FORT JOHNSON, La. –
Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital hosted a Breastfeeding Awareness Month Family health fair from 8 a.m. to noon on August 5, at the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Johnson. The event, coordinated by the BJACH Labor, Delivery and Post Partum Ward and the OB/GYN Clinic, was designed to give new and expecting parents an opportunity to learn about lactation, pediatric, behavioral health, and other community resources in a fun and family-friendly atmosphere.
Col. Alisa Wilma, hospital commander, said she was impressed with the turn out and proud of her team.
“Our staff worked very hard to coordinate this event,” she said. “We had nearly 250 participants at our inaugural Breastfeeding Awareness Month event and we’re already making plans to make it bigger and better next year.”
Wilma said in addition to BJACH Soldiers, medical providers, and civilian employees, there were a variety of on and off post resources who joined in to make this a successful health fair for the Fort Johnson community.
Lt. Col. Nicole Rau, assistant deputy commander of nursing, said this was an important community-based health care initiative.
“This event was an important approach to healthcare that focused on providing medical services and support to people in our own community,” she said. “Events like this improve outcomes and reduce cost, address unmet needs, provide choices, cater services to a specific demographic and encourage community empowerment.”
Rau said this event illustrated to patients that care can be provided by a variety of healthcare professionals, including doctors, nurses, social workers, lactation counselors and other healthcare providers.
“As a nurse and new member of the team, I believe nurses are in a unique position to lead in community-based care and improve health outcomes for our most vulnerable populations,” she said. “I’m proud of the LDRP and OB team for serving as the driving force behind this innovative effort to improve and help advance health equity in our community.”
Spc. Sydney Pierce, a licensed practical nurse, and the acting noncommissioned officer in charge of the LDRP ward, spearheaded and lead the effort to make this event a reality.
“When I arrived at Fort Johnson, last summer, I was eight months pregnant with my first child,” she said. “I didn’t know about all the amazing resources and wonderful people here who have dedicated their lives to serving young mothers. I wanted BJACH to host this family health hair during Breast Feeding Awareness Month because I’ve been breastfeeding my daughter Esmeralda and it was a struggle at first. I want other new mothers to know they are not alone, and we have a lot of great resources to support them in their breastfeeding journey.”
Pierce said as more and more people learned about the event it grew.
“The excitement and outpouring of support for this event has been incredible,” she said. “What started off as a simple event to highlight lactation resources at BJACH, has turned into a legitimate family health fair. It’s truly been a team effort and the turnout has been incredible.”
Pierce said that in addition to BJACH resources, the Fort Johnson Army Community Services New Parent Support Program; the American Red Cross; Mom2Mom Global, Women, Infants and Children; the JRTC and Fort Johnson Safety; and TRICARE lactation providers all joined in to make the event a success.
Sydney Beard and her spouse Cpl. Christian Collins, 317th Engineer Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division are expecting their first child in December.
“We found out about this event from my husband’s unit,” Beard said. “We came to the health fair because we thought it would be a fun way to learn more about breastfeeding and meet other new parents.”
Rachael Harrington, spouse of Staff Sgt. David Harrington, 5th Battalion, 25th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, attended the event with her two children, Kade and Lincoln.
“I wanted to enjoy the fellowship of other families and celebrate Breastfeeding Awareness Month,” she said. “I am currently breastfeeding my son, and there is constantly new information coming out. I’m a member of Mom2Mom Global and participate in monthly meet ups and the peer support provided has really helped me on my journey.”
Harrington had her son at BJACH.
“I had such an amazing experience, everyone was wonderful,” she said. “I saw Dr. Liu, she delivered my son, and she remembered us, so it’s been wonderful interacting with the hospital staff in this informal setting.”
Harrington said she’d give the health fair a ten out of ten stars and hopes BJACH does another one soon.
Lori Finn, certified nursing assistant in the OB/GYN clinic, assisted Pierce with much of the behind-the-scenes leg work for this event.
“My hope is that every participant takes the knowledge they gained during the health fair to advocate for themselves and their families,” she said. “I also hope they spread this knowledge to people that were unable to attend.”
Finn said this event was very important to the community.
“I love to educate and advocate for our patients and their Families,” she said. “It’s important that our community knows what resources are available to them and this health fair put them all in one place.”
Capt. Kodi Humpal, a pediatrician and chief the Patient Centered Medical Home, said breastfeeding is a good option for infants and mothers.
“For infants, it helps provide beneficial antibodies that prevent infections as well as helps reduce their risk of sudden infant death syndrome, lower respiratory tract infections, asthma, eczema, obesity, and even diabetes,” he said. “For mothers, breastfeeding can reduce the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure.”
Humpal said the health fair was a great way to put out information and let Families know the team at BJACH is here to help if patients have trouble with breastfeeding.
“We are always more than happy to see our new parents in the PCMH
clinic at BJACH and can help route you to the available resources,” he said. “We have lactation support available in the OB department and now have a lactation counselor available here at Fort Johnson, Allison Harrison, who is extremely knowledgeable, a great source of up-to-date evidence-based information and is available to provide home, in clinic, or even virtual options.”
Humpal said breastfeeding isn’t the right options for all Families.
“Sometimes breastfeeding just isn’t possible and that’s just fine,” he said. “For most babies, the standard formula that is available at the grocery store will meet all their needs. Here in the U.S., we have very strict regulations surrounding our infant formulas so that they all have the necessary nutritional requirements and are all similar enough that there’s no need to pick one brand over another. If you feel like your baby isn’t doing well on the formula you are using, I recommend discussing the possibility of changing it with your baby’s primary care provider."
Darion Taylor, spouse of Staff Sgt. Zachary Taylor, 3rd Battalion, 353rd Regiment, attended the Breastfeeding Awareness Month family health fair to find more resources before going back to work.
“Breastfeeding has been a huge benefit to me and my children,” she said. “I find breastfeeding more convenient than formula feeding.”
Taylor is an experienced breastfeeding mother of three, but still needs assistance from time to time.
“I’m going back to work next week and just found out that I can order free milk storage bags, so I’m really glad I came because I learned about something I didn’t know was available to me before,” she said.
April Draper Davis, chief of occupational health medicine, said lactating moms have legal protections to express milk in the workplace.
“Employers are required to give breastfeeding mothers reasonable break times for up to one year to pump,” she said. “Women may or may not be paid during their breaks but if paid breaks are provided to all employees, then those breaks must continue to be paid if nursing moms use them to pump at work.”
Davis said nursing moms are entitled to a functional space, other than a bathroom, for pumping that is shielded from view, free from intrusion, and available as needed.
According to health.mil, breast milk provides babies with essential nutrients, supports early neurodevelopment, and contains vital antibodies to help babies fight off viruses and bacteria. New mothers who were unable to attend the BJACH family health fair can learn more about TRICARE childbirth and breastfeeding support at www.tricare.mil/CBSD
Editor’s Note: Allison Harrison is a TRICARE Network certified lactation counselor and can be reached at 337-509-0261 or at email@example.com. TRICARE beneficiaries who are pregnant and planning to breastfeed or new breastfeeding mothers can receive up to six lactation appointments with out a referral.