Valley Baptist Health System Continues to Share Benefits of Breastfeeding with Community During National Breastfeeding Month

Aug 17, 2021

HARLINGEN & BROWNSVILLE – With August serving as National Breastfeeding Month, Valley Baptist Health System  continues to provide education and support on the importance of breastfeeding for newborns and mothers of the community.

The efforts to promote breast feeding are important pieces to providing comprehensive care to the mothers and newborns of south Texas, said Jennifer Bartnesky-Smith, Chief Strategy Officer for Valley Baptist Health System.

“As a mom of two and a third on the way, I fully understand the importance of breastfeeding for the health of not only mom and baby, but for the entire family. Unfortunately, what we frequently experience at Valley Baptist is that new moms are sometimes apprehensive to breastfeed simply due to a lack of awareness,” she said. “Education and support are a critical first step in enabling a mother’s efforts to breastfeed. That is why Valley Baptist Health System strongly supports National Breastfeeding Month in our efforts to educate and promote this natural and critical process for mom and baby.”

While the benefits of breastfeeding have been well documented, research suggests that it may be even more beneficial for babies during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. According to information from the American Academy of Pediatrics, breastmilk protects infants from a variety of infections, and several studies have found antibodies that target the COVID-19 virus in human milk. In addition, breastfed infants are generally less likely to have severe respiratory symptoms when they get sick.

Mary Garcia, director of Valley Baptist-Harlingen’s Family Maternal Unit, Gynecology, and Newborn Nursery, said there are many critical benefits to breastfeeding for mother and baby alike that can have long-lasting positive health impacts.

“Breastfeeding provides the best possible start for babies by providing proteins and immune factors they cannot get from another source.  It helps prevent illness, and assists with development of the brain, GI system, and jaw,” she said. “Breastfeeding also benefits mother by lowering her risks for bleeding as well as certain diseases, including diabetes, osteoporosis, and cancers of the breast, ovaries, and uterus.”

Garcia said that the education process continues once mothers give birth, as Valley Baptist-Harlingen staff work with new mothers to encourage and promote breastfeeding.

“We share both verbal and written breastfeeding information with mothers and families, encouraging them to initiate breastfeeding as early as possible,” Garcia said. “Our staff is well-trained to educate and assist mothers with breastfeeding. We also give mothers an ‘exclusively breastfeeding’ certificate to acknowledge their success with exclusive breastfeeding during their hospital stay.”

Valley Baptist Medical Center-Brownsville has utilized both technology and education to improve breast feeding rates among new mothers. While high-tech breast pumps that more realistically mimic the feel of a breastfeeding infant and simulators designed to help staff practice hand expression are important tools, nothing trumps the importance of educating the community on the benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and newborn, said Miriam Longoria, RN and director of labor and delivery, obstetric operating rooms, and mother baby unit at Valley Baptist-Brownsville.

“This whole effort starts at the very beginning. We don’t want our patients to hear about breastfeeding when they come in to deliver their babies,” she said. “We want to make sure that they’re being educated from the minute they find out that they’re pregnant and they visit their obstetrician’s office for the first time. That means collaborating quite a bit with our physician partners and getting that information out to their offices as well as educating physicians about what we’re doing at Valley Baptist.”

Longoria said that when it comes to education, the goal is to involve family members so that mothers can use them as a valuable support system as they adjust to life with a newborn.

“Involving family members is a crucial part of this journey because our culture is extremely united and a new mother needs that support,” she said. “If everyone is involved and has an educated standpoint she is more likely to succeed or ask for help when needed.”

In addition to encouraging breastfeeding with mothers who choose to deliver their babies at Valley Baptist, Valley Baptist Health System is also working to promote breastfeeding among its employees. Both Valley Baptist-Brownsville and Valley Baptist-Harlingen have been designated as “mother-friendly worksites” by the Texas Department of State Health Services, which means both sites have been certified by the state as “businesses that proactively support employees who choose to breastfeed their infants.” Such support ranges from private spaces and flexible scheduling for break times so that mothers can express and store breastmilk for their babies.

For more information on women’s and maternity services at Valley Baptist, visit

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