FT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska - Mothers have been breastfeeding their children since the beginning of time, and while many believe it should come naturally, it often comes with challenges that can be frustrating for everyone involved.

To help make breastfeeding an easier, more fulfilling experience for mothers, Medical Department Activity -- Alaska began providing the services of a full-time lactation consultant at Bassett Army Community Hospital in April 2019.

Renae Kovall, a registered nurse, worked at Bassett ACH for six years as a labor and delivery nurse before receiving her certification and moving into the lactation consultant role. With over 1,000 hours of bedside care helping mothers with breastfeeding before even taking the lactation consultant exam, Kovall is a wealth of information.

"There are so many nuances and challenges that can arise with breastfeeding," said Kovall. "I'm here to help ease those challenges and keep moms who want to be breastfeeding going for as long as they choose."

Whether it is problems with getting a good latch, using a breast pump, underproduction or dozens of other breastfeeding concerns, Kovall is prepared to help educate and assist to take the stress and worry out of breastfeeding.

Kovall does her best to visit and work with every mother and baby on the maternal newborn unit whether they are planning on breastfeeding or not.

"Everybody that delivers here, I'm up there every day that I am at work seeing every single one of them to help in any way I can with feeding their baby," said Kovall. "Even if they are not breastfeeding, I teach the moms who are bottle-feeding how to prevent their milk from coming in." For those mothers who deliver over the weekend, Kovall comes in early Mondays to try and work them before they are discharged.

"Starting at the beginning and helping them get the latch right before they even go home helps cut down on frustration and the need to come back in for an appointment, said Kovall.

For those who do get home and find they have questions or breastfeeding is not going as they had hoped, Kovall is available to meet for one-on-one appointments.

"There is no need for a referral from the pediatrician or women's health," said Kovall. Patients are able to call me directly and we can either work over the phone or I can schedule an appointment for them to come in.

Holly Cordova, wife of Sr. Airman Anthony Cordova, 354th communication squadron, who gave birth in November to their son Chandler, is one such mom and is thankful for the breastfeeding support she received.

"The nurses as Bassett helped me right away with the basics of breastfeeding, said Cordova. "They helped me learn what a good latch felt like and showed me some breastfeeding positions." Unfortunately Cordova experienced some challenges once she went home.

"I was helped right away at the hospital when I explained my struggles at Chandler's day two appointment. I was referred to Ms. Kovall and it showed me Bassett is really devoted to supporting women in their breastfeeding journeys."

Cordova says she has suffered through three bouts of mastitis, an infection of the milk glands, but she has not given up on breastfeeding.

"Bassett was always there for me and showed their best interest in my health and my breastfeeding journey while treating my infections," said Cordova.

Kovall is quick to reassure mothers that no matter what their breastfeeding looks like, or if they choose to bottle feed, that she is still there to support.

"I do not force breastfeeding on anyone and believe it is a personal choice for every mother to make," said Kovall. "It doesn't matter how your baby is fed, just feed them. I am here to support every mother's decision and to help them with whatever their plan is."

Kovall also wants moms to know that no question or concern is too small for her to help.
"Whether it is help with getting the right size flange fit with their breast pump, inverted nipples, getting a good latch or dealing with engorgement, I'm here to help."

As word spreads of Kovall's expertise, her calendar is getting busier and Kovall loves every minute of her time working with moms and their babies.

"The process of helping moms, that look on their face, the sigh from dad the first time their baby latches, for me that's really what it's all about," said Kovall.

Kovall can be reached for questions or to schedule an appointment by calling 361-5958.