Cherokee Nation opens breastfeeding center
5/6/2011 6:45:42 AM
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The Cherokee Nation’s Women, Infants and Children Program Breastfeeding Services staff cut the ribbon at a May 4 open house for the tribe’s new lactation center at 1234 W. Fourth St., in Tahlequah, Okla. CHRISTINA GOOD VOICE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
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The Cherokee Nation’s Women, Infants and Children Program Breastfeeding Services staff cut the ribbon at a May 4 open house for the tribe’s new lactation center at 1234 W. Fourth St., in Tahlequah, Okla. CHRISTINA GOOD VOICE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
By CHRISTINA GOOD VOICE Senior Reporter TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Alayna Farris is expecting her first baby this fall. And though she’s months away from meeting her new arrival, she’s already decided to breastfeed her baby. “(I plan to breastfeed because of) the benefits of the immunities that will be passed on to my baby,” she said. “And just making sure that I’m making the right choices to have a healthy baby.” The Cherokee Nation Women, Infants and Children Program Breastfeeding Services have been assisting nursing mothers for several years, but now the program has its own site at 1234 W. Fourth St., in Tahlequah. The Breastfeeding Services group held an open house May 4 to show new and expecting moms where they can come for services and information such as peer counseling, educational information and expertise of other breastfeeding mothers. Breastfeeding Services Coordinator Brenda Carter said breastfeeding mothers need all the support they can get, and that’s the purpose of the center. “We want our breastfeeding moms to feel special,” she said. “They’ve chosen to breastfeed, and we want to make sure they have the support they need. That’s one of the big reasons for people to continue breastfeeding, the support.” The center has been a longtime dream of WIC Lactation Coordinator Euphemia John, Carter said. “She’s been our lactation coordinator for many years. In the back of her head she always had a special place for moms to come for support, classes and education.” Support groups are a major aspect of the center, John said. “That’s what we want to have here,” John said. “Support groups where women can support each other and share all their experiences they have. That helps them learn from each other.” Farris said she’s always known she wanted to breastfeed her baby, especially since all her aunts breastfed their babies. “I saw how healthy all their babies were.” She added that the center should be a great resource for new mothers. “It’s more support,” Farris said. “The more support I can get in all aspects of having a new baby the better.” John said the center’s atmosphere is a relaxed one, complete with neutral paint on the walls, photos of mothers and their babies and even a nursing room with a rocking chair, ottoman, subdued lighting, mural of a tropical beach on the wall and calming music. “The subdued lighting is to have moms get comfortable sitting there, and get relaxed and comfortable,” she said. WIC Nutrition Coordinator Pam Wedding said the mural is intended to relax mothers. “The mural is another way of relaxing so that moms cannot feel tense,” Wedding said. “That’s counterproductive to the support. It’s a place with a comfortable chair where it doesn’t feel really clinical and medical.” Farris said the entire center had the desired effect on her. “It’s very relaxing,” she said. “It’s peaceful in here. It’s somewhere where I want to be.” But Breastfeeding Services workers aren’t just helping nursing moms, they are also working to break the stigma of breastfeeding created by those who don’t understand the choice. “It’s not just WIC that we have to educate,” Carter said. “It’s the different departments. And we’re working to do that.” She said breastfeeding is generational in that it’s passed down in families, but some of the younger generations have ditched the method for bottle-feeding. “My mom breastfed, but you know, (younger generations) skipped that,” Carter said. She added that a state law supports breastfeeding mothers, a fact many people don’t realize. John also said the CN WIC group is working with the Healthy Nation program to possibly create a billboard about breastfeeding to assist in that effort. “I think when people don’t see it visually out there they’re not going to get used to the idea,” John said. “It has to be out there.” Carter said the tribe is lucky that CN Medical Director Gloria Grim supports the breastfeeding movement. “The Cherokee Nation allows its employee who are working mothers the appropriate time and a safe place to support the mother’s choice to breastfeed their baby, which mirrors the government’s guidelines on breastfeeding,” Grim said in an emailed statement. “We continually work to educate expecting mothers on the importance of breastfeeding and the health benefits to their baby. With the new lactation center, we provide mothers with a relaxing environment so they remain committed to breastfeeding their child. We have dedicated space in some Cherokee Nation health centers and hope to implement more in other facilities.”
christina-goodvoice@cherokee.org • 918-207-3825
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