At Lactation Matters, we love having the opportunity to hear from YOU about innovative ideas to reach and support breastfeeding mothers. We were recently encouraged to check out the Nevada Breastfeeds Facebook page. We had the privilege of interviewing Sarah Ortega, founder of the page that is currently supporting almost 2,500 “friends”, about why she thinks online support is essential to today’s mothers. Sarah and her family are long-time residents of the Reno, Nevada area and she has four breastfed children. Her experience with Robin Hollen, IBCLC of Starfish Lactation after the birth of her youngest child, who was born with a severe cleft palate, put her on her current path towards becoming an IBCLC.
1. How did the Nevada Breastfeeds FB get started?
I started the Nevada Breastfeeds Facebook page after many talks with Robin Hollen, the IBCLC with whom I work. We decided that it was in our community’s best interest to have a page for breastfeeding women to find information, support and encouragement. I created Nevada Breastfeeds as a “friends” page, meaning I would have to send and/or receive friend requests. The main reason for approaching it this way was so that women could send a personal message to me if they didn’t want their question publicized. (Editor’s note: Facebook recently added a “private messaging” feature to business pages.) When I first started, I had a small group of women that I knew from other breastfeeding projects, so I sent them friend requests and the page grew from there. It was a slow start, but I dedicate a lot of time and effort to make sure I “friend” people that would benefit from this page.
2. How is it moderated? Do you personally answer questions or do the mothers on the page respond to each other?
I monitor the page almost 24/7…just ask my husband. :) I am a Certified Lactation Educator (CLE) and am training to be an IBCLC. There are several different options that women have to get their questions or concerns addressed. Friends of the page can post directly to the wall. If they want a direct answer from me, they can send me a personal message. I try my hardest to answer all questions within 24 hours. Depending on the question, I will comment or ask for additional detail, then repost so everyone can see the question. This seems to be the most effective way to get people to comment. If I determine that the person posting needs more one-on-one help, I will remove the question from the wall and send a personal message to address the issue or concern. I am very careful to not go outside of my scope, which can be very limited as a CLE and I always refer to ILCA’s Find A Lactation Consultant page or help them find an IBCLC when I feel they need more professional help.
3. Why do you feel this is an essential opportunity for mothers?
You must be a part of the conversation to have any impact on people. I work very hard to establish relationships on Facebook. I believe that women are hearing information from many different people (friends, family, doctors, strangers etc..). For me to come along and offer advice doesn’t set me apart from all of the others. It is about building relationships. If someone has had a question or concern, I try to follow-up with them to make sure they received what they needed. If they need additional follow-up with a professional, I refer. If they just need some more support, I am there for them. This page is very close to my heart and I want people to know that they are cared about.
4. Any great success stories?
One friend of the page wasn’t planning to breastfeed because she had tried with her first two children and was not successful. We had many conversations during her pregnancy and she decided that she would start out with a goal of breastfeeding for 6 weeks. She had a little bit of a rough start and she sent me many messages because she thought things were going terrible. With the information she would give me, I could tell she was doing GREAT! Her baby was gaining really well and she wasn’t in pain, so I just kept encouraging and reassuring her. Her goal quickly changed to 4 months, then 6 and so on. She is now in the process of weaning him at 14 months. I am so proud of her and she is proud of herself! In my heart and mind, this is what my page is all about.
In addition, here is a message that I received this past week from a women who is a friend of the page and attended a few support groups…
I just wanted to say thank you for all your support and help with breast feeding! My son is soon to be five months old and is healthier than ever. In his first few months of life, he had respiratory, sinus and weight gain issues but I am pleased to say those have all subsided. He is a chunky, happy, healthy baby and I truly believe it is because of breastfeeding! You gave us a gift for a lifetime and I couldn’t have lasted this long exclusively breastfeeding without your support. Your FB page gave me hope when I was in tears and the posts from other moms gave me confidence that I could do it. When I had a question, no matter how personal or minimal, it was answered! So again I thank you!
We thank Sarah for her commitment to supporting breastfeeding mothers and encourage all ILCA members to check out Nevada Breastfeeds on Facebook.
*Special thanks goes to Amen Photography for allowing us to share these photographs which will be used in the 2013 Nevada Breastfeeds Calendar. Look for a future post about this great project!