Michele Thacker is a CLS and a CLC for the West Virginia WIC Program. Her passion for breastfeeding began many years ago after the struggle to breastfeed her first daughter. She was a stay at home mom for 7 years when she had her 2nd daughter two months prematurely and she spent the first two months of her life in the NICU. It was then that she realized how important human milk is and the support she received from the staff led to her love of breastfeeding. Michele became a breastfeeding peer counselor for the WV WIC program in 2012 and then went on to become a Certified Lactation Counselor in June of 2013 and most recently a Certified Lactation Specialist in July of this year.
In April of this past year, in collaboration with HAPI (Helping Appalachian Parents and Infants), Michele helped to organize a breastfeeding support group. Mountain Milk Mommas meets twice a month in a fun and laid-back atmosphere and also maintains a Facebook page for online support.
Her newest project is to set up a Lactation Room at the local high school where young mothers can have a private and comfortable place to express milk during the school day.
Michele currently live in Buckhannon, West Virginia with her 3 daughters, Audra 14, Alexanna 7 and Maci 2.
Lisa is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and Breastfeeding Coordinator with the Zanesville-Muskingum County Health Department, WIC Program in Zanesville, Ohio. She is a member of the Ohio Lactation Consultant Association (OLCA) where she has served as President and is currently Publicity Chair. She is the founder and Co-Chair for the Southeast Ohio Breastfeeding Coalition (SEOBC) and a member of the United States Lactation Consultant Association (USLCA).
Lisa started her breastfeeding advocacy journey as a breastfeeding mom and La Leche League member, and then started her own breast pump rental/sales business, Mother Mates, 18 years ago in Northeast Ohio. From there, she got involved with a local breastfeeding coalition where she learned of the Breastfeeding Peer Helper Pilot Program that Ohio WIC was starting in select counties, with Ashtabula County being one of the first to implement the program. Lisa says, “Becoming a Breastfeeding Peer Helper launched a passion in me I had no idea I could experience.”
She continued her education by becoming a Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC) and then later when she moved to Muskingum County, she worked for Nationwide Children’s Hospital as a Breastfeeding Peer Advisor in the NICU, and also implemented a Peer Program at Muskingum County WIC. She didn’t stop there, “Deciding to become an IBCLC in 2011 was a huge step for me, but one I was ready for. Being able to help moms at that next level was challenging and very rewarding.”
Lisa continues her work today by helping moms one-on-one at her office, contracting with another county in our region who does not have a local IBCLC, hosting Breastfeeding Cafes twice a month, advocating for mothers in all aspects of breastfeeding, collaborating with local health providers and community members, administering Facebook pages: Muskingum County Breastfeeding Moms, Southeast Ohio Breastfeeding Coalition – SEOBC, and the Ohio Lactation Consultant Association, and being mom to her college-bound daughter and percussionist high school son, her inspiration. “Growing up in the far northeast area of Ohio and now living in the southeast region of Ohio, I’ve been able to see variables even within those Appalachian cultures. A lack of resources for families, and for breastfeeding advocates, is a huge issue so connecting with others and accessing the resources of the Appalachian Breastfeeding Network was imperative. Becoming a member was a no-brainer. The network is much appreciated.
Blending the fields of perinatal social work and lactation counseling, Kimberly Garner currently lives and works in the mountains of northwestern North Carolina in Boone at the local health department on a five-county maternal and child health grant called Improving Community Outcomes for Maternal and Child Health. The project focuses on reducing infant mortality, improving birth outcomes, and bettering the child health of 0-5 year olds through the promotion of reproductive life planning, tobacco prevention and cessation, and the Triple P Positive Parenting Program. Kimberly is also passionate about breastfeeding initiation and duration among historically marginalized populations, which is why she became a member of the Appalachian Breastfeeding Network. Kimberly is bilingual in Spanish and recently worked in Santa Fe, New Mexico as a certified lactation counselor in both a federally-qualified health center and local hospital.
Since childhood, Kimberly has been passionate about the perinatal period and has worked in her adult life alongside women and families to improve systems of care. Since 2012, Kimberly has been a volunteer and state coordinator for Postpartum Support International, an international organization that serves individuals, families, and professionals experiencing or desiring more information about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. Kimberly is also the North Carolina state representative for the National Association of Perinatal Social Workers and is working towards becoming an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. After living in New York, Montana, New Mexico, and North Carolina, she is acutely aware of the inequities that persist in breastfeeding initiation and duration across racial and socioeconomic identities in Appalachia and beyond. Kimberly envisions devoting her life to addressing disparities through reciprocal community partnerships both domestically and internationally. In her spare time, Kimberly enjoys exploring the beauty and wonder of the outdoors both in the US and abroad with her partner and family.
Rebecca is a sociocultural anthropologist with specialties in East Asia, social movements, gender, motherhood, and breastfeeding. She teaches at Davidson College in Davidson, North Carolina.
Rebecca has done volunteer mother-to-mother breastfeeding support and advocacy since 2006 and earned the IBCLC credential in 2010. She currently volunteers as a Breastfeeding USA Counselor and is planning to open a private practice as a lactation consultant this year. She has served on the Breastfeeding USA Board of Directors since 2014.
Rebecca writes: "Transplanted Appalachians are all around me in the Piedmont of North Carolina, and many of the structural barriers to breastfeeding that Appalachian families face back home are as well. In my volunteer work, teaching, and research, I am committed to improving breastfeeding advocacy and creating cultures of truly effective support for all families. I joined the ABN to learn, and I look forward to contributing to its mission however I can."
Rebecca has been married since 1995 and has a grown stepson, a soccer/piano-playing teenage son, and a former Shanghai alley cat named Calvin. When her hands aren't busy with all the above, she knits.
Appalachian Breastfeeding Network member Kailey Littleton speaks on behalf of our May Practice of the Month: "I work for Family Medical Care, a federally qualified health center through CHANGE, Inc, which is based in the Northern Panhandle of WV. Family medical care offers pediatric services at both its Newell, WV and Wintersville, OH sites. Because I am also an IBCLC, I am able to see both my primary pediatric patients and their mothers for breastfeeding difficulties, as well as consults from elsewhere in the community. I do revise both tongue and lip ties. Our FQHC is also one of the largest OBGYN practices in the area, so I also see many mothers prenatally to address their specific breastfeeding needs/concerns. Finally, because we are an FQHC, nearly all insurances (including all OH and WV Medicaids!) are accepted. Link to our website: http://www.changeinc.org/fmcchc/pediatrics/"
Leigh Anne O’Connor is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant with two decades of experience working with breastfeeding families. She is the past President of New York Lactation Consultant Association (NYLCA), a member of International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA), United States Lactation Consultant Association (USLCA) and a past member of the Bank Street Head Start Health Advisory Board. She has been an accredited La Leche League Leader since 1997.
Leigh Anne lectures for professional organizations, consults with companies to set up Corporate Lactation programs, teaches breastfeeding classes, leads support groups, and sees private clients all over New York City.
Leigh Anne has appeared on television, radio and in documentaries internationally as an expert and advocate for breastfeeding, promoting its importance as a health issue for babies, mothers, families and society at large. Most recently she appeared on Fox New York, Bravo's Pregnant in Heels and CNN's John King USA, The Doctors, TLC’s Bringing Home Baby and is seen regularly on the Newborn Channel. Other appearances include: Montel and Runway Moms on Discovery Health, Good Morning America, WCBS News and WOR radio.
Leigh Anne has written many essays on parenting and breastfeeding at www.MamaMilkandMe.com and at Bundoo.com. Leigh Anne lives in New York City with her husband, Rob, and their three children.
"I live in New York City but grew up in North Carolina. I see the disparities in breastfeeding rates and support in many communities as well as for my extended family. When the Appalachian Breastfeeding Network came my way I saw this as an opportunity to make a difference. I love supporting families on an individual level but as I have grown in my knowledge over the years I would like to support on a global level. I want to make a difference for up and coming breastfeeding supporters. I never stop learning and I love the opportunity to network."
JoEllen Noble is an IBCLC and Certified Labor Doula. She is the Breastfeeding Coordinator for Clermont County WIC and offers private consultations through her business, Southern Ohio Birth Services. JoEllen grew up in Brown County, Ohio and still resides there with her husband and gang of little boys.
"I remember walking into my local WIC office when I was 21 years old and pregnant with my first son. The health professional I met with that day REALLY pushed breastfeeding- to the point that it turned me off! I was still trying to wrap my head around being pregnant! It also felt like she was trying to tell me what to do, which doesn't go over well with me. The maternity magazines and books made breastfeeding sound nice and all, but that it could be difficult and also that formula was basically just as good, so it didn't seem like such big deal to me whichever I chose. Like most of the other women in my community, I knew I would be returning to work as soon as physically possible after giving birth. From early on I viewed breastfeeding as something meant for more privileged moms.
The decision to breastfeed was made very last minute. I figure it was worth a try and if it didn't work out, so be it. Only it surprised me when we had some nasty latch problems and I didn't WANT to stop. My mom and a few other women I talked to said to stick it out. My stubbornness and need to problem-solve carried us through and after six rough weeks, we were on easy street!
I became a Breastfeeding Peer Helper when my son was 10 months old and immediately fell in love with this work. I made a decision from the start to listen to participants first and meet them where they are- I didn't want to make them feel pressured as I had! I live in tobacco country and many women feel uncomfortable using tobacco and breastfeeding. It's necessary to listen to each mother's concerns and develop a plan to support her before rushing to educate and rattle off a list breastfeeding benefits. Families might need problem-solving and resources to even get to a place to consider breastfeeding. It has been rewarding to be a cheerleader for other moms facing difficult situations and pushing on through to meet their goals."
Holzer Health System is a hospital system in the Appalachian regions of Ohio and West Virginia. The main hospital in Gallipolis, OH hosts a birthing center and lactation program. In 2016, Holzer OB started a beautiful journey in changing the breastfeeding culture within the hospital system. By providing routine skin to skin care after birth and implementing a quiet time in the afternoon each day, Holzer is making it easier for mothers to breastfeed their babies successfully. In January 2017, the first ever full time lactation consultant position was filled and a lactation program was started. In February, the hospital officially applied to begin the process of Baby-Friendly designation in conjunction with the Ohio First Steps program as well. While there is still a lot of work to do, Holzer is welcoming to these positive changes. By April of 2017, outpatient lactation services will be available as well as a new support group - Mentoring Mommies. In addition to the new support group, Holzer plans on offering breastfeeding and childbirth classes to better fit the needs of the community. From comprehensive breastfeeding classes to specialized breastfeeding classes such as breastfeeding troubleshooting, breastfeeding myths, and tips for going back to work - there will be education to fit the lifestyle of any patient's needs. Holzer is excited and honored to be chosen as Appalachian Breastfeeding Network's Practice of the Month and is embracing the many positive changes that comes with Baby-Friendly Designation! To learn more about this practice go to: www.holzer.org
Amber Sheeks is a RD/LD, IBCLC working towards her MPH. She is currently taking a break from work to stay home with her breastfeeding son, Henry. Amber lives in New Lexington, OH.
"When I came to Ohio's Appalachia 6 years ago, I was utterly surprised at how many women I talk to at Muskingum County WIC that didn't even consider breastfeeding. As a dietitian, I had learned the composition of milk, and the importance of a mother's milk to her baby's health, but as a former nanny, I knew how important breastfeeding is to a mother and baby's relationship. One day our Breastfeeding Peer was out of the office and a mom needed some assistance getting her baby to latch well. I had just gotten back from Back to Basics training at Ohio State WIC and helped the mom with positioning. The baby latched and the mom was so grateful! For the first time working at WIC, I felt like I had made a difference for someone. Once our peer heard about this, she invited me to learn more with her, and encouraged me to get CLC training. It is safe to say that ever since then, I have been hooked! I became an IBCLC in 2014, and absolutely love helping moms and babies meet their breastfeeding goals. I am currently taking an extended maternity leave from my career to nurse my son, Henry. I ended up needing so much support professionally and emotionally as we battled with a tongue tie that did not get adequately addressed until almost 5 months. I am more passionate than ever before to provide support and education to our local moms, and I run a local mom-to-mom Facebook support group. Once I finish my MPH this year, I plan to look for teaching opportunities at the local universities to better educate future health professionals in breastfeeding, and maternal and infant nutrition."
Each month, our ABN board uses a random number generator to pick our member of the month. In an effort to showcase our many different members in many different fields from all over Appalachia working towards the same goal: transforming breastfeeding culture in Appalachia.