This week’s CHEER Champion of the Week is Deanna Trammell, CLC, WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counselor for the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation (YKHC) in the Indian Health Service’s Bethel Sub Regional Hospital in Bethel, Alaska. CHAMPS team members worked with YKHC during our American Indian/Alaska Native CHAMPS grant, and recently met Deanna at CHAMPS' 4-hr breastfeeding training at YKHC’s Prematernal Home in Bethel in March 2018. Deanna is the only WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counselor for an expansive area in and around Bethel in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, and she offers lactation support to a large population of mothers, including those in remote villages. She is originally from Aniak, Alaska and is a member of the Aniak Tribe.
“The Bethel WIC office covers a large portion of Southwest Alaska,—the majority of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta—servicing 3 boroughs and approximately 56-60 surrounding villages,” says Deanna. “It is a challenging, at times slightly overwhelming, yet extremely rewarding experience for me to be the only peer counselor for such an area as this.”
As a WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counselor, Deanna’s duties include: providing prenatal breastfeeding education; supporting mothers with breastfeeding, especially first-time mothers and those facing breastfeeding problems upon return to their home villages; providing pumps and breastfeeding supplies for eligible mothers on WIC; and referring mothers to general providers, pediatricians, or nutritionists/dieticians. Deanna also regularly visits the obstetrics ward at YKHC to speak with newly delivered mothers about breastfeeding and to follow-up with mothers on WIC.
The villages in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta are remote and mostly reachable only by airplane, and sometimes by vehicle when the river is frozen enough for safe driving. Because of this, pregnant mothers usually come to Bethel around 1 month prior to their expected due date and remain for 48-72 hours postpartum before returning home unless there are medical reasons to stay longer. These mothers stay at YKHC’s Prematernal Home, a hotel, or with family members who may live in Bethel. Deanna teaches a breastfeeding class at the Prematernal Home every 3 weeks. After the mothers return home to their villages, Deanna follows-up with them by phone depending on their breastfeeding needs. Deanna shares that these mothers’ experiences with breastfeeding range from very easy to difficult, and that a lot of them are very thankful for any help and support they receive after they return home. Many villages also have local clinics where mothers can receive in-person support.
Like many breastfeeding advocates, Deanna’s personal experiences, both positive and negative, fuel her desire to help other mothers.
“I was previously a WIC participant and currently still am,” she shares. “My motivation to do this work came from having had problems breastfeeding my oldest of 2 children, getting help from WIC to continue providing breast milk via pumping, and then succeeding very well with my second who is now 4.5 years old and still breastfeeds. My desire to help those in the same way I was helped, paired with that it’s something I was passionate about was my main motivation to get my certification as a Certified Lactation Counselor.”
In the future, Deanna plans to remain a breastfeeding advocate in any community she finds herself in, and to possibly become an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.
Congratulations, Deanna, on your inspiring work! We wish you the best!
CHEER Champion of the week
Each Monday (besides public holidays), 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).