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by Brittney Williams
When I first began seeking a practicum site, I was looking for a way to learn more about breastfeeding.
In school, a course I was taking sparked my interest in breastfeeding and got me to thinking more and more. In particular, I wanted to explore the breastfeeding experience among African American women. I began questioning why more African American women did not initiate breastfeeding and once they were breastfeeding, why it was a short-lived experience. I looked to my advisor and practicum coordinator for ideas about organizations that would fit well with my interest. Surprisingly, they both suggested the same organization, HealthConnect One. I took the time to research the organization and saw they had done some wonderful work with breastfeeding in areas of advocacy, community outreach, and training. I felt that HealthConnect One would be an excellent starting point to answering my questions, and I was excited.
My time at HealthConnect One taught me so much, including how a non-profit works day to day, and I felt like I was a part of the team. In the beginning, I was not sure what to expect. I was nervous, I was curious, and basically wanted to be involved in any- and everything. Although I might have been a bit overzealous, I really just wanted to be apart of something that had an impact.
Fortunately, I was given the opportunity to work on a project to determine the breastfeeding/pumping experiences of mothers with babies in the NICU. This all came about one day during a breastfeeding peer counselor training session, where Brenda raised a question to participants about their breastfeeding experiences. The mothers’ responses raised more questions, and it blossomed into a project to determine mothers’ perceptions of breastfeeding support from healthcare providers and ways hospitals could better support them. I was able to have a large role in this project and gained a lot in the end.
The mothers who participated in this project had so much insightful and rich information that it kind of blew me away. Breastfeeding can be a challenging task, but it is the best choice for the mother and baby. One of the most important things I learned is that breastfeeding is a rewarding experience, especially for a mother with a baby in the NICU. It is how she is able to personally contribute to the growth and health of her baby. Breastfeeding can be joyous, satisfying, and a time for a mother to bond with her baby; however, mothers need support in order to be successful. After having the opportunity to do group interviews with mothers, I was able to review and analyze the data to determine some of the barriers and identify how healthcare providers can increase mothers’ success. At the conclusion of the project, I was glad to not only speak with the mothers but to also shed some light on how to better support mothers.
My practicum offered me a meaningful field experience; it showed me that it takes a lot of work to keep an organization running, and it is a collaborative effort to achieve set goals. HealthConnect One was very welcoming and made my time there enjoyable. I hope I can work with them in the future.
Editors’s Note: Thank you, Brittney. We miss you already!