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Starting on Thursday, May 16, breastfeeding classes will be offered free of charge at Southeastern Regional Medical Center every third Thursday of the month. The class, which is led by Robeson County Health Department Lactation Educator Janna Blue, runs from 5:30-7 p.m. in the SRMC Community Education Classroom II, which is near the Gift Shop on the first floor.

Blue, who is also the program manager for Improving Community Outcomes for Maternal and Child Health (IMO4MCH), said the program offered in the evenings at the hospital will be the same as the program offered on a morning schedule at the Robeson County Health Department.

“We just want to provide as many ways as possible for families to access resources for their growing family,” Blue said. “As an incentive, every mother who registers in advance and completes the class gets a choice of one free item such as a breastfeeding pillow, nursing cover, milk storage bags or other items/necessities.”

Southeastern Health’s Director of Maternal/Child Health (MCH) Services Deborah Nellis, RN, DNP, NEA-BC, said she’s excited by the community teamwork that has brought this class back to the hospital on the same dates that the MCH Department is also offering tours. The tours will begin at 7 p.m. every third Thursday, and participants are not required to attend the breastfeeding class to attend a tour or vice versa.

“We’re trying to make the tours and the classes as user-friendly as possible,” Nellis said.

Southeastern Health is part of the Enrich Carolinas initiative, which aims to improve maternity care and breastfeeding rates in underserved communities in the Carolinas. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants be exclusively breastfed for at least the first six months with continued appropriate complementary foods for one year or longer. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2018 Breastfeeding Report Card, only 27 percent of infants in North Carolina are exclusively breastfeeding through six months.

“As part of the Enrich Carolinas initiative, MCH nurses are taking a 20-hour online course through the University of Virginia to further develop their breastfeeding education skills,” Nellis said. “This will provide women with breastfeeding support during their hospital stay. We recognize that breastfeeding isn’t possible for everyone, so we will provide education on providing formula to their infant.”

Changing ways to do things starts before the baby is born, Nellis said. Part of that change comes through communication. Many women choose not to breastfeed because they have not received the support necessary to breastfeed successfully, she said.

For instance, Blue says that pumping breastmilk is an option that still counts as breastfeeding and passes along the benefits of antibiotics and nutrition that breastfeeding provides.

“A lack of support, especially when they go back to school or work, is one of the biggest barrier for a mother who wants to breastfeed,” Blue said. “Parenting isn’t easy at the beginning, and support is key from family members. We want mothers to know that it is possible to breastfeed and there are resources to help make it possible. I encourage mothers who attend the class to bring their support people. Bring the family, bring their kids. Just because you didn’t breastfeed previous children doesn’t mean you can’t breastfeed.”

To register or for additional information, call (910) 671-3200.

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