Why I Participate: By Parent Partner Lindsay Fonseca

In NICHQ’s work on supporting breastfeeding across the country, healthcare professionals work closely with parents to direct and sustain improvements. A mother of three shares her story of advocacy.

November 15, 2013

Fonseca with her children: Jasper (2), Calla (4) and Mario (6).I am proud to be the mother representative for Women & Infants Hospital in Providence, RI, during its journey to become “Baby-Friendly” through NICHQ’s Best Fed Beginnings program. In this program, teams of hospital practitioners and parents are using quality improvement methods to make changes in hospital procedures to support breastfeeding. As a mother, I couldn’t be more excited about this initiative.

My three children were all born at Women & Infants: Mario (age six), Calla (four), and Jasper (two). I always knew I was going to breastfeed my children. However, even after taking a prenatal breastfeeding class, I was still not prepared to face any of the obstacles I would encounter as a breastfeeding mother.

I was determined to exclusively breastfeed my first son for the first six months of his life, and let him self-wean when he was ready. However, I initially found myself completely confused and worried about each feeding. Even though I was breastfed as a baby, I had never witnessed a mother actually breastfeed. I was ashamed to breastfeed in public and unsure about breastfeeding in front of friends and family members, always leaving the room, covering up or attempting to hide in the corner when it came time to nurse.

I was bombarded with tricky promotions from formula companies including samples, gifts and formula checks. All of these offerings made formula look fashionable, healthy and super simple. Some types of formula were claiming to manage colic, ease fussiness, reduce spit up and even let my baby sleep longer. At times, supplementing seemed like the magic trick I needed when in fact what I really needed was a support system. I was unsure of where to turn.

Luckily my mother and mother-in-law, who had both breastfed their children, offered nothing but praise from day one. That, along with the support of my husband, allowed me to persevere through each bump in the road. My little nursling and I quickly became quite the feeding team! I felt like I had just won a breastfeeding gold medal by the first year of his life, but at that point I was beginning to feel shameful about nursing him as a toddler, even more so because I was pregnant again. I still to this day cannot understand why there is so much shame in breastfeeding. Surely I was not alone in having these feelings; there had to be other mothers as confused as me!

This confusion and success led me to breastfeeding advocacy. I began reading information supportive of breastfeeding, engaging in conversations with other breastfeeding mothers, and chatting on breastfeeding support discussion boards to educate myself on the topic.

Over the past six years, I have developed a true passion for breastfeeding advocacy. I am always quick to lend support and gentle advice to friends who are beginning their breastfeeding journey. I’ve even made quite a few house calls!

Unfortunately, not all moms have a great family support network like me. I began to see a big gap in support for moms. Helping friends in the community was important but I wanted to make a bigger change. In spring 2012, Women & Infants Hospital offered me the opportunity to provide a mother's perspective while the hospital worked to achieve Baby-Friendly status. I was thrilled to take part in this important undertaking to support mothers even more in breastfeeding.

By participating in this group, I am able to use my past experiences to help shape the future of the hospital. I am a voice for mothers, advocating for changes that will positively affect families like mine and helping to provide all mothers and babies with the best patient-centered maternity care. Most importantly, I feel this initiative will help to normalize breastfeeding in our culture. It will help to dissolve stereotypes and debunk myths that hinder moms from successful breastfeeding. I believe Best Fed Beginnings will create more confident, empowered mothers and, as a result, healthier babies and happier families! I personally cannot wait to see the benefits to our community.

For more stories, sign up for NICHQ's monthly e-newsletter and follow NICHQ on Facebook and Twitter.