The Breastfeeding Support Group is a vital program that enhances the quality of life for UC Davis employees, students, and the greater Davis community. This unique work/life program goes beyond state-required policy to create an encouraging and supportive environment where women can successfully breastfeed their children.
Staff members, graduate students and a faculty member share their experiences as members of the breastfeeding support group, and express with gratitude the sense of community that grew out of their time in the group. Specifically, all the women who provided testimonials were thrilled to have the opportunity to praise the outstanding work that Lactation Consultant Lonna Hampton has done for their families.
Min Yu, staff member
After Min had her daughter Sofia, she was surprised by how difficult it was to breastfeed. Min was renting a hospital-grade pump, struggling with unanticipated problems, and felt frustrated that she didn’t do more research before taking maternity leave from her job as a Student Advisor for the Environmental Science and Management program at UC Davis.
When Sofia was about six weeks old, a friend recommended the Breastfeeding Support Group and Min was relieved to learn about the variety of resources funded by the University and provided to the campus community. Ever since that moment, Min has been attending all the support group meetings and has reached out to Lonna Hampton, the program’s lactation consultant, with “all kinds of questions.” Min says, “Lonna is very experienced and it so beneficial to have someone to listen to your stories about the challenges with breastfeeding.” Min describes Lonna's commitment to help baby Sofia learn to take pumped milk from a bottle when Min had to return to work, and how comforted Min felt knowing that she had Lonna’s advice and expertise at hand.
When Min returned to work, she continued to attend the support group meetings. It was reassuring to hear the troubles and successes of other new moms, which Min says helped to “normalize the experience” of breastfeeding and “realize the benefits for my baby.” She continues to rely on Lonna as resource, stating that “without her help, I probably wouldn’t have continued breastfeeding this long.” Now that she’s “a pro,” Min can also provide guidance for other new working moms who struggle with their baby’s peculiar schedules.
Elizabeth Guerra, staff member
Elizabeth began attending the breastfeeding support group meetings when she was still pregnant with her son, Santiago. Working in the Anthropology Department at UC Davis, Elizabeth learned from a friend about the benefits of the program including the lactation rooms, the breastfeeding classes, and the support group.
But what Elizabeth didn’t anticipate is that the program’s lactation consultant, Lonna Hampton, would become “her guardian angel." When asked about the most beneficial part of the breastfeeding program, Elizabeth can’t possible quantify the value of Lonna’s participation: “Lonna falls in love with your family, and it’s incredible." Elizabeth has learned so much at the support group meetings, which have helped make “being a mom as easy as it can” with the encouragement of other moms, fathers, grandparents, and especially Lonna. In the meetings, Elizabeth was able to connect with two other moms whose kids are the same age and request additional lactation sites near their workplaces so that the three moms could have a choice in lactation sites when others were not available.
Elizabeth only wishes that more people knew about the program, and especially that women would attend while they were still pregnant to get information ahead of time. Elizabeth stresses that breastfeeding is “a lifestyle – it changes your life completely.” But by being a part of a big network of breastfeeding moms in Davis, she has learned not to feel any kind of stigma about it or to feel embarrassed about feeding her baby in public.
Teresa Steele, faculty member
Teresa began attending the breastfeeding support group meetings one month before her daughter Anna was born. She found out about the program from a handout she received about UC Davis’ Work Life Program at her new faculty orientation. When having a baby came onto her radar, she attended a seminar on maternity leave policies and saw that it was easy to find information online and registered for the breastfeeding support program.
Before Anna was born, Teresa had taken a breastfeeding class through her hospital with other families who weren’t yet nursing, but she credits the UC Davis support group meetings for really helping her understand what to expect. Teresa feels that it is an “absolutely fabulous program. It’s a big asset to Davis and a huge reason why breastfeeding worked for my daughter and me.” Teresa attended her second breastfeeding support group meeting in August, and her daughter was born that night. When Anna was a month old, Teresa went back to the meetings to share information and resources with other, more experienced, moms. In addition to helping Teresa and Anna get through the exhausting early weeks of breastfeeding, Lonna Hampton and the other mothers helped Teresa prepare for introducing solids, going back to work, and many other issues that developed.
The other component of the program that Teresa found very useful is the lactation rooms. When she returned to work, Teresa found that the nearest lactation site was frequently occupied when she needed to use it. Teresa spoke with Lonna and they were able to open another lactation room in her building. Teresa says that these rooms are “fantastic in terms of being able to maintain pumping. Even though I have a private office, I share the space, so the lactation room allows me to go into a quiet place and just think about my baby – I could block out work and my computer.” The more adjustable, hospital-grade pumps also allowed for a better pumping experience than her portable pump.
When she attending a recent support group meeting, Teresa saw all the new babies and was pleased to be a voice of experience. She says it’s a “nice completion of the cycle to be able to pass on our experiences. I think the program is one of the things that makes Davis special and sets it apart from other UC campuses and other schools.”
Julie Bower, graduate student
When Julie was pregnant with her son Eddie, she was also confronting some very difficult events that affected her personally and professionally. At that time, she was a 3rd year Ph.D. student in the Agriculture and Environmental Chemistry Graduate Group at UC Davis and Julie considered taking an extended leave from her program. Although she was faced with challenging circumstances, Julie made the decision to return to school because she felt that UC Davis' supportive resources (including her professor, colleagues and classmates) wanted her to continue. Julie then found out about the breastfeeding support program through the Women’s Resource and Research Center on campus and realized how much support the campus provides for new mothers.
When Eddie was three months old, Julie starting coming to campus to attend the support group meetings and was comforted by the issues discussed by other mothers – issues that were very similar to her own. Since her partner lives away from home during the week, Julie found the support and encouragement she needed to continue her life as a new breastfeeding mom who also worked and pursued her Ph.D. Julie says that she doesn’t know “if I would have been able to come back to school if it wasn’t for that program.”
What Julie finds most useful about the program is the lactation sites on campus. Julie explains that “when you work in a lab, there isn’t any private space,” and since she is committed to breastfeeding, Julie was prepared to delay her return to school if it meant she could breastfeed at home. Julie needed a “haven to think about her baby, relax, have a snack and not think about work” and Lonna Hampton was able to direct her to a private lactation room, with a hospital-grade pump. The pumps provided by the campus made it easy for her to provide milk for her baby every day, without the hassle of bringing her own heavy pump from home. Julie stopped using the lactation rooms when Eddie turned one year old, but she continued bringing him to the support group meetings to provide guidance to other mothers who face the same problems she worked through and to get advice on breastfeeding a toddler.
Lisa Sperber, graduate student
Lisa is a Ph.D. student in the English Department at UC Davis and first heard about the Breastfeeding Support Program from an on-campus friend. Lisa has attended the support group meetings and plans to use the lactation sites this fall now that her son is attending part-time daycare, but the most valuable part of the program for Lisa has been the attention and knowledge of lactation consultant Lonna Hampton. Lisa says, “In addition to being a really knowledgeable, up-to-date lactation consultant, Lonna is an exceptionally kind and supportive person during a time that can be a really difficult adjustment period.” Lisa, like many new mothers, was overwhelmed by unexpected complications as she began to breastfeed her son. But Lonna was able to offer many helpful, practical suggestions.
As a lactation consultant, Lonna has offered invaluable expertise that is both experience and research-based. Lisa says that Lonna is “not only more accessible than some of my doctors, but her knowledge has often been a lot more detailed.” Lonna also validated the things that Lisa felt were instinctively correct, which helped to ease some of the stress that new mothers feel. Lisa also attended the support group meetings which normalized the process of breastfeeding as she was able to hear from other women whose babies had gone through similar challenging phases and moved beyond them.
Lisa believes that “the breastfeeding support program has helped me continue to be a productive graduate student by relieving a lot of mental worry associated with various problems that arose around breastfeeding.” She adds that “being the source of food for a growing human being is a huge responsibility! As academics, many of us live far away from family, so having an institutionalized support system is especially important.” In the support group meetings, Lisa has found a sense of community and encouragement that she would not have found elsewhere, and has learned from other women’s experiences. Through Lonna's expert facilitation and direction, Lisa has developed supportive relationships that will continue past the breastfeeding stage of mothering.