Among the organizations seeking to create virtual connections during a global pandemic is the Colorado Breastfeeding Coalition. A global, virtual event for breastfeeding mothers kicked off World Breastfeeding Week on Saturday, where mothers gave each other advice, support and comfort.
“There’s a lot that goes into breastfeeding that people don’t know,” said Alessandra DeMarchis-Patz, the non-metro coordinator for Advancing Breastfeeding Colorado.
The Colorado Breastfeeding Coalition’s virtual Global BIG Latch On event for mothers Saturday morning was part of a larger national push to encourage breastfeeding and support mothers who feel like they don’t have anyone to turn to with questions, DeMarchis-Patz said.
Mothers from all over Colorado breastfed at the same time as conversations unfolded via Zoom about how breastfeeding is better for the planet because it produces less waste and establishes an important bonding connection between the mother and her baby.
There were 190 people registered for the event, and over 50 people attended the Colorado state Zoom event. One mother in Denver had just given birth to twins before joining the Zoom call.
Building resources in Southwest ColoradoThe Southwest Colorado Breastfeeding Coalition, which has its few members primarily in La Plata County and meets in Durango, is hoping to reach mothers who need support in surrounding counties, DeMarchis-Patz said, such as Montezuma and Archuleta counties.
“We don’t have a lot of breastfeeding resources down here in Southwest Colorado,” said a mom from Archuleta County.
She started a support group, but it slowly dwindled, she said. However, there are still mothers looking for support in the area.
“The Southwest is an area we want to focus our efforts on,” said Katie Halverstadt, chair of the Colorado Breastfeeding Coalition and clinical nurse manager of lactation at Saint Joseph Hospital in Denver. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it is hard for mothers who are unable to see friends and family and draw support from them, she said.
Halverstadt plans to follow up with mothers in Southwest Colorado counties to help create more connections and support, she said.
Milk banks in the Rocky MountainsDeMarchis-Patz said there is a strong network of breast-milk donors across the state, through the Rocky Mountain Children’s Health Foundation. She is a milk donor and said the donated milk can make a difference for a premature baby’s survival if it was born before the mother was able to start producing milk.
The milk is distributed to hospitals throughout the Rocky Mountains.
“It’s like a blood donation,” DeMarchis-Patz said.
The milk bank sends accepted donors a box with an ice pack, and donors mail the box back with the pumped breast milk.
Mercy Regional Medical Center became a milk depot in 2018, DeMarchis-Patz said.
What’s nextThe second week of August, which is National Breastfeeding Month, focuses on Native American mothers, and the fourth week focuses on Black mothers.
Alliss Hardy with the Families Forward Resource Center in Denver works with African American mothers and aims to decrease the infant mortality rate. After the Global BIG Latch On virtual event, she hosted a private session called Black Latch for outreach specific to African American women.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has an interactive map that marks purple stars over hospitals with staff members specially trained in breastfeeding, as well as hospitals that use the best evidence-based care for mothers.