Shortly after Amber Keckley’s daughter was born, the new mom showed up at Texas Children’s Breastfeeding Friends (BFF) Group to learn more about breastfeeding and to meet other women like herself. For the next several weeks, Keckly learned more than she ever expected about breastfeeding and other issues related to parenting a newborn. She also gained a group of life-long friends.
“After having my first child, I felt very isolated,” Keckly said. “The BFF Group forced me to get dressed, get out of the house and share my feelings with others.”
Keckly liked the group so much, she stayed in touch with some of the moms she met in the group, getting together with them weekly for the first year of her child’s life. She also decided to rejoin the group after her second child was born.
“Mothers can share their experiences openly at the BFF Group, providing them with an additional outlet and a growing, functional compass to help each participant meet their personal goal with breastfeeding,” said Lactation Consultant and BFF Group Leader Brenda Hayden. “Each is invested and confidence just blossoms.”
The BFF Group meets from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. every Friday in the patient education room on the fourth floor of the Pavilion for Women. Anywhere from 15 to 30 women attend with their newborns. Facilitated by Hayden, a certified lactation consultant, the curriculum consists of an ongoing six-week series of topics:
- The early weeks of breastfeeding
- Overcoming breastfeeding challenges
- Nighttime breastfeeding
- Nutrition for the breastfeeding mother
- Breastfeeding away from home
- Pumping, bottles, and breastfeeding
“Every week the mix of assembled attendees differs, so even if a mother is repeating a weekly topic, she will have exposure to new insights, tips and information,” Hayden said. “From the moment of introduction, to topics, discussion and open forum, it is our goal that each mother feels heard, validated and supported.”
The BFF Group was created in 2015 as a way to provide additional breastfeeding support to new mothers. Since then, more than 750 women from across the globe have attended. Mothers come from areas far and wide and through other neighboring hospital systems, such as Methodist Hospital, Memorial Hermann Hospital, HCA Houston Healthcare, the Lactation Foundation and the WIC Nutrition Program.
Participants often are accompanied by their mothers, grandmothers, sisters or girlfriends. These additional visitors may participate in the group as well and bring deep generational and regional perspectives, which provide additional support and resources to both new and experienced mothers.
“This program goes along with our overall philosophy at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women, which is to treat women, mothers and babies with a full continuum of high-quality, expert health care and to do so in a family-centered environment,” said Director of Women’s Support Services Nancy Hurst. “Providing additional breastfeeding support was a natural, intuitive step forward in providing the best in ongoing care for families.”
How do moms learn about the BFF Group?
This is where you continue to have a steady impact! In keeping with the BFF Group’s practice of layering supports, mothers are introduced to multiple resources early on in prenatal classes, during her inpatient stay, during her discharge teaching, and throughout the postpartum period by many OB/CNM and pediatric providers. Many referrals come through word of mouth or by previous BFF Group alumni. In addition, moms such as Keckley return to the group with their second children.
“I tell everyone I can about this group,” Keckley said. “It helped me more than I could have imagined.”
In honor of World Breastfeeding Week August 1-7, Texas Children’s Hospital and the BFF Group are hosting its first Latch-On event where breastfeeding and pumping moms can come enjoy breastfeeding advice, pumping tips, refreshments, a photo booth and prize drawing. The event will be held from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday, August 2 in the patient education room on the fourth floor of the Pavilion for Women. The BFF Group discussion will follow the event. A similar event was held at Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands on August 1. Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus will host a breastfeeding awareness event from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday, August 9.
The BFF Group and other breastfeeding services offered to patients, also are offered to lactating employees. Click here for a comprehensive list of available services.