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VCU Health honors Breastfeeding Champions at community event

As part of World Breastfeeding Awareness Month, VCU Health honors individuals who provide health education to families and protect their right to breastfeed.

Group of people standing together and smiling. The group of 2023 Breastfeeding Champions include VCU Health team members, VCU staff, state officials and non-profit organizations. (VCU Enterprise Marketing and Communications)

By Debbie Schumacher

Breastfeeding has many health benefits for both mom and baby. Breastfeeding moms recover from childbirth more quickly and have a lower risk of developing breast and ovarian cancers, diabetes, heart disease and postpartum depression. Human milk also contains antibodies, which can lower the rates of developing allergies, obesity and infections for newborns.

While The American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization recommend exclusive breastfeeding for six months, studies show many families do not breastfeed for as long as they want to — indicating that they may need stronger support systems.

As part of World Breastfeeding Awareness Month, VCU Health honored individuals within the health system and community who champion, protect and provide support systems for families who want to breastfeed. The champions recognized not only empower parents, but also advocate for policies, legislation, parent friendly workplaces and gender equitable social norms.

“The Breastfeeding Champions Recognition Ceremony is a sterling example of VCU Health’s commitment to community service and collaboration,” said Jarene Fleming, state breastfeeding coordinator and past recipient of the award. “It is beneficial to learn more about the work taking place that compliments the federal Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Woman, Infants and Children (WIC) across multiple initiatives to promote, support and protect human milk feeding. A multi-disciplinary approach is required to assure families receive all the support they need to be successful.”

VCU Health Chief Nursing Executive Tina Mammone, Ph.D., R.N., welcomed all attending the ceremony and shared Virginia’s First Lady Suzanne Youngkin’s support for breastfeeding and The Governor’s Proclamation, which recognizes the benefits of breastfeeding and promotion of breastfeeding accommodations and initiatives in the commonwealth of Virginia.

Jeniece Roane, vice president of Operations at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, introduced this year’s champions with examples of their support and advocacy:

  • Danny Avula, M.D.: commissioner of the Virginia Department of Social Services
  • Breastfeeding Friendly Consortium
  • Roy Brown, MLIS: VCU Health, research and education librarian & liaison to School of Nursing
  • David Chelmow, M.D.: VCU Health, OB-GYN department chair
  • State Senator Adam Ebbin: patron of the Virginia Pregnant Workers Fairness Act
  • Karah Gunther: VCU Health, vice president of External Affairs and Health Policy
  • Karen Hendricks-Munoz, M.D.: neonatologist and deputy director of VCU Center on Health Disparities
  • Jordan Hylton, M.D.: VCU Health, medical director of OB-GYN Outpatient Clinics
  • Tiffany Kimbrough, M.D.: VCU Health, medical director of Mother Infant Unit
  • Jessica Lee: staff attorney, Center for WorkLife Law UC Hastings
  • Stephanie Lee, M.D.: VCU Health, OB-GYN
  • Angela Love-Zuranka: chair, Virginia Breastfeeding Coalition, IBCLC

“I am honored to receive this recognition on behalf of our department,” said Chelmow, 2023 champion and chair of the OB-GYN department at VCU Health and Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine. “As the only Baby-Friendly designated hospital in the Richmond area, our entire team of doctors and nurses are trained in best practices that encourage and promote breastfeeding for our patients and our community.”

Precious Wilson specifically chose VCU Medical Center to deliver her baby because it is a Baby-Friendly designated hospital. Wilson says her care team equipped her family with the best tools, knowledge and support to make breastfeeding a “positive experience.”

“They would give me the reassurance and confidence to go into motherhood as ready as I could possibly be,” Wilson said.