PLATTSBURGH – Several new moms have completed training as peer counselors for women who need assistance with breastfeeding their newborns.
The Clinton County Health Department’s Women, Infants and Children Program has been providing a peer-counselor group for years, first offering the program with assistance from volunteers and then as an employee-based service when funds became available in 2005.
“They’re just a wonderful group of moms who have all breastfed their babies and have a passion for choosing breastfeeding,” said Sue Trombley, who oversees the lactation-training program for the Health Department.
“They are paired with new moms who request a peer counselor,” she added. “They offer guidance and support; they’re not professionals but women who know (about breastfeeding) through their own experiences.”
Although experienced with breastfeeding, each counselor must complete a 30-hour training program at the local WIC office to achieve their peer-counseling certificates.
“I wanted a job where doing something made a difference to somebody,” said Kari Lamkins of Plattsburgh. “I nursed my own daughter (Isabella), and that was a special experience for me, something I wanted to share with somebody else.”
She especially liked the bonding experience breastfeeding created between her and Isabella, now two and a half.
“I’ve always been a people person,” said Kasondra Lamkins, who has also received her peer-counseling certificate after breast feeding her daughter, Rose. “I’ve been there when people have a problem and need help; this (breastfeeding) is one of those jobs I’m able to help people with.
“I was a sick child growing up, and I was bottle-fed,” she added. “My sister was nursed and, growing up, she never had any illness. That’s why I chose breastfeeding for my daughter.”
Peer-counselor Nikki Jarvis said she made the decision to breastfeed because of extensive research she did that clearly showed breastfeeding was a healthier option for newborns.
“Everyone says that breastfeeding is natural, and it is natural,” she said. “But it’s not easy. There is a lot of pressure on women when they choose breastfeeding. There are a lot of struggles with raising a baby; breastfeeding shouldn’t be one of them.”
Sara Allen is a veteran peer counselor who decided to participate following the birth of her second child, Calla.
“It’s definitely been an experience,” she said. “I make phone contact with new mothers, and I’m also available here in our office. If someone is having an issue, they can come in and talk with me about it face to face.
“I find that to be one of the most rewarding things. It’s about getting someone to feel comfortable enough to open up with you. The info I can provide (new moms, who) might not have access to (it) otherwise. I offer support to help them succeed.”
With the arrival of her first daughter, Alaire, Allen had little background with breastfeeding but chose to learn as much as she could to help her succeed. Now, she wants to provide the support for others who face what she faced with Alaire.
“A lot of moms still feel they’re doing something that’s unusual (by breastfeeding),” she said. “We’re trying to create a community that accepts nursing as normal. Sharing our own experiences is one of the best ways we can do that.”
Email Jeff Meyers: firstname.lastname@example.org
TO LEARN MORE
The Clinton County Peer Counseling Program for breastfeeding moms is available for participants of the Women’s, Children and Infants Program through the Clinton County Health Department.
For more information on the program or eligibility, call the Health Department at 565-4830 or visit http://is.gd/mto5pu and click on Infant/Child Health under Public Health.