The Public Health Department in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley is building community-wide breastfeeding support by bringing moms, hospitals, local organizations, and private clinics to the table. They sponsored two Milk Mob trainings to help increase breastfeeding knowledge and support of breastfeeding moms in the area. By developing an evidence-based body of knowledge, community supporters provide consistent information when helping moms understand the benefits of breastfeeding and are able to make the best effort when addressing issues which threaten successful breastfeeding.
The Milk Mob spoke with Sue Madeja RN, MSN, Nursing Director at the Bethlehem Health Bureau in Bethlehem, PA. Sue explained that the release of the 2011 Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding sparked the Health Bureau’s decision to increase breastfeeding support in the Lehigh Valley, PA area. “The Surgeon General’s call to action was our bible to start working and getting something done around here.” Sue began this process by contacting various organizations and individuals in the community including hospitals, private clinics, and community based organizations to meet together and start a breastfeeding coalition. “There were breastfeeding moms at the meeting, La Leche League Leaders, a representative from all of the local hospitals, and several local Community Based Organizations. That was the start of the Lehigh Valley Breastfeeding Coalition in Spring 2011. We were really looking at the support piece from all aspects, not just from the community, but hospital, medical office, employer and peer support as well.”
In Spring 2015, The Milk Mob held two Outpatient Breastfeeding Champion Trainings in the Lehigh Valley to increase breastfeeding knowledge and support in the area. Due to the partnerships created and sustained by the Breastfeeding Coalition, the trainings were well attended by a diverse group including hospital staff, mothers, and individuals from local community organizations. Sue explains “The trainings met one of my goals which was to saturate the community with full prenatal and postpartum support of breastfeeding moms. I believe that moms need the right information, and they need accurate information. They need somebody just to listen and somebody just to offer support at any period of time, from pregnancy and as long as they want to breastfeed. The Milk Mob trainings have helped make this possible.”
As a Public Health Nurse, Sue also recognizes the importance of continued partnerships for achieving breastfeeding support in the Lehigh Valley community. “The partnerships we initially established through the Breastfeeding Coalition were essential to bringing the recent Milk Mob training together. Everyone is invested in the community. Making these opportunities available is part of our role and responsibility in public health, so that is what I will continue to do.”
The Milk Mob spoke with Sue about changes she’s seen in breastfeeding support in the Lehigh Valley area after the Milk Mob trainings. “People still talk about the trainings, ‘Remember at the training…?’ I also hear a lot more discussion in general about supporting breastfeeding moms, and I know that is from people that have gone to the training. People still call me and ask if we are going to have another training!”
As the Nursing Director, Sue primarily has an administrative role in her job, but recently has been able to do some work as a home visiting nurse for breastfeeding moms and use the tools and resources obtained through the Milk Mob training and through her Certified Lactation Counselor certification. “Now I know a lot more. I feel so much more empowered to help women understand the benefits of breastfeeding to be able to support them so they are successful. And really celebrate with them when they are celebrating.”
Sue uses the Milk Mob breastfeeding educational handouts and triage tools, which help her address the most common concerns about sore nipples and latch difficulties. “When I offer the handouts to families I can say, “This information is from a physician viewpoint and it is proven information that is being shared among other moms. It is the right information. “
Sue emphasized that breastfeeding moms get many different educational messages, which can be very confusing for them. “The different messages really confuse moms and they just get frustrated and sometimes it is easier for them to give up than to push on. If our moms are empowered and understand their rights, and get one consistent source of information, I think it makes it easier for them to be successful.” Sue expressed gratitude that The Milk Mob trainings and educational materials could supply that important, consistent source of information.
Sue also shared her vision for the type of community breastfeeding support she’d like to see in the Lehigh Valley area in the future. “We need to have more Milk Mob trainings. In a future training I’d particularly love to have more folks from community based organizations that work directly with moms, as well as racially diverse breastfeeding supporters attend. I do think that racial diversity and peer support are essential in impacting the community to provide quality breastfeeding support. I believe that is how we are really going to change things. We also need the support within the hospital, which I think is being accomplished through the Baby Friendly Hospital initiative.”