Counties come together to honor National Breastfeeding Month

Featured is a banner posted outside of the Mecosta County Services Building. This banner, according to Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Tina McDonald, is in honor and celebration of Breastfeeding Awareness Month. (Pioneer photo/Alicia Jaimes)

MECOSTA, OSCEOLA COUNTIES — In honor of National Breastfeeding Month, organizations around Mecosta and Osceola counties are fighting stigmas and providing support for mothers.

“I’m a huge advocate for breastfeeding, normalizing breastfeeding and getting the word out there,” Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Tina McDonald said.

McDonald works in the WIC office in Big Rapids and is one of many breastfeeding peer counselors in Michigan who assist women and first-time mothers.

“I go into the Big Rapids hospital on Tuesday mornings on the obstetrics and gynecology floor and meet with new moms, regardless if they’re breastfeeding or not,” she said. “We’re offering breastfeeding support and education.”

In order to provide this help, McDonald offers one-on-one time with mothers, as well as breastfeeding classes to provide information on the importance and benefits of breastfeeding. During these meetings, McDonald helps mothers learn more about latching, pumps and what to except after the baby arrives.

As well as being a peer counselor, McDonald helped create breastfeeding support groups for mothers in the Big Rapids area who breastfeed or have breastfed their babies.

One of these groups is called the Breastfeeding Friends, or BFF, Cafe.

“BFF Cafe is a support group where moms basically meet to empower, encourage and inspire each other,” McDonald said.

The support group meets at the Big Rapids Public Library the first Friday of the month, after a play group with their children.

McDonald provides snacks and gifts during the meeting, and answers any breastfeeding questions the women may have.

“We don’t structure any plan for topics. It’s more laid back,” she said.

Last fall, Great Start Collaborative Coordinator Jessica Wimmer contacted McDonald and said there’s a need for more breastfeeding support in the Big Rapids community, asking McDonald to open up the support groups to more people. McDonald said she was more than willing to do so.

“The doors have just been opened where anyone from the community can come,” McDonald said. “I’ve had a mom say, ‘This is the only adult time I get,’ and that is just amazing, because connections are being made and they feel this is their place to come and talk.”

Not only does McDonald help facilitate support groups at the local library and assist mothers with their breastfeeding questions, but she works with other businesses during the summer to aid women in finding areas to breastfeed their babies during public events.

“Oftentimes at different events during the summer, we have a breastfeeding tent,” she said.

This tent is called “Rock and Rest” and includes a chair, table and changing pad for changing diapers.

“It’s really open to anybody who has a child and wishes to change their baby, rest or breastfeed,” McDonald said.

As well as providing support, Wimmer and McDonald hope to fight against breastfeeding stigmas that can leave mothers feeling insecure or judged.

“Some moms don’t feel supported to breastfeed in public,” Wimmer said. “They feel it’s not welcome.”

To combat this, Wimmer plans to work with local businesses in implementing “We are breastfeeding friendly” signs in their front windows to help mothers feel safe and comfortable breastfeeding their child in public.

“I would love for everyone to know breast is always best,” Wimmer said. “It feeds babies for now, protects them and paves a way for that child’s future.”

Wimmer said she hopes to continue to fight the breastfeeding stigma by increasing awareness and support for mothers by other mothers and local businesses.

“The coalition is in order to make Mecosta-Osceola the place to raise children,” she said. “When you unite the voice — you have more support.”

For more information on breastfeeding and breastfeeding support groups, call McDonald at (231) 355-7553, Wimmer at (231) 592-9605 or visit one of the websites listed below:

  • bfmed.org
  • breastfeedingusa.org
  • cdc.gov
  • coffective.com
  • michigan.gov/wic
  • womenshealth.gov

    Great Start Collaborative Coordinator Jessica Wimmer said she hopes to work with local businesses to begin posting “We are breastfeeding friendly” signs in their front windows in hopes of helping mothers feel welcome to feed their babies in public. Featured is a breastfeeding-friendly sign posted in the Mecosta County Services Building.(Pioneer photo/Alicia Jaimes)

Leave a Reply