FAIRGROUNDS — Far from the fair's carnival rides, whirring chainsaws and hay-filled animals pens is a cozy, clean sanctuary for moms to feed and change their babies.
The fair's Baby-Friendly Lounge marked its third annual appearance in the Kitsap County Fair’s floral building this week. Volunteers from the Kitsap County Breastfeeding Coalition are available to share information on various support and health services around the community.
“The whole point is to create a place where any parent, any baby and any family is welcome to come, hang out and feel comfortable," said Elizabeth Montez, a coalition volunteer. “Breast or bottle-feeding, kids that just need a break, moms that need to pump, any kiddo that needs a change in a clean place… They’re all welcome to come to the lounge.”
Not only is the Baby-Friendly Lounge a place for moms to care for their children, but it’s also a platform for talking about the local services available to parents, for learning new tips, and for mothers to offer each other support and camaraderie.
When the lounge made its debut at the fair three years ago, it was so popular it won the award for Best All-Around Exhibit.
“I love the booth,” said Denise Steele, a Bremerton mother. “It allows you to socialize with other moms, the chairs are more comfortable than the benches outside, and it makes me feel special, too, like there’s a place for me to go that’s not a secluded corner.”
There are breastfeeding support specialists on hand familiar with nursing topics, either through their own experiences or through their work in the area. Volunteers include lactation consultants, birth educators, doulas, postpartum support group leaders and pediatric dental assistants specializing in frenectomy procedures (necessary for some babies to breastfeed). So, it’s a good place for parents to get information from reliable sources in a less-formal setting.
“When I first started nursing, it was a struggle because there wasn’t a lot of resources,” said Allison Anderson of Port Ludlow, a mother of two and volunteer. “I’m so glad for the opportunity to volunteer my time and share resources with other moms… It’s all about nurturing and taking care of your child.”
“We’ve got a really strong community of resources for families here in Kitsap county,” Montez said. “It’s really just an honor to be a part of it.”
Even if breastfeeding isn’t your choice, the baby-friendly lounge is still a place you can feel comfortable.
“Our mission is to promote breastfeeding a baby and/or a growing toddler, but we’re not going to shove it down your throat at the lounge,” said Jeanne Panciera, who’s heading up the lounge committee. “Although we are the Breastfeeding Coalition, we don’t advertise that, nor do you have to be breastfeeding to come in and use the lounge. You can be bottle-feeding or anything to be able to come in and use the services. We’re very inclusive here.”
The booth is also doing daily drawings for gift baskets filled with items that will be useful to nursing mothers, including supplements, pumps and soothing creams.
“I think it’s great they have it,” said Krisma Pickering of Eugene, Oregon, as she nursed her 14-month-old daughter, Eleanor. “I know not all moms are comfortable breastfeeding in public.”
Pickering, along with many of the other moms and volunteers, expressed that she wants to give back to the breastfeeding community.
“I didn’t have support, so I’ve tried to lend support to other moms,” she said.
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