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Hospital Happenings

News | Feb. 3, 2023

Fort Polk moms help BJACH educate patients on lactation services

By Jean Graves, Medical Readiness Command, West

Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital has a lactation room located on the second floor of the military treatment facility in room A3. Patients who need to breastfeed their children or pump milk for future use can use it while in the facility.

BJACH employees noticed that the room was highly underutilized, finding women nursing infants in awkward or uncomfortable surroundings.

Myrkania Cedeno, a medical support assistant with the BJACH call center, wanted to ensure beneficiaries knew there was a lactation room in the facility. She initiated work orders with facilities for signage and contacted the hospital public affairs office to inform patients where the lactation room was located.

“I knew that our beneficiaries were unaware of the lactation room,” she said. “Often I would find young moms trying to nurse in the bathroom and realized this was a safety concern for both moms and newborns.”

While nursing moms can feed their infants anywhere in the hospital, Cedeno would encounter moms in the restroom and took the opportunity to introduce them to the lactation room.

“They were always very appreciative and totally unaware of the location and existence of the lactation room,” she said.

Through social media, BJACH reached out to the local community and asked lactating moms if they were aware of the room and if anyone would be interested in participating in a communication campaign to educate beneficiaries about the room and support services available for breastfeeding moms.

Both the United States Office of Personnel Management and the Department of Defense have policies that direct organizations to have safe, clean areas for breastfeeding moms.

Staff Sgt. Aimee O’Brien, medical noncommissioned officer, 3rd Battalion, 353rd Regiment, Security Force Assistance Command, said she chose to nurse her children because of the immune system boost breastfeeding offers newborns.

“I like that what our bodies make is perfect for the baby, if you are able to breastfeed,” she said. “As a breastfeeding mother in the workplace, whether you are active duty or not, it is important to understand your rights and know what resources are available.”

O’Brien said the Army has changed things to make it easier to continue the breastfeeding journey for a year or more.

“If you need help reach out to people,” she said. “Figuring out pumping schedules, how to pump in the field or at training events can be confusing, but a lot of us do it, so just ask and we can help.”

Maj. Jacquelin Marrero, support operations officer, 710th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, said she chose to breastfeed because of the nutritional value to her baby and for personal health benefits.

“For active-duty personnel breastfeeding can be challenging due to our work schedule,” she said. “Breastfeeding has help me lose the baby weight I gained during pregnancy and because I work long hours, nursing my son gives me an opportunity to bond with him in a way I might not otherwise.”

Marrero said communication is key.

“It can be challenging for an active-duty mom to breastfeed but don’t give up,” she said. “Working with your leadership and having open communication about pumping schedules is very important. Talk to your chain of command about your desire to breastfeed, and they will work with you to accomplish your goals.”

Catherine Finke, spouse of Sgt. 1st Class Gregory Finke, an observer, coach, trainer with Task Force 1, Joint Readiness Training Center Operations Group, volunteered to help promote the lactation room and share her experience with BJACH beneficiaries.

“I have five children and breastfeeding has always been a priority for my family,” she said. “I’m extremely stubborn, despite challenges, I’ve been determined to nurse each of my children.”

Finke said she’s grateful for nursing because it’s been beneficial for her postpartum mental health and her family was unaffected by formula shortages.

“I would encourage everyone to try nursing,” she said. “To me it’s worth it, your milk is never out of stock, it’s always available.”

Finke said seek support if you need it.

“I had a whole army of strangers supporting me when I began my nursing journey,” she said. “I reached out to other mothers when I was struggling. I found in person and online resources. Without that support, I don’t think I would have been successful. I want to pay that forward and am available to help others who want to try breastfeeding.”

Allison Harrison, spouse of Capt. Daniel Harrison, assistant operations officer, 3rd Battalion, 353rd Regiment, SFAC, is a board certified and credentialed military lactation counselor and certified lactation counselor.

Harrison, a red cross volunteer at BJACH is also the Mom2Mom Global ambassador for the JRTC and Fort Polk and is available through referrals from the labor, delivery and postpartum ward at BJACH.

“I personally started my breastfeeding journey ten years ago with my first child,” she said. “I have learned so much personally that I wanted to share that experience professionally. I am here to support anyone who is breastfeeding, chest-feeding or pumping.”

Harrison said research and determination are key to success.

“I think it’s important to get questions answered while pregnant,” she said. “It’s so much easier to have success if it’s a decision you’ve made prior to delivery. Then find likeminded people who will support you when things get tough. It’s important to connect with people who will give you the accurate advice or direct you to appropriate resources.”

Editor’s Note: See Army Directive 2022-06 (Parenthood, Pregnancy and Postpartum) paragraph f, regarding lactation accommodations for Soldiers:
 
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