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LLL and the Parkland Project

Kathy Parkes, RN, IBCLC, RLC
San Antonio TX USA
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 43 No. 1, January-February-March 2007, pp. 6-7

What can one small group of energetic, passionate Leaders with a dream accomplish? Take a look at what's afoot in Dallas, Texas, USA, home to Parkland Health and Hospital System. This county hospital delivers more than 16,000 babies each year (that's 45 babies per day), the second most in the USA and third in the world. Fast Company puts it this way, "It's a whole new 1,000-student elementary school every 22 days. Indeed, it's four out of every 1,000 babies born in the United States." Through the work and vision of Leader Michele Cherry, La Leche League International has partnered with Parkland Hospital staff to work toward becoming a Baby Friendly Hospital. The Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative is a global program sponsored by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children's Fund to encourage and recognize hospitals and birthing centers that offer an optimal level of care for lactation.

It all began in March of 2005, when Leader Diana Chavez-Gifford was approached by the Parkland perinatal educator, Diana Marek, after Diana assisted a Spanish-speaking mother who had just given birth there. Diana was asked to work with the one full-time and two part-time breastfeeding counselors at Parkland, all of whom are International Board Certified Lactation Consultants and registered nurses. Ms. Marek wanted LLL help for their hospital to become more breastfeeding friendly. Diana Chavez-Gifford then enlisted the aid of other Leaders, including Michele Cherry, who is the team leader, to take on this daunting task. They have set the goal of maintaining an ongoing relationship with Parkland Health and Hospital System's breastfeeding counselors to provide information, education, and support for the staff and new mothers encountered there. They are currently a team of nine LLL Leaders: Diana Chavez-Gifford, Michele Cherry, Ricki Lascody, Cathy Liles, Tracy Malone, Emily Metzger, Kathy Parkes, Ruth Piatak, and Jennifer Zerangue.

The LLL Parkland Outreach Project is divided up into 10 phases, working with an $18,000 (US) projected budget for phases two through 10. The total budget for phase one was $1010.79 (US), and donations of materials were received from various breastfeeding-friendly businesses; LLLI; Texas Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); and United States Department of Health (USDH); as well as the Dallas/Fort Worth LLL Kroger Cares account and LLL of McKinney. The Project start date was March 2005, and to date, three phases have been completed.

Phase 1: World Breastfeeding Week, August 2005

  • 300 breastfeeding-friendly bags were distributed, 150 in English, 150 in Spanish, to mothers on the birthing unit during WBW;
  • A display table was set up to provide information about breastfeeding and about La Leche League during WBW;
  • WBW stickers or pins were available for the nurses and staff to wear during WBW.

Phase 1: World Breastfeeding Week, August 2006

  • Stephanie Scholtz-Neurohr, author and producer of the Mother of Seven breastfeeding videos, premiered her Breastfeeding Comprehensive video in the Women's Center at Parkland.

Phase 2: Breastfeeding Counselors

  • Provided counselors with English and Spanish versions of THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING, THE BREASTFEEDING ANSWER BOOK, Family Centered Maternity Care, Medications and Mothers' Milk, and The Breastfeeding Atlas;
  • Provided counselors with a laminated copy of The Diaper Diary for teaching;
  • Provided breastfeeding friendly lanyards (cords to wear around the neck for name badges), clipboards, notepads, pens, and videos for each counselor.

Phase 3: Started Spanish-Speaking LLL Series Meetings

  • Created and distributed Spanish flyers at Parkland advertising the LLL Group.

Yet to come are phases 4 through 10

Phase 4: Labor and Delivery and Postpartum Floors
Phase 5: NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) and Multiples
Phase 6: Clinics
Phase 7: Pharmacies
Phase 8: Mother Friendly Worksite
Phase 9: Texas 10 Step (
Phase 10: Baby Friendly Hospital (

Phases four through eight will include providing copies of THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING and THE BREASTFEEDING ANSWER BOOK for each unit in multiple languages to use as reference materials. Breastfeeding friendly teaching videos, class curricula, and continuing education courses for the staff will also be provided. Breastfeeding-friendly name badge lanyards, pens, clipboards, and notepads will be given to each staff member for use on their units. Specific breastfeeding texts related to each unit will also be provided, such as Breastfeeding Special Care Babies for the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), MOTHERING MULTIPLES: BREASTFEEDING AND CARING FOR TWINS OR MORE! for the multiples unit, and Medications and Mothers' Milk for the clinics and pharmacies. Subscriptions to NEW BEGINNINGS and NUEVO COMIENZO will be ordered for each unit's waiting areas as well.

Jane Tuttle, Chairman of the LLLI Board of Directors, states:

The Parkland Outreach Project is proof positive that one LLL Leader can make a huge difference with her passion, vision, and knowledge. Such dedication has allowed many LLL Leaders to become involved in this important work to help mothers and babies.

Marcia Lutostanski, First Vice Chairman of the LLLI Board, adds:

Mothers have to know that La Leche League exists before they contact us and one source of information that many mothers listen to is their doctors. By working with the staff at Parkland Hospital, the LLL Parkland Project is increasing the awareness of LLL and building relationships so the staff enthusiastically refers mothers to LLL. This project highlighted the need for a Spanish LLL Group for the mothers from Parkland and a Group was started. Thank you to these energetic Leaders who are increasing the number of people who know about LLL, increasing the number of mothers who contact LLL, and improving the service LLL provides as you respond to the needs of mothers in the Texas community.

Michele and her Project Team have been working hard to gather the woman-power and the monetary coverage to fund this endeavor. One fundraiser that will be featured at the 2007 LLLI Conference next July is a collection of all seven editions of THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING, all of which are autographed by the Founders. They will be displayed in a shadow box (an enclosed display case) created by a master craftsman. This will be displayed in the Alumnae Founders' Room during the Conference. Our goal is to sell 8,000 tickets at $5 (US) each in a donation drawing, with the winner to receive the shadow box and the books at the Conference. Proceeds will be divided between LLLI and the Parkland Project. Ticket donations will run from January 2007 until the July 2007 LLLI Conference, so watch for further details.

The Parkland Project is a wonderful model for other Leaders and area hospitals to work with, showing how LLL and the health profession can work together for the good of mothers, babies, and breastfeeding.

How can you help with the Parkland Project?

As a county hospital, Parkland has very limited funding for projects such as this. Michele Cherry and the Parkland Outreach Project Team need your help. Contact Michele at Michele at cherrycounsulting dot com or 817-539-0311 for a complete list of what is needed and where to send donations.

To donate a new copy of THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING in English or Spanish, contact Ann Bennett at abennett at onr dot com or call 512-301-8203.

To donate funds (or coordinate a fundraiser) to purchase teaching videos, please contact Michele Cherry.

Do you want to donate a new sling or volunteer to collect new slings? All slings collected will be auctioned on eBay Mission Fish, and funds will be used to fund the NICU phase to promote breastfeeding and kangaroo care. Contact Susan Smylie at ssmylie at ev1 dot net or call 830-216-2029, or mail the slings to Susan at 562 Cherry Ridge, Floresville, TX 78114.

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