CORNER BROOK — Before Melanie Browne’s daughter was even born she had made the decision to breastfeed.
“Right from the get-go,” she said there was no doubt in her mind that it would be best for her and for Emily Cormier, who is now 13 months old.
Browne said her decision was based on a few things.
“For one the health benefits, for her and me were the main ones,” said the Corner Brook mom.
Among them was the possible connection with preventing breast cancer, and Browne said this just provided her with a little more incentive because of the history of the disease in her family.
Then there was the portability and ease of breastfeeding.
“Just going from A to B and not having to worry about sterilizing bottles and all those things,” she said.
And a bonus for her was how breastfeeding can aid in the loss of weight gained during pregnancy.
But initially breastfeeding wasn’t easy for Browne.
“I guess I went into it oblivious to what to expect,” she said.
A C-section meant she wasn’t as mobile as she had hoped to be and she wasn’t ready for the frequency of the feeds every couple of hours. There were also some minor issues with soreness and at one point thought both she and Emily had developed thrush.
“And then I wasn’t sure of milk management and how to maintain supply, engorgement and that type of thing,” she said.
Knowing she was out of her element, Browne sought out help.
Her partner’s mother had breastfed her children and became Browne’s primary source of information, help and guidance. She also got some information from the Family Outreach Resource Centre, which included a visit to her home by a couple of workers, and from her community health nurse. Other information and answers to question came from research online.
A while ago she attended an event at the Pepsi Centre where breastfeeding support was discussed.
Browne expressed an interest in getting involved with any support initiatives that might occur in this area and just recently participated in a focus group with the Bay of Island’s Organization for Breastfeeding Support (BOOBS).
The local organization’s project co-ordinator Alexandra Chrappa, said right now the organization is involved in a two-fold project. The initial stage of which is conducting a community needs assessment.
“We’re trying to determine what it is specifically the Bay of Island’s region moms would like to have in place to support them in being able to breastfeed their children,” said Chrappa.
She said this assessment will involved looking at the characteristics of the community, its unique features and culture.
Another focus group will be held at the Broadway Family Health Clinic on Jan. 28 from 7 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. Moms interested in adding their thoughts can also fill out a survey at http://boobsproject.wordpress.com/2012/11/.
Chrappa said gathering moms together for focus groups is not about talking down to them or telling them they should breastfeed.
FInstead, she said it’s about hearing from them.
“What is it that they want,” Chrappa said.
Finding that out will lead to the second part of the project to design a program or intervention and put it in place.
If it turns out the need is for a peer support network then Chrappa said the organization will be looking to recruit as many people as it can to act as volunteer coaches to help new moms.
Browne said now knowing what the challenges are and that resources are limited in this area — there is no lactation consultant here — she has some ideas for how the support could be structured.
She’d like to see some sort of support system where home visits could be made and also where moms could get together.
Having someone come to her during the first weeks when she wasn’t mobile and facing the challenges of being a first-time mom was very beneficial. And then later when she was able to get out to a mom and baby program offered by the resource centre, Browne was able to connect with other moms. While the program was not for breastfeeding support, a lot of the moms did breastfeed and Browne said she was able to talk with and learn from them.
“So I think sort of a dual system would be ideal in that respect,” she said. “I think something like a phone call is great, but it’s such a hands-on technique that you’re trying to learn and sometimes that requires face to face (support).”
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