This week’s CHAMPion is Ms. Alaura Rhea, a mother of two and employee of Franklin Corporation in East Mississippi. Alaura was nominated by her WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counselor, for her determination to overcome breastfeeding difficulties and to manage pumping while at work.
“When I had my first daughter at 17, I did not look into the benefits of breastfeeding. But when I had my son last November, I knew breastfeeding was what I wanted to do. I had many people tell me that I would not be able to breastfeed, but with COVID going around, you want to be able to give your baby the best protection and that’s breast milk!”- Alaura Rhea
Even though Alaura’s breastfeeding journey has been far from easy, she describes it as one of the best experiences of her life. Alaura shared the beauty of the bonding experienced through breastfeeding, the benefits for her health, and the hardships she faced when her baby was born, including her challenges with breastfeeding in public. “I started thinking that I wanted to give up because my nipples were so sore, but my lactation consultant showed me various positions to help with an easier latch, “ Alaura said. “The benefits of the breastfeeding is one of the reasons that I don’t give up, but also to prove that you could be a working mom of multiple kids and still make it work. Not only am I nourishing my kid from my body but I also get the satisfaction of knowing that I am doing it no matter what anybody says. I feel much closer to my child than the last time and the postpartum depression is not as bad.”
Furthermore, Alaura has established a routine of pumping at work despite her tight schedule and initial difficulties. “I get really busy at work, so it is really hard to pump and I end up taking three breaks to pump. It was hard at first but it’s been smooth sailing once I got the hang of it.”
Alaura also shared some words of encouragement for other breastfeeding moms. “When you feel like you want to give up, don’t. The first two weeks would be the hardest but keep going. It gets better. Breastfeeding has been the best experience of my life, it’s hard but worth it. And don’t be ashamed to breastfeed in front of anyone.”
Congratulations Alaura, we applaud your commitment and wish you the best with the rest of your breastfeeding journey!
Congratulations to Mississippi on its recently released ranking as the U.S. state with the 4th highest percentage of births occurring in designated "Baby-Friendly" hospitals, with 57% of births in 2020 occurring in Baby-Friendly designated hospitals.
Since CHAMPS began working in Mississippi in 2014, the number of Baby-Friendly hospitals has increased dramatically from 0 to 22. CHAMPS partnered with community and state organizations like Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere (ROSE), Mississippi WIC, and Blue Cross Blue Shield Mississippi to help drive the implementation of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative across MS.
The maps below highlight the changes in proportion of births at Baby-Friendly hospitals across the country between 2014 -2020.
*Mississippi is listed in the lowest quantile for 2014
*Mississippi is listed in the highest quantile for 2020
Congratulations to all our Mississippi hospitals and partners on this noteworthy accomplishment!
View 2020 CDC Breastfeeding Data here (select Baby-Friendly in the dropdown Indicator menu above the map).
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!
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.