By Sgt. Christopher M. Gaylord, 5th Mobile Public Affairs DetachmentAugust 3, 2011
JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. " The instant Jenn Hemmer first held her newborn daughter in her arms, an everlasting bond was formed.
It was a landmark moment etched deeply in time for Hemmer and her husband, Maj. Patrick Hemmer " a time when the rest of the world slowed down and one couple took its next-biggest step in life.
“They gave her to me, and we had skin-to-skin contact right away,” said Hemmer, an Army spouse and first-time mother, of hers and 4-week-old Riley’s first embrace.
Within minutes of their first touch, Hemmer began doing what she believes is the very best thing to take that bond to new heights: breastfeeding.
“It’s a proven way to bond with baby,” she said.
Immediately, however, questions began to plague Hemmer. Was she doing things right?
That’s when Madigan Army Medical Center’s Moms Own Milk group, a twice-weekly initiative by the hospital’s lactation consultant office that offers new and practiced mothers alike who breastfeed their babies a face-to-face forum of education and advice on the topic, reassured her.
“To come here, chat with others and talk about concerns " it just helps your spirit,” Hemmer said of the MOMs meetings, which she’s attended weekly since Riley was born. “It’s just reassuring that the questions I’m having everyone else is having, too.”
“It’s a special kind of bond,” she added, alluding to the network of mothers " both new and experienced " of which she’s now a part.
Rebecca Newnum, a second-time mother who recently gave birth to twins, is just glad her experience with breastfeeding has been easier than it was four years ago at Bamberg, Germany. There, she says, the installation hospital had no program of any kind like MOMs group and, as a first-time mother breastfeeding, she was nervous.
But at JBLM, she says, it’s quite the opposite.
“They (MOMs group) are always here for you,” said Newnum, an Army spouse and mother of 11-week-old twin daughters Emily and Emma, “and they always have the right answers. If you need help, they help you.”
Mothers, like Hemmer and Newnum, come to the afternoon group meetings for weigh-ins by on-hand pediatricians and to address their concerns with the experts: certified lactation consultants.
They ask why their babies are underweight, or why they’re sick. They ask why breastfeeding sometimes hurts. And some come just for the support they get from fellow breastfeeding mothers.
“Just to communicate with other moms is really important, and to exchange experiences,” Newnum said. “You come here, and everyone has the same problems, so you’re not alone.”
“This is a place that provides them (mothers) support with staff or other moms, encouraging them that they can keep going and that they can be successful,” said Rhea Carithers, a MAMC lactation consultant who co-leads the two-hour-long group sessions with fellow consultant Dorothy Strobl-Lucas.
Carithers said communication for breastfeeding mothers, especially new ones, is crucial. It also happens to be the theme for the 19th annual World Breastfeeding Week, an event hosted by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding that takes place each year from Aug. 1-7.
The official theme, “Talk to Me! Breastfeeding " a 3D Experience,” is intended to promote communication between breastfeeding mothers and with knowledgeable hospital staff, whether it be face-to-face, on internet social networking sites or via text messages.
“There is a lot of research that shows that when moms network with their peers their breastfeeding can have longer durations,” Stobl-Lucas said. “They tend to breastfeed longer.”
Carithers explained why " contrary to popular belief " the internet and cell phones can often serve as more efficient communication outlets for mothers than meeting in person.
“Moms aren’t so much inclined today to go to classes,” she said. “When they want information on something they’re on Google, Facebook or Twitter, or they’re on Youtube. That’s where they go for information.”
Carithers added that in honor of World Breastfeeding Week the lactation consultant office compiled a list of recommended online resources into a display in the MAMC foyer for mothers to use as a reference.
One of those resources, theleakyboob.com " both a website and Facebook page " has worked wonders for Patricia Jacobs, a first-time mother with a 10-month-old son.
“You get lots of answers really fast, whereas if you call a message line it could be two or three days before you get a response,” said Jacobs, an Air Force spouse who used advice she received from the site to help her then-6-month-old son reach a healthy weight.
She added that in dealing with the fast-paced changes of military life, it can be a blessing to have consistent contacts for help.
“When you’re changing bases and you still want that support, and you don’t know if there are lactation consultants at your (new) base, it’s really helpful to know you can still contact those same people and get the same reliable information,” she said.
It’s the kind of information new mothers like Hemmer depend on in times of doubt.
“As a new mother, I question everything I do,” Hemmer said. “But in coming here the past four weeks, I’m learning that I really don’t need to second-guess myself.”
“I’m doing a pretty good job, and these ladies help reinforce that,” she added.