BRATTLEBORO -- Earlier this year, three nurses from Brattleboro Memorial Hospital traveled to Nicaragua to teach a course on breast-feeding initiation and management to nurses and doctors in a hospital in Leon.
The classes went well, said Kristin Anderson, one of the nurses, but even before they got on the bus to get back to the airport they knew they wanted to return to do more training.
They felt like the training, which required very few resources for the staff in Nicaragua to apply, would have a lasting impact and they also found other situations and conditions which they thought they could improve.
So now they are making plans to return and they have scheduled a fundraising event for this Saturday, Nov. 3, from 2 to 4 p.m. at Fireworks Restaurant in Brattleboro.
The popular local band Jatoba will be there, and there will be Latin food and a silent auction to help the three nurses raise the funds needed to return to Nicaragua for their trip which is scheduled for January.
Tickets for Saturday’s event are $20.
Anderson, who will once again go down to Nicaragua with Aimee Creelman and Debbie Kitzmiller, said that during their first trip they recognized the need to introduce a clean and secure area in the Leon hospital for mothers to be with babies who are being treated for a serious illness.
Currently there is not even a room or a chair for mothers to hold and nurse their babies, something Anderson said has been proven to be an important part of the healing process.
Money raised Saturday will go toward buying furniture and painting a room at the hospital so families have a place to be with their children.
"This is a very poor hospital and when we were there we walked around to see what else we could do," Anderson said. "We went to the head of the hospital and made this recommendation. It does not require any expensive or fancy medical equipment, but it is a change that can have a real impact."
When the group was in Nicaragua in March, the local nurses worked with about 40 nurses and doctors and developed educational programs to help the staff improve its breast-feeding policies at the teaching hospital in Leon.
Anderson said the three nurses are now looking to return and expand on that work, and establish other connections in the country.
As part of the trip in January they are also going to go to another city, Metagalpa, to work with high risk pregnant woman in their last trimester of pregnancy and their first weeks postpartum.
The hospital in Leon is hoping to become a Baby Friendly Hospital under the World Health Organization’s and United Nations Children’s Fund’s global program to increase breast-feeding across the globe.
The program includes adopting 10 steps that she says have been shown to increase breast-feeding and improve the health of babies and their mothers following a birth, and recognition in the global program opens the doors to more funding.
Much of the work is based on Kangaroo Care, a program developed in Colombia that encourages skin to skin contact and breast-feeding as a low-cost way to improve the health of babies.
Anderson said that while the hospitals in Nicaragua need supplies and medicine, improvements can also be made through education and during the last trip the staff was receptive to the lessons the three Vermont nurses brought down with them.
"The reason this is so important is breast-feeding is the main indicator of infant health," Anderson said. "We taught this course at a hospital that does 5,000 births a year and the staff sees the importance of making these changes. Hopefully when we return we will identify more needs and continue to be able to help."
For more information on the trip, or to donate if you can’t attend Saturday’s event, go to Brattleboro Nurses in Nicaragua on Facebook or email Creelman at email@example.com.
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 802-254-2311 ext. 279.