CHEER CHAMPION OF THE WEEK: LYDIA WEST!
Lydia West, MPH, RD, LD is a consultant with the Mississippi Public Health Institute (MSPHI). She has been a staunch supporter of breastfeeding work, and has worked tirelessly behind the scenes to move breastfeeding initiatives in Mississippi forward!
As a consultant with MSPHI, Lydia’s main role is to assist the Mississippi State Department of Health, (MSDH) Office of Preventive Health (OPH), Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity (DNPAO) in addressing CDC-supported efforts to increase access to breastfeeding-friendly environments. Lydia and MSDH OPH DNPAO staff also collaborate with CHAMPS to provide continuing education related to breastfeeding for hospital staff. This CHEER Champion of the Week also works with communities in Mississippi to establish Baby Cafés. She is in the process of gathering data for a resource and referral system of breastfeeding support for clinics and communities around Mississippi. This work included her leading listening sessions to find out what breastfeeding resources community members and health practitioners would like to have included in the resource and referral system. She is now in the process of compiling that information and will convert it into a user-friendly format that can be updated as needed.
In addition, Lydia serves as Co-chair for Mississippi’s State Health Improvement Plan’s Priority Area. The focus of this group is to improve infant health by increasing the number of breastfeeding mothers in Mississippi. She enjoys working with the Mississippi Perinatal Quality Collaborative on their breastfeeding projects. Mississippi breastfeeding supporters have a monthly call to talk about their work and Lydia helps to coordinate and lead those calls. She is an active member of the Mississippi Breastfeeding Coalition and worked with this group and several other Mississippians to get Mississippi 2016 Senate Bill (2070) passed into law. She promotes the meetings of the East, North, and South Mississippi Breastfeeding Coalitions through social media and word-of-mouth.
Lydia shares, “What motivates me to do breastfeeding work is the passion of people who are the ‘boots on the ground’. I am inspired by the collaborative effort of Mississippi’s breastfeeding champions and the strategies they use to strive for their goals every day.”
Lydia is a big supporter of CHAMPS and ROSE. She has attended CHAMPS and ROSE conferences and events in the state. She also feels that it is important to educate people in Mississippi about the work of CHAMPS and ROSE.
Regarding breastfeeding, Lydia believes things are changing for the better in Mississippi. She thinks people seem more comfortable with breastfeeding in public and not as secretive about the issues they have faced while breastfeeding. “It is wonderful to see more places of employments support nursing mothers by providing time and a place to pump when they return to work,” Lydia remarks.
“What does the future hold?” poses Lydia. “I hope that these trends in Mississippi and nationwide continue. I want more people to understand the benefits of breastfeeding, support families who choose to breastfeed, and help families not to feel guilty in whatever feeding choices they make. It is vital for more employers to give paid break time for mothers to pump or feed their child(ren).”
Congratulations, Lydia! In the words of CHAMPS Mississippi Coordinator Cathy Carothers, “Lydia is a delight to work with—very positive and proactive. We are fortunate to have her in Mississippi!”