Winston Prouty is celebrating it’s 50th year in 2019! Throughout this anniversary year, we want to share stories of people whose lives have been impacted by the Prouty Center as we celebrate and think about the next 50 years.
“You never expect breastfeeding to be challenging- it’s the most natural thing in the world!”
There are strong cultural images about motherhood, the “glow” of pregnancy, the joys of breastfeeding, how we forget the pain of giving birth. When the reality of individual experience does not match these images parents can feel stress and anxiety about whether things are going “right.” Breastfeeding is an area that can be particularly tricky for many reasons. It is about food and a baby getting the calories and nutrients needed to thrive, one of our most basic parental duties. The bulk of the responsibility for it rests with one parent, and it can be hard for others to know how to help. Trouble with breastfeeding can happen even after it has been going well. Finally, it is a very intimate, personal activity which increases vulnerability around asking for assistance. When breastfeeding is not going well the ripple effects are huge. Home visiting programs such as Children’s Integrated Services offered through The Winston Prouty Center can help make a difference.
Some may wonder why they should care about breastfeeding. There is a lot of research demonstrating the benefits including those which reach beyond the individual child, such as lowered health care costs for children who are breast fed due to the reduced illnesses such as urinary tract infections, inflammatory bowel disease, gastroenteritis, ear infections and respiratory infections in babies who are breastfed. There are also health benefits for the mom such as lowering the risk for breast or ovarian cancer. Making sure that all parents have the supports they need in the pre-natal and post-partum period are essential, and home visiting from maternal child health nurses such as those who work at the Prouty Center is just one example of the kind of support that can make a real difference.
Recently we talked with one mom, Marion, who shared her story of how Sally Pennington, a nurse and Board-certified lactation consultant at Prouty, helped her increase her milk supply so she could successfully breast feed. Marion says about Sally “She was calm, supportive, direct, and beyond helpful and reassuring. Although it’s the most natural thing in the world, and this might sound crazy to someone who hasn’t lived it, breastfeeding has been one of the biggest (and best) challenges of my life and without support like this it would have been impossible to persevere (see an upcoming interview with Marion on our special 50th anniversary edition of “Family Matters” on BCTV). While this is a great breastfeeding success story, not everyone will be able to breastfeed and what is critical is that they have guidance in understanding and accessing resources and options that will work for them to support the best possible development of their child.
The impact programs like nurse home visiting have are evident in the comments we have gotten from families who have participated:
IN PERSON: “He’s doing great and his development is now on track. Every time you come, I learn so much about my son and myself as a mother. I think a lot about what you said that when baby is born so is a mother. I wouldn’t be the mother I am today without you.”
TEXT: “I’m crazy busy working full time but still pumping and breastfeeding (her). Thanks for believing in me!”
PHONE: “My daughter is almost one now. While I was feeding her last night, I felt so grateful for our amazing bond and relationship. We wouldn’t be here without you. Thank you!”
CARD: “At first, I was uncomfortable with a home visit. I was a mess and so was my house! But I was desperate – overwhelmed and exhausted and didn’t have a clue how to get my baby to feed. It didn’t take long for me to realize an angel had arrived. In the days and weeks following that first visit I grew into a capable and confident mother. My son is healthy and happy, and we are thriving. Thanks for being there then and whenever I call. You are our angel!”
Joining parents where they are, helping them identify what they need to be successful (including understanding what their child needs), and then coaching them along the way in areas from breastfeeding, to budgeting, to advocating for their child builds their capacity as parents. The success of families and children is one important measure of the health of our community and investing in what makes a difference for them lifts us all.