Meet The Practitioners: Mary Alice Robinson

Meet The Practitioners is an ongoing series in which we invite local caregivers to answer a few questions about themselves and their areas of expertise. 
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Mary Alice Robinson is a Registered Nurse at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital and volunteers with the Martha's Vineyard Breastfeeding Network, a community resource that provides 24-hour support and consultations for breastfeeding women on the Island. Here she answers a few questions about her involvement and common challenges faced by new breastfeeding families.

What is your position at the hospital?  
I am a Registered Nurse in the Operating Room. I began working at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital in the nutrition department in 2008 and I was hired as an RN 5 years ago. I also help teach a portion of the childbirth education series on breastfeeding.

How did you get involved with the breastfeeding network?
I was invited to become involved with the breastfeeding network by Joyce Capobianco, the nurse manager of the maternity department. She was looking for a staff member from the operating room that could be available to support mothers with breastfeeding directly following cesarean births. I was really excited to become involved.

What services does the network provide?
The network provides free breastfeeding education and consulting for Island families. We have a pager that allows for 24-hour live support from a certified breastfeeding counselor. We offer in home visits, phone calls, and texting support, even in the wee hours of the night. We also encourage families to come into the maternity department for assessments and information at any time.

Last June we started a support group with the YMCA called the Breastfeeding Café. It’s a weekly event, currently held on Wednesdays, and it's a nice time for moms to get together and ask questions and share their experiences.

How can people contact you?
The pager number is 508-396-7498. There will be a message on that line with the contact information for the counselor on-call.

What are the most common breastfeeding questions you hear from new or expecting moms?
The most common question in the beginning is, "How do I know if my baby is getting enough milk?" I know I wondered the same thing as a new mother. There are ways we can assess this from the baby’s perspective, like expected weight gain, signs of satisfaction after feedings, or counting wet diapers. But I also try to encourage mothers to trust their abilities to feed their babies. Focus on one feeding at a time, one day at a time, and trust in your body's amazing ability to nourish your baby.

Why are you passionate about breastfeeding education?
I'm passionate about education and empowerment, which is why I love being a nurse. I don't consider myself a proponent for breastfeeding. I’m more of a support person for new families trying to figure out what works for them. If a mother wants to breastfeed I want to help her in any way that I can to follow through with that goal. I am inspired by our Island community and how we come together to share knowledge and offer support. I feel really lucky to be even a small part of that.

Any advice you want to share for newly breastfeeding mamas or pregnant women thinking about breastfeeding?
If you are on the fence, give it a shot. You have nothing to lose! If you are struggling in the early days, stick with it. I promise it gets easier. Like many aspects of parenting, breastfeeding is rewarding and it can also be stressful at times, so don't be afraid to ask for help. Breastfeeding is the optimum nutrition for your baby and the health benefits for mom are numerous. Take care of both of you!