Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Laramie Breastfeeding Bag Project

On December 21, 2009, our second son decided to come into the world with the assistance of our midwife Esther and our doula Michelle. We were so full of the bliss that comes with bringing another sweet baby into the world naturally and the wonderful breastfeeding experience that was to follow. As we were leaving the hospital, we were given a “breastfeeding support” bag from Similac and other formula companies. You know the ones. In all, we were given five full-sized cans of formula in a bag with a tag on it that read, “For breastfeeding moms.” Not one thing in there even mentioned the word “breastfeeding.” Hmmmm . . . I thought as I politely declined the bag. In the weeks after Owen’s birth, my husband and I began a discussion about this. We hypothetically talked about what would be in a real breastfeeding support bag- what were the products and bits of information that made breastfeeding better for us? My husband, the ever supportive rock that he is, knew that this discussion, coupled with a type-A, freakishly organized woman such as myself, would lead to something . . . and it quickly did.

Breastfeeding Support Bags
I e-mailed every company that I believed in, had heard good things about, had personal experiences with or my friends had, and asked for their help. Within days, I had teamed up with over forty companies and organizations who were nothing short of thrilled to help. Donations of information and samples flooded my front porch and my guest bedroom. And so, like Owen, the Laramie Breastfeeding Bag Project was born naturally and out of great determination.
After putting together sample bags, I called our local hospital and spoke with the the lactation coordinator. She was very receptive to the idea of true breastfeeding support bags. We met and she approved the bags with flying colors.
As of March 2010, women who give birth at Ivison Memorial Hospital are given the bags from the Laramie Breastfeeding Bag Project.
I then teamed up with my long-time friend Sarah Pruis, owner of One Creative Mama and natural childbirth educator. Our goals remain the same:

  • To complete the bags at no cost or with funds from fundraisers or donations
  • To support and encourage breastfeeding mamas with accurate information, and
  • To include only pro-breastfeeding information, samples, coupons, etc. (For example, we don’t put in coupons for something like photography as “fillers” but we would include brochures on baby slings since that promotes bonding and facilitates breastfeeding.
Fundraising and Project Success in Laramie
We are now approaching 300 bags filled. Currently, there about about 30-40 births per month at our hospital. We continue to get more donors, both at the local level and at the national level. This includes the hospital, who worked along with midwife Esther Gillman-Kehrer to donate reusable bags. They purchased 400 more reusable bags to keep the project going. The bags say, “Breastfeeding is (Eco)logical.” This means that we now have the donations and supplies to continue the project for at least another year, and hopefully indefinitely! The Laramie Breastfeeding Bag Project has also purchased stainless steel (BPA free) water bottles that say, “Laramie Supports Breastfeeding” and features the International Breastfeeding Symbol on it. ALL money raised goes toward the purchase of more stainless steel water bottles to include in the breastfeeding bags. Because of the success of a recent fundraiser, the Laramie Breastfeeding Bag Project was also able to purchase additional items to add to the bags so that new breastfeeding moms get even more goodies.
The Laramie Breastfeeding Bag Project was also able to purchase International Breastfeeding Symbol stickers. Local organizations and businesses are being given these stickers to display in their windows as a statement of support for breastfeeding moms/customers. This project has just started. Along with the stickers, the businesses and organizations are being given information about breastfeeding laws in Wyoming, ways to support breastfeeding customers, and how breastfeeding impacts the entire community.
Our local hospital, Ivinson Memorial Hospital has also initiated the Laramie Breastfeeding Coalition as a result of the momentum. This group meets once a month and includes representatives from Ivinson Memorial Hospital, WIC, Public Health, area midwives, local nurses, La Leche League, area doctors, a clinical nutritionist, myself, and others. The group encourages interested healthcare professionals and others to join in order to promote breastfeeding city-wide. The group will also be working with the Laramie Breastfeeding Bag Project to promote the stickers in local organizations and businesses.
And what's even better? Ivinson Memorial Hospital now proudly displays their international breastfeeding symbol stickers in all entries and on each floor, it has banned the free formula bags entirely, and it is making steps toward becoming a certified “baby-friendly” hospital.
Whenever I see Deb, the lactation coordinator at the hospital, she always says to me, “All this from one little lady.” And I immediately say the phrase, “It takes a village.” This high school English teacher, turned stay-at-home mama, turned lactivist wants my two boys to be a part of a society that embraces and encourages breastfeeding and for us, it starts in our “village” of Laramie, Wyoming. Each month when it is time for Sarah and I to crowd into my guest bedroom that has now been dubbed the “breast room in the house” to fill more breastfeeding bags, there is a mantra that keeps playing in my head: ‘Take that Similac!
If you are interested in starting something like this in your town and don’t know how to begin or you have questions, please feel free to contact me and I would love to help you take the steps to get started. Amandamack5 {at} yahoo {dot} com or join us on Facebook: Laramie Breastfeeding Bag Project. Happy nursing!
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This post has been edited from a previous version posted at A Mother's Boutique. Our thanks to Amanda Mack - for her inspiring project and for allowing us to share it!
If you are part of an initiative to promote breastfeeding and/or the normalization of breastfeeding, tell us about it! We want to share your good work with our readers. Email us at NursingFreedom {at} Gmail {dot} com

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