The Lake County Breastfeeding Coalition is making a name for itself through its mission to widen access to supports and resources for breastfeeding mothers in Lake County.

Though the coalition was founded in 2017, the last 12 months have marked an exciting year of growth for the coalition, which is now spearheading a breastfeeding-friendly business campaign and offering a monthly support group for parents.

Heidi Hull, a nurse with Lake County Public Health Agency (LCPHA), first dreamed up the coalition after connecting with the Chaffee County Breastfeeding Coalition while completing a Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC) training in Salida. Hull, who nursed her two daughters, felt inspired by the Chaffee County group. She knew Leadville needed something similar.

Hull started Lake County’s coalition soon after with the support of LCPHA, Chaffee County’s coalition, CLC and former Leadville resident Thea Gab, and Nurse Family Partnership Nurse Fran Jimenez. Programming in the early days of the coalition included mother comfort stations at Leadville Boom Days and the Leadville BBQ & Brew Fest and the establishment of Lake County Government as the first Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE)-certified Breastfeeding-Friendly Business in Lake County.

“The coalition was slow going, as all great things are in public health,” Hull said.

But over the last year the coalition has experienced a newfound momentum, thanks to a variety of new coalition members.

“The end of 2020 has been amazing for our coalition as we have gotten a great group of passionate ladies who are willing to step up to the plate and help make this coalition thrive,” Hull explained.

In recent months, the coalition has campaigned local businesses to apply for CDPHE’s Breastfeeding-Friendly Business certification. To earn the designation, businesses must create a written workplace lactation accommodation policy, offer a lactation space for breastfeeding employees that is not a bathroom stall, and provide adequate break periods, among other specifications.

Locally, Lake County Government, Full Circle of Lake County, Treeline Kitchen, Silver Llama Market and Eatery, Rocky Mountain Family Practice, High Mountain Institute, St. Vincent Health and ReMax Aspen Leaf Realty have all earned the certification from CDPHE. Colorado Mountain College is currently in the process of applying for the designation.

Businesses that may not be able to meet the CDPHE requirements but welcome breastfeeding patrons are encouraged to request a “Breastfeeding Welcome Here” decal from the coalition. “It’s a signal that breastfeeding is welcome at your shop,” coalition member Taryn Barrette said of the sticker.

The coalition is also on its way to certifying two members as CLCs, an opportunity made possible by an American Breastfeeding Coalition grant. Over the next six months, Barrette and coalition member Hannah Guilford will complete a 52-hour CLC course online.

Once certified, Barrette and Guilford will offer pro bono lactation counseling through the coalition alongside Hull and coalition member and nurse Barbara Marcum. CLCs are trained to assess the latching and feeding process, milk production, corrective interventions for mothers, and much more.

“My interest in getting the CLC certification comes from wanting to be a resource for new parents and moms in what can often be a really isolating and overwhelming time,” Guilford said of the certification.

“If I can take some of the load off of a new mom to help her through her breastfeeding journey or just tell her that’s she’s amazing and doing a good job, then I want that for every woman,” added Barrette.

Starting next week, the coalition will offer a monthly support group for nursing mothers and mothers-to-be to share stories, experiences and advice. The meetings will be led by coalition members and local CLCs.

Hull and Barrette, who are both mothers and healthcare practitioners, noted they would have benefited from a breastfeeding support group while nursing. Now Lake County will have one.

“I have a strong background in health and medicine and yet I still struggled with breastfeeding,” Barrette explained. “It made me think that here is this thing that is supposed to be ‘so natural,’ and yet even with all of my education and background, I still struggled.”

Lake County Breastfeeding Coalition’s first support group meeting will take place over Zoom on Monday, April 19 from 6-7 p.m. The meetings will likely transition to an in-person setting later in the year.

The coalition will continue to expand its programming and reach throughout 2021, and with it, the visibility of breastfeeding in Lake County.

Locals interested in participating in the coalition’s monthly support groups or applying for a Breastfeeding-Friendly Business certification should contact Hull at hhull@co.lake.co.us or 719-486-2413. Follow “Lake County Breastfeeding Coalition” on Facebook for the Zoom link for Monday’s meeting, local breastfeeding resources, and updates on the coalition’s work.

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