Randee Bloom, RN, MBA, PhD, has been one of the incredible volunteers assisting with the Mother-Baby project. Her story below outlines her motivation and enthusiasm to be involved in the Mother-Baby journey.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself?
My husband and I are proud parents of three adult children, two daughters (now married to two wonderful son-in-laws) and a son; and now joyful grandparents of an 13-month old grandson!
Professionally, I first started practicing as a pediatric nurse, then became a hospital administrator and then later a healthcare consultant. I’ve always had an interest in nonprofit management and specifically volunteer service.
I’m now working nearly full-time in a volunteer capacity for several nonprofit organizations in health and human services. I’m especially interested in clinical care services, healthcare practices and volunteer services for healthcare professionals.
2. How did you become involved in maternal and child health? What led you to become a breastfeeding advocate?
I was initially contacted via my work with the AARP-Create the Good volunteer recruitment tool and its possible value toward the development of the team of supporters for the project. I am a strong supporter of breastfeeding as the ideal method of new baby care for the benefit of the baby and mother. Additionally, I envision the value of this methodology of patient education and support (technology, and specifically hand-held, readily accessible, evidence-based and free) especially for individuals (mothers/fathers/support team) not otherwise able to obtain the information, especially so readily.
3. How did being a mother yourself influence your approach to breastfeeding? What challenges did you have and what support did you receive?
I happily anticipated the opportunity to breastfeed each of my children. I fortunately had three very successful natural childbirth experiences and was able to breastfeed each child for at least 6 months.
I recall very little challenges to my breastfeeding experiences. Of note, I worked full-time following my first daughter’s birth and was able to maintain her exclusive breastfeeding diet with relative ease. During the early months of my second and third children’s life I worked part-time and again could maintain their breastfeeding diet. I enjoyed great support from my husband, mother, other relatives, friends, colleagues and clients.
4. What do you think are the biggest challenges for mothers today in your community to breastfeeding?
I believe the biggest challenges for mothers now is too much information that is readily available but often very conflicting and many times wrong. Much of the information obtained from others (family/friends) is simply their personal experience, not applicable to the individual mother. And the plethora of information accessible on-line provides, I believe, a false sense of confidence: information obtained is often believed to be right and thus the individual exercises their behaviors based upon the information rather than the source or applicability to their personal situation.
While breastfeeding is as natural a human practice as we can demonstrate, there is a significant number of healthcare-specific aspects that highly influence the “success” of the breastfeeding experience. Mothers not otherwise correctly educated, for their own and their baby’s individual needs, applies the obtained information as if there exists a one-size for all methodology. Nowhere else in healthcare would this be acceptable.
Additionally, despite our relatively socially-advanced or accepting society of the 21st century, there exists a significant amount of discomfort toward public breastfeeding, regardless of how discrete. Mothers are not universally made to feel both comfortable and honored for their personal efforts.
5. Why do you think that despite the evidence, the number of women breastfeeding are declining? Why do you think women often don't get the support from communities and society in general that they should?
Breastfeeding continues to be considered by many, including well-meaning clinicians, as optional. While there are a significant number of situations wherein breastfeeding is not an option for a specific mother and child, overwhelmingly the opportunity can be created successfully. I believe that in the US we have not created a perspective that breastfeeding a newborn and young child is highly superior for both Mom and Baby as compared to formula feeding. Consider how we stress the importance of on-time and complete infant/young child vaccinations. Parents are instructed from their clinicians, and later school leaders, that research findings and even local policies mandate this childcare medical intervention. This is totally wonderful and vital to every individual child’s health and our community’s health in general. Consider our public health messaging for nutritional education and personal responsibility of practice. Where is this type of strongly messaged instruction for a practice wherein the mother and child are both medically/physically benefited and both psychologically enhanced as a unit with such relative ease?
As this perception continues, there is a growing need to adjust laws, create opportunities for comfort, and develop a real perspective that breastfeeding is to be promoted and supported. There exists a strong need for free, readily available, and expertly developed tools to educate and praise. The evidence that the mother and child highly benefit is simply not well promoted. Breastfeeding is, in my opinion, considered an excellent option, but an option. Rather, the benefits to mom and child are minimized and provided with a readily available set of substitutions: excellent healthy formula (often available at little cost), wonderful modern feeding bottle systems, expressions of sharing the bonding by offering others the opportunity to feed the infant, etc.
6. Why have you become involved in the Mother-Baby project? What role do you think innovation can play in promoting this age old practice?
I am honored that my personal expertise, perspective and application of resources can benefit this project. I have consistently been impressed by the expertise of others involved, the resources being dedicated to the project, and the mission to provide these tools to so many mothers and babies across socio-economic and cultural lives. I have experienced the contributions that innovation has made to the delivery of healthcare both in practice and educational arenas. I believe that the realistic approaches build into this project (smart phone applications and a library of readily available educational videos, along with future connections to healthcare experts) provides an excellent model for success.