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James River group to provide resources for breastfeeding mothers

A tent will be set up in the Oasis building during the Stutsman County Fair that will include space for mothers to breastfeed.

Breastfeeding Tent 1 06282022.jpg
Shannon Klatt, left, director of health promotion at Central Valley Health District, and Jill Wald, director of Women, Infants & Children Program at Central Valley Health, stand at a tent in the Oasis building at the Stutsman County Fairgrounds that has space for mothers to breastfeed during the fair Wednesday through Saturday, June 29-July 2.
Masaki Ova / The Jamestown Sun
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JAMESTOWN – A newly formed group of breastfeeding professionals in Jamestown aims to provide resources for breastfeeding mothers, increase awareness of it and encourage businesses to get an infant-friendly designation.

The James River Valley Breastfeeding Coalition’s mission is to improve the health and well-being of its community by protecting, promoting and supporting breastfeeding through education, outreach, advocacy and service.

“Our main goal is to be a resource for breastfeeding moms in the community and to make the community breastfeeding friendly as well,” said Jill Wald, director of Women, Infants & Children Program at the Central Valley Health District. “We are going to work with local businesses to help get them to be breastfeeding friendly. We really want to get some resources out there.”

The coalition brings breastfeeding professionals together, said Jennifer Kross, owner of Lamaze Childbirth Education in Jamestown who is a certified childbirth educator and a certified lactation counselor.

“This coalition has done a great job in getting these professionals in one room and talking to each other and coordinating with each other so we can really bring the resources and highlight the resources to the people in Jamestown that need them,” she said.

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The James River Valley Breastfeeding Coalition’s’ goals include:

  • linking local families to resources in the community to help them achieve their breastfeeding goals.
  • increasing communication and collaboration among people committed to promoting and supporting breastfeeding.
  • increasing public awareness of the positive outcomes associated with breastfeeding for babies, mothers and the community.
  • encouraging and supporting the North Dakota infant friendly workplace designation program.
  • assessing community venues and businesses for safe breastfeeding spaces and advocating for improvement and/or development of these spaces.

The coalition has partnered with Essentia Health-Jamestown Clinic and Sanford Health in Jamestown as well as Jamestown Regional Medical Center Family BirthPlace, T & K Pediatric Services, Chatter Pediatric Therapy, the Anne Carlsen Center, a local representative with Breastfeeding USA and Lamaze Childbirth Education.

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“People may think there aren’t a lot of resources available in this community, but there are some people who are passionate and want to help,” said Shannon Klatt, director of health promotion for Central Valley Health District.

Wald said breastfeeding is a great option for infants. She said breast milk is always ready and does not need to be prepared, easy for infants to digest, changes as the infant grows to give the baby what it needs, helps spring development and protection against infections, asthma, allergies and obesity.

“There are many things in breast milk that are not in formula such as antibodies, hormones and antiallergen properties,” she said. “There are a lot of things that are not in formula that are in breast milk.”

Breastfed infants are healthier, and mothers who breastfeed are less likely to have postpartum depression, Wald said.

Klatt said there are three ways an infant can be fed: exclusively breastfeeding, breastfeeding and using formula or just expressing milk and feeding the baby with a bottle.

“At the end of the day, all we care about is that babies are fed, nourished, happy, healthy and sleeping,” she said.

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Wald said with the formula shortage, parents should not be making homemade formula, which is not advised by the U.s. Food & Drug Administration.

Challenges of breastfeeding

Only 11.1% of children in North Dakota are exclusively breastfed for the first six months, Klatt said. She said after six months, mothers may see more challenges to continue breastfeeding.

“As babies get older, moms worry they don’t have enough milk for their babies, which isn’t always the case,” Wald said. “That’s where some of us come into play as certified lactation counselors that can help moms. Sometimes we do a weighted feed, so we will weigh the baby before we feed, then mom will feed the baby and we will weigh them again. Then we will see how much the baby got and then we can assure the mom that the baby has gotten enough.”

Before the infant is 6 months old, many mothers go back to work, she said, and once an infant begins to eat baby food, they go longer without nursing.

“Then the mom is not making as much milk,” she said.

Other problems that make it more challenging to breastfeed include an infant having a lip tie or tongue tie, which causes latching issues, Wald said. She said a lip tie or tongue tie can be fixed by having a medical provider clip or laser it.

She said JRMC has several trained nurses who can help mothers with proper latch and holding positions.

Kross said mothers don’t always have a support system at home for breastfeeding. When mothers are at a hospital after their child is born, they get lactation support there, she said.

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She said one misconception of breastfeeding is it’s natural and just happens. But, breastfeeding takes a lot of work and commitment, she said.

“We are here to support these people and help them be successful for encouragement as long as they want to have that breastfeeding relationship with the baby,” she said.

Maintaining milk supply, proper storage

When mothers breastfeed or express milk more often, the hormones tell their body to make more, Wald said.

“When babies start going longer between feedings, then mom’s milk supply will drop because she doesn’t need as much milk,” she said.

As infants get older, she said they are fed on average about every three hours.

In a refrigerator at 40 degrees, freshly expressed milk can be stored up to four days, and up to one day if it is thawed or was previously frozen, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

If breast milk is stored in a freezer at zero degrees or lower, it’s best to use it within six months but it can be stored for up to 12 months, the CDC states. Thawed or previously frozen breast milk should not be frozen again after it has been thawed.

On the countertop at 77 degrees, freshly expressed milk is good for up to four hours, and thawed or previously frozen breast milk is good for one to two hours, the CDC states.

If any is leftover from a feeding, all breast milk should be used within two hours after the baby is finished feeding.

Infant-friendly workplaces

One of the coalition’s goals is to educate employers about becoming an infant-friendly workplace. Currently, only five employers in Jamestown have an infant-friendly designation.

“We would love to have conversations with businesses and educate them on becoming a designated infant-friendly workplace,” Klatt said. “We would love to double, triple or quadruple that number here in the near future.”

An infant-friendly workplace is a business designation for employers who support breastfeeding by providing a dedicated space and adequate time for new mothers to pump milk during the workday, according to Central Valley’s website.

“We want them to have a policy outline that shows that they are going to provide a safe place where you can pump milk,” Klatt said.

The small, private space provided needs to be lockable, clean and include a fridge to store the freshly expressed milk, she said. She said the private space cannot be a toilet stall or a restroom.

In 2009, the North Dakota Legislature passed legislation to protect a woman’s right to breastfeed her child in any location – public or private – where the woman and child are otherwise authorized to be, according to the coalition’s resource guide. The breastfeeding support policies also include allowing flexible break times for expressing milk and access to a clean water source for washing hands and cleaning breast-pumping equipment.

Federal law requires employers to provide reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for their nursing child, the coalition’s resource guide states. The break time is required each time time the employee needs to express breast milk for one year after the child’s birth.

Wald said some employers might not be aware of the law because they never had a breastfeeding employee.

Employer benefits of having an infant-friendly designation include reduced sick leave, lower health care insurance costs, higher employee productivity and retention of experienced employees, Central Valley’s website states.

Breastfeeding tent, support group kickoff event

The coalition plans to have a tent set up in the Oasis building during the Stutsman County Fair that will include space for mothers to breastfeed. The Oasis building is located next to the secretary's office and across from the cheese curds food stand.

The tent will have space for mothers to change a child’s diaper as well.

“It’s going to be an enclosed tent so it’s going to be private,” Wald said. “It will be a nice place for moms to go.”

The coalition will also hold a support group kickoff event from 3:30 to 6 p.m. on July 26 at McElroy Park for breastfeeding mothers to meet other mothers and professionals who can offer resources for breastfeeding.

“We will have a resource table, some prizes and just some fun activities for kids as well,” Wald said.

Masaki Ova joined The Jamestown Sun in August 2021 as a reporter. He grew up on a farm near Pingree, N.D. He majored in communications at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
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