique privilege and precious opportunity to be able to be in this position at what could be for many women, the most important point in their life.”
Congratulations, Reba! Thank you for all that you do and for this incredible story!
Congratulations to Alaska Native Medical Center (ANMC) in Anchorage, Alaska, for becoming Baby-Friendly designated on May 22, 2019! ANMC was part of the American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) CHAMPS program from 2015 until the end of the AI/AN CHAMPS grant in 2018. It is the largest tribal hospital in Alaska and serves as a tertiary care center for all tribal hospitals in Alaska. ANMC has approximately 1,600 births per year, and many mothers, including high-risk mothers from other tribal hospitals and mothers from remote villages, travel to Anchorage to deliver at ANMC.
“It was a very long journey to achieve Baby-Friendly designation, and there is a sense of pride knowing that we are providing the best care to our infants and moms alike,” says Lisa Derr, RNC, Director of Family Birthing Services at ANMC.
Lisa says one of the biggest differences that Baby-Friendly has made is that it provides a consistent framework for staff and patients.
“One of the most frustrating events from a new parent’s perspective is to receive conflicting information, especially about the most fundamental task, breastfeeding,” Lisa explains. “Having uniform language and teaching helps develop the trust between the patient and the care providers, which naturally lends itself to them trusting us with their whole care.”
Now that ANMC is Baby-Friendly, Lisa says they will focus on maintaining designation and continuing to help their patients be the best parents they can be, starting with their babies’ first breaths. They also have a strong desire to have telehealth lactation support for the remote villages in Alaska to support breastfeeding mothers. While there is lactation assistance in the Anchorage bowl, where ANMC’s campus is located, mothers in the villages often do not have any lactation assistance at all.
To read more about ANMC, check out their CHEER Hospital of the Week post from 2016!
Well done, ANMC! CHAMPS applauds all your hard work and celebrates with you!
The Elna Maternity Center, which shelters pregnant women and families with infants and children in central Athens, Greece, is today’s CHEER Champion of the Week! Elna became an independent non-profit on May 1st, 2019, but had already been housing refugees for a year in their current location, which is down the street from the CHEERing (CHEER in Greece) office.
CHEERing works closely with Elna, visiting at least once a week to support breastfeeding and check in on infant feeding and growth, as well as providing support-based education, and liaising with Medical Volunteers International who also visit Elna weekly.
Elna is unique in Athens for accepting pregnant women and children as residents. Their small, multi-story apartment building has space for 20 families in separate rooms, and usually houses about 60 people, most of them children. At the time of writing they are home to 2 pregnant women and 8 infants aged around 6 months or younger. Families come from many nations but most refugees are from Afghanistan, the Congo, or Syria. Apart from housing, the volunteers at Elna also accompany the residents for medical checks at the public hospitals, for the asylum process at various public services, and in general help the residents in the process of integration into the Greek society with language lessons and support with paperwork.
Carlos, who runs Elna along with long-term volunteers Isabel and Zourine, is a Spanish film maker who has also lived in New York. He wasn’t planning to open a shelter when he came to Athens for work, but ended up staying.
“What else can you do?” he asks. “If governments would do what they are obliged to do, we wouldn’t be here, but they don’t. Europeans and others are all responsible. Their governments sell weapons, and wars follow, and we are the people who put them into power. And then, Europe closes its borders. We cannot follow like lambs. We are all human beings. We all have to fight for everyone’s human rights.”
“It’s our responsibility to help in a human rights crisis, since we are privileged people,” says Isabel. “I feel it’s my responsibility to help in the way I can help.”
Taking on pregnant women, infants, and children is particularly strenuous. Elna is filled with dozens of small children and keeping them busy, happy, and healthy takes long hours of dedication and patience. Most families have suffered major trauma. Throughout the day, families cook, work, and feed their babies! The shelter recently started a roof garden with herbs and vegetables.
Elna is named after the Elna Maternity Home, founded by Elisabeth Eidenbenz, a young Swiss teacher who helped refugees during the Spanish Civil War and the following Second World War in France. The crisis, and dangerous circumstances for pregnant women and newborns, inspired her to convert an abandoned mansion in the small town of Elne in the south of France into a maternity home, which saved an estimated 400 Spanish children and 200 Jews from the Nazi regime during the War.
Carlos and his team believes that they cope because “We talk a lot, and we help each other a lot!”
CHEERing is proud to collaborate with Elna Maternity Home, congratulates them, and offers onsite encouragement for them to keep up their tireless work.
CHAMPS is excited to honor the South Mississippi Breastfeeding Coalition (SMBFC), a relatively new group that is doing a great job supporting and promoting breastfeeding on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast!
“Our coalition’s mission is to promote and protect breastfeeding by providing support, advocacy, and resources for a healthier South Mississippi community,” shares Amanda Sterling, RN, BSN, IBCLC, founding President of SMBFC and Lactation Consultant & CHAMPS Team Leader at CHAMPS hospital Merit Health Biloxi.
Founded in August 2017, SMBFC is still spreading the word about who they are. They are contacting local parent groups, physicians and hospitals that work with parents, grandparents, women and children to let them know about the work they are doing. They have begun a website and have social media sites that share helpful information, encouragement and community events that pertain to breastfeeding. Last year, they wrote a letter of support for the Mississippi Public Health Institute to aid in them receiving a 3.4 million dollar grant from the CDC’s Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health program, known as REACH. It aims to improve lives by building stronger relationships between black communities, public health groups, health care providers and community-based organizations. Part of the work this grant plans to do is open a cluster of Baby Cafés on the Gulf Coast this year.
With the tide turning regarding breastfeeding in Mississippi, Amanda wants SMBFC to be there to support the increased number of women wanting to breastfeeding.
“Breastfeeding rates in our community have increased greatly over the last several years,” Amanda says. “Almost every hospital in our area is now on the Baby-Friendly pathway and breastfeeding is being promoted more and more. The community is becoming more educated on the importance of breastfeeding, which has led to higher initiation. This is amazing considering historically Mississippi has always had the lowest breastfeeding rates in the country. With the initiation and desire to breastfeed increasing in our area, we need to be there to support the duration of the breastfeeding experience. We want people to be able to reach their breastfeeding goals and continue through any challenges they may face. Our goal is to support them along the way.”
SMBFC meets quarterly in different counties within South Mississippi and hopes to involve more people. They have had nurses, lactation consultants, physicians, La Leche League leaders, mothers of children of all ages, grandmothers, and others in the community that support breastfeeding attend their meetings. Everyone is welcome! They discuss ways to help spread the message about breastfeeding in their community, ways to raise funds to do this work, and anything else that has been brought to the table for the coalition to address.
Check out this helpful breastfeeding resource guide that SMBFC created! It lists various breastfeeding resources in the counties they serve, and they have shared it with local hospitals and posted it on their website.
Congratulations, SMBFC, and thank you for the work you are doing!
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).