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Virtual breastfeeding classes offer support to new moms

Saint Joseph Hospital in Denver created a program that makes their breastfeeding classes online — instead of canceling the program all together.

Motherhood is not easy. Breastfeeding is not easy. With the pandemic, both have become even more challenging.

Saint Joseph Hospital in Denver created a program that makes their breastfeeding classes online — instead of canceling the program all together.

"I've actually been incredibly impressed with how supportive it's been," said Dr. Ifeoma Perkins, a participant of the breastfeeding classes and an assistant professor University of Colorado Denver - Anschutz Medical Campus. "One would think that because it's not in person there's not as much intimacy and closeness but I would argue that it feels much more intimate than I ever thought it would be."

Despite her many years in medical school, Perkins said nothing prepared her for motherhood or breastfeeding. 

"No amount of degrees actually prepares you to be a mom and to actually jump into this feeling fully confident," she said.

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Perkins and her husband welcomed a baby girl in April. 

"Giving birth during a pandemic, I had a lot of anxiety about going home with this tiny, beautiful baby and not having family or friends who were also moms who were in the house with us who could help me," Perkins said.

Even though the classes were online, Perkins said she found the support she needed for a successful breastfeeding journey.

Katie Halverstadt clinical manager and lactation specialist at Saint Joseph Hospital, said she understands the importance of these classes because of the experience she had with breastfeeding herself.

"To be super honest with you, maternal health rates in the U.S., they are not great — one in five moms can develop postpartum depression or anxiety and one in ten dads," she said.

The emotional piece of giving birth and postpartum, she said, is so important they couldn't just cancel the in person classes when the pandemic started.

"We are technically reaching more families because there's no transportation barriers; they don't have to get out, they don't have to come over here, they feel safe in their homes," she said.

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Perkins had miscarriages before giving birth in April. She emphasized the point that moms should always have a place to form relationships and community. 

"I think sometimes as women, and as professional women, as hard working women, as women who have accomplished many things in their lives, I think the temptation is to feel like, 'I can do this by myself, I should do it by myself, because I'm stronger if I do it by myself,' and I don't think that could be further from the truth with breastfeeding," she said.