Media and Speaking Engagements

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Understanding ‘the why’ behind each donor’s actions

By: Heather Schichtel | February 21, 2021

As marketers, we’re constantly in planning and campaign mode, focused on how we can get our members to increase their donations and become lifetime givers.

We send multiple mailings throughout the year, engage in a variety of digital tactics and always have our eye on the bottom line. Fulfilling on the how is important, but we need to take a step back and understand the why. That is, why members choose our organization to donate to, volunteer their time and advocate for.

So how do you get to the why? It starts with using data to understand each generation that’s part of your donor file.

Today’s marketers need to consider five generations at any given time: silent, baby boomers, Gen X, millennials and Gen Z. Each generation is different in terms of who they are (demographics), their ability to donate (financials), what they care about (lifestyles and psychographics), where they spend/donate (transactions) and what media they consume (survey data).

To understand the why, an in-depth analysis of each segment is needed. Here I’ll take a closer look at the millennial segment to understand the key things to be mindful of when marketing to this group. But remember, this is just one of many segments.

As it pertains to millennials, there are multiple milestones in this one generation. Millennials are graduating and succeeding in their first job, getting married or having their first child. To fully understand these milestones, marketers should perform segmentation for a deeper analysis to understand how behavior differs from each donor.

Additionally, millennials are the most diverse group, ethnically and linguistically. To reach them, marketers need to speak to them. And millennials expect lower donation amounts or frequency. It’s important to find other ways to engage them with your brand and your cause. They are passionate about the cause they support.

Once you’ve developed a clear understanding of the behaviors within each segment leading to the why of your donor’s actions, don’t stop there. It’s important to understand their channel preferences and the value additional data insights adds.

While we know millennials are digital savvy, from our recent research, we learned they shop in store and online equally. The online channel influences the purchase, and while in store, mobile plays a key role.

You might be asking yourself, as a not-for-profit, “Why should I be focused on the in-store channel, I’m not a retailer?” True. But think of ways in which you can create that ‘in-store’ experience for your organization. For example, invite members to your headquarters (quarterly, annually – whatever works for you) to come and see in person what’s inside your organization and inspire them during the visit.

A few years ago, the American Heart Association did an event like this as part of their Go Red for Woman campaign. At their facility, visiting members were able to see how their donations impact the lives of others by meeting and speaking with a few survivors and reading numerous inspirational stories.

In addition to understanding the value of each channel, consider how additional data insights will help determine the why. Demographic and lifestyle data, such as Epsilon’s TotalSource Plus®, reflects how consumers spend their time and money so you can reach them in the most insightful way across all channels.

So take time to get know each and every donor in your file, one generation at a time. Before you know it, you’ll unveil the why behind each members’ giving behavior.

The role of digital marketing for political campaigns

By: Heather Schichtel | April 27, 2016

 I’m not sure if you noticed but it’s an election year. But you probably have as political ad spending is estimated to reach $6 billion during the 2016 election. That’s a lot of dollars being spent to capture my vote.

In 2007, the Obama campaign wove social networking, display ads and email programs to create a dialogue that engaged constituents. Now, no matter which side you support, digital messaging has become an increasingly important median; predicted to grow 575% from 2012.

But how do agencies know who to target?

Some of us are loyal to the party line making that prediction an easy guess but as issues become more complex, voter behavior does as well. Further, my last political touch point might have been four years ago, two if I am an active voter. However, midterm data is not necessarily relevant in a presidential election. In the marketing world, relying on four year-old data to make campaign decisions is like using dial up to download season four of House of Cards.

Toss in heavier millennial turn-out, which we might not have data from the last election depending on that voter’s age and unknown behavior….And the political season quickly becomes a moving target…..

Data modeling methodologies must evolve and become more sophisticated particularly as more and more political ad dollars turn towards digital.

“Working on a political campaign is like being in a start-up that plans to go out of business the day they go-live. If you win, you’re a winner no matter what. You could have run an innovative campaign but if you lose, you’re a loser,” states Jeff Cosgrove, Director of Politics and Advocacy at Conversant.

For political organizations looking to reach potential voters digital targeting can’t be ignored.

Although voting is an emotional act, there are certain transactional indicators that can help predict where a vote might be cast. When a political model is developed at Conversant, they analyze the entire holistic view of a constituent – not just the last touch point as a registered voter.  For example, according to data Epsilon compiled data from Abacus, political profiles show that Republicans are more likely to purchase home décor with an average order above $300 while Democrats prefer shoes with an average order of $90+. Democrats go to the spa while Republicans prefer to ride their horse.

While the examples above do not predict absolute party behavior, after all my mother is a Republican and she does not own a horse, there are certain actions that indicate a voter’s beliefs and values.

Conversant captures online data in real time and has been involved in political campaigns since 2008 with presidential candidates, PACs, congressional campaigns, senate races and state attorney generals.

First party data is verified; bringing real people, real results and scale to help you reach your best donor audience.

This is particularly valuable in this day and age when duals are fought on Twitter feeds and  ‘Likes’ on Facebook dictate how one feels about an issue. News is reported immediately and thoughts regarding an issue or candidate can change on a moment’s notice. Conversant captures that change to help marketers more effectively reach and message these people.

The return? Reaching potential voters and increasing the likelihood of those voters going to the polls for your candidate

Today as I search for airline tickets, two very well placed political messages show up on my webpage. This content does not ask for donations, just offers awareness and education. I click on one while I eat my sandwich; consuming both information and a turkey on rye.

Does this action make a difference in my online profile? Yes

Does it change my political segmentation? Yes

Will it determine my behavior in November? Perhaps. In this real time atmosphere, a lot can happen and given this political season, a lot will happen. But there is only one winner.

Here are three steps to consider to help you win your political campaign:

  1. Not all digital impressions are created equal and there is a finite amount of quality (brand safe) inventory. Partners like Conversant can help you easily find brand safe inventory.
  2. Don’t lose the forest for the trees and hyper target your digital audience.  Targeting and segmentation is good but one of the benefits of digital is its reach.
  3. All of your campaign marketing and advertising media is important and should work together.  If you are short in an audience or in an expensive media market in TV, augment that with digital.  Overlap your direct mail audience with digital to reinforce your message and cut through the clutter.

Confessions of a Supermom:

“You are such a great mother.”  

This statement always takes me aback. I guess I should be flattered.  Friends and family say it and I smile, thank them and try to change the subject. When I hear it from total strangers however, it makes me a little uncomfortable. Who are you? How long have you been watching us? Did I scratch my butt? Pick my nose? Make a disparaging remark to my husband? I am not used to the attention that comes with a special needs child. When I hear the great mother comment I am tempted to come back with something smart-assed. Really? ‘Cuz I just shotgunned a beer in the bathroom.  Or Aww gee thanks, my parole officer thinks so too.  

My favorite is “You are such a good mother for taking care of her.” Well thanks but, did I have a choice? She is after all my daughter and I love her more than oxygen, water or red wine but really, I didn’t sign up for tube feedings, seizures, therapy and the many issues that come with being Samantha’s mom. And I would give my right arm, left leg, heart and soul to make her better.  

Am I still a great mother? 

I am a mom. I have days when the T.V. is on, when Samantha is wiggling around on the floor, perhaps a little too long before being repositioned. I have nights; 2:00 in the morning when Samantha is still awake and I am wandering around the house raking my sleep-deprived brain for another strategy to get her to sleep.  I curse God, rage at the heavens and console myself with yet another glass of wine. 

“I will pray for you.” 

I really do appreciate this one. Any healing thoughts sent off into the universe is a good thing. However, after a tough night when I have told the world what I think of their crappy divine plan for me, when I have flipped off the heavens with both fingers, I am really tempted to say. “Well thank you but you might want to wait a day or two; God and I are in the midst of a heavy duty argument. You might not get through.” 

I did not write this as my pity party. Well, okay, maybe I did. Bring some Ritz crackers, and that really funky orange cheese in the squeeze can. We can talk about your pain, my pain, examine the ingredients of that funky orange cheese and perhaps the ingredients of our lives. As parents, as humans, as people in this world, we all have pain. Just because my pain, my daughter’s disability, is visible to the world doesn’t make anyone else’s pain any less real. It certainly doesn’t make me a better mother.

“That which doesn’t kill you, will make you stronger.” 

I have evaluated the super-beings with super-human strength and they all have issues. The Incredible Hulk, major anger issues.  King Kong, a great big monkey with an attachment disorder. Even Superman lived a life hiding his true identity; misunderstood and yearning to belong.  I don’t want to be any stronger. 

Because it’s just not fair is it? Whatever our pain may be; a disabled child, an ailing parent, cancer, divorce, foreclosure, it’s not the life we signed up for. When I imagined my married, parental life years ago it did not include anything messy or ugly. It did not include tough decisions. It did not include being such a grown up. 

“Life is not fair.” 

My Grandma, Emma Mae, used to say this to me when I didn’t get my way. I used to think that life was not fair because my brother cheated at monopoly or he got the bigger slice of pizza. My reaction would be to stomp my feet, throw a couple pillows around, pout in the corner. It still is but no one thinks it’s cute anymore. 

Emma Mae never told me that the UN-fairness in life is doled out in disease, poverty, death. No one told me that ecstasy and despair are secret bedfellows and that they walk hand in hand. As an adult, moments of shear joy are coupled with moments of pain so intense it’s like someone ripped your heart out of your chest. And I used to think fairness was all about the last slice of pizza. 

I now relish the days where I truly am the Supermom. I puff out my chest. Give my best profile shot and stare knowingly into the horizon; my cape flowing in the wind. I’m smarter now though. I keep an eye on my back.  The heavens are smiling down and yet still recording the last time I flipped them the double bird. I now keep my pink Wellies and a bottle of Merlot by the door. You never know when life’s muddy slog will get the best of you. 

Heather Schichtel is a free-lance writer, parent advocate and full time mom to her daughter Samantha. You can follow their story at www.samsmom-heathers.blogspot.com or contact Heather directly at heather.schichtel@gmail.com

Hearts and Horses Article

Printed in the Loveland Connection Newspaper

By Heather Schichtel

When pulling into the entrance of Hearts and Horses, there are two signs asking you to slow down.

If you take this advice, slow down your car, take a deep breath and slow down your life, you might witness a tiny miracle or two. The 1,300 volunteers and dedicated staff are privy to these miracles on many occasions but that doesn’t make them any less impactful.  

Perhaps that is why 1,300 people volunteer here every year. 

Hearts and Horses Therapeutic Riding Center has been enriching the lives of people with developmental disabilities since 1997. At that time, a Loveland City grant allowed the facility and its organizers to provide 10 hours a week of therapeutic riding to people with developmental disabilities. 

Today, Hearts and Horses is a full time operation. The center has over 350 students, they are certified by NARHA, the American Riding for the Handicapped Association and they received the Group Publishing 2009 Outstanding Award for service to our community. 

These are all incredible honors but nothing compares to watching a child grow and progress during their time on a horse. 

Dennis Goeltl, the Director of Operations at Hearts and Horses will tell you about the first time a child in their program took their first unassisted breath; it just happened to be on a horse.

Dori Eppstein-Ransom, Executive Director of Hearts and Horses talks about Simon, a child with autism who spoke his first words on his horse. He can now hold himself up, has better head control and needs less assistance when he rides. 

The people at Hearts and Horses are not just running a business. They are here because they love and believe in their work; they are changing lives and allowing people who are physically restricted to experience movement and freedom they don’t receive everyday. As a result, their own lives have been changed. 

“I lead a busy life,” says Jan Pollema, Program Director for Hearts and Horses, “when I get here and see what our students overcome just to be here, it puts everything in perspective.” Perhaps perspective is what you gain by watching these tiny miracles. Perspective is what happens when you mind the sign at the front and slow down. 
There is another sign at the front which states that Hearts and Horses is enriching lives one heart at time, it’s not just the rider who lives are enriched, it’s every person who plays a part in this growing, nurturing environment.

Heather Schichtel

Radiation Expsoure- Style Magazine

…..”it’s unearthly, it’s downright mystical.” ~ William Conrad Roentgen

In 1895, Professor Wilhelm Roentgen was investigating the properties of cathode rays. While holding a lead pipe up to the ray, he saw something quite shocking on the screen in front of him. The professor could see the bones of his hand holding the lead pipe. He could see inside his body.

Professor Roentgen had developed the very first x-ray machine; quite by accident but no less impactful.

The world was changed by the x-ray.  People were fascinated by looking into their bodies. In Chicago one could examine the bones of their hand for a coin. Manuals were printed on how to make your own x-ray machine with the slogan “so easy a child can do it.”

By 1900, we had learned that this look inside the body, no matter how intriguing, can be quite dangerous. The risks of over radiation became quite real and in some cases, quite deadly.  Even Thomas Edison complained of skin rashes and sore eyes from his work with x-rays. Perhaps the ‘Make your own X-Ray Machine’ wasn’t such a good idea.

115 years after Professor Roentgen’s astounding discovery, we are no less fascinated with what goes on inside our bodies. We are however smarter and much safer. Radiologists commit their study to practices that are not only prudent but meet the parameters of the American College of Radiology as we try to find a balance between necessary scans and unnecessary radiation exposure.

Scanning technology,  x-rays, PET scans and CT scans, have changed the way doctors diagnose and treat patients. We are now able to detect life-threatening cancers in its early stage. We can isolate an area of the brain causing seizures. The evasive world of exploratory surgery is almost obsolete now that doctors can determine problem areas through the information gained from a CT scan. These technologies have become invaluable diagnostic tools to the medical world.

A PET scan can determine the extent and growth rate of malignant tumors. It is especially helpful for brain tumors as neurosurgeons can map complex brain surgeries. A CT scan will provide a layer by layer view of the abdomen, enabling physicians to see damage that might be deeper and not detected through other tests.  

This information however, does not come without cost. CT scans emit a large amount of radiation to the body. One CT of the chest can be comparable to 110 chest x-rays. The exposure in PET scan is similar to a CT and many times if a PET scan has been ordered, a CT will be ordered too.

Radiation dose is commonly referred as the effective dose and is measured in millisievert (mSV). In Colorado, people receive about 1.5 mSv per year than those living at sea level due to everyday radiation emitted at a higher altitude.  Natural background radiation contributes to 3 mSv per year. Comparatively, a chest x-ray is .06 mSv and an abdominal CT scan is 10.0 mSv.

One CT scan is not a significant amount of exposure. Multiple scans however, will contribute to cumulative lifetime exposure and warrants ongoing discussions with your doctor.

Cherlene Goodale, Medical Imaging Director at McKee Medical Center, takes the job of adhering to the American College of Radiology best practices very seriously and follows one commandment; is the information you gain from this test worth the risk of radiation exposure?

This question needs to be asked not only by the radiologist but the referring doctor, the patient and if the patient is a child, the parents.

With advances in scanning technology and its growing popularity in the medical world, patients are more likely to receive a CT scan or perhaps several CT scans in their lifetime. In order to properly monitor cumulative radiation exposure, it is important that patient and doctor work together; communicating the last time a CT scan was performed and what new information could be obtained from a new scan.

 Dr. Christopher Fleener, McKee’s Radiology Medical Director states that when a situation is critical, a CT scan can be the first test ordered. “We see an increase in orders in acute situations when patients need to be assessed and decisions must be made quickly. If a patient comes in with chest pains, we can determine if they are in cardiac arrest and take proper, life saving steps promptly.”

The risk to cumulative exposure can happen when a patient is coming in to the Emergency Room repeatedly for a chronic issue such as undiagnosed pain. They could be seen by different doctors and receive multiple CT scans. At this time, it’s important for doctor and patient to collaborate and determine if this test will tell anything different from a test they had a month ago.  

“We all need to be informed patients. We all need to be our own medical advocate” states Dr. Fleener, “I wonder how often care is discussed with patients when they come in for a test and don’t know why. Their comment is, my doctor sent me.”

Parents need to be especially vigilant in the exposure their children are receiving. Children are much more susceptible to the risks of radiation because their cells are multiplying faster than an adult. When taking a child in for any scan, it is important to ask that the machine be adjusted for the child’s age and weight since the radiation required to get an accurate scan of a child is much less than an adult. Parents can also request to be referred to a pediatric radiologist.

Banner Health is taking proactive steps in decreasing the risk of cumulative radiation. In late 2009, a GE LightSpeed VCT XTe CT scan was installed which will reduce radiation up to 40% while still maintaining image quality. As Dr. Fleener explained, “for anyone receiving multiple scans in their lifetime, the ability to reduce the dose by 40% is significant.”

Dr. Todd Nelson at the Northern Colorado Medical Center works with breast cancer patients. “We have tried to reduce the number of scans oncology patients will receive. In early remission a scan is ordered a couple times a year. While it’s important to reduce the radiation as much as possible, the information we receive for oncology patients far outweigh the risk.”

The radiation group also follows the standards of ALARA; As Low as Reasonably Allowed. When a CT scan is mandated, doctors determine the lowest dose of radiation to be applied while still conducting an informative test. With advances in technology, new machines are able to provide better image quality with the least amount of radiation. Referring doctors and patients are also encouraged to discuss if pertinent information could be determined from an MRI or ultrasound which emit no radiation.

The Medical Imaging Group now hands out cards to parents labeled My Child’s Medical Imaging Report, enabling parents to track the date a scan was performed, the hospital and the exam. “Of course this isn’t just limited to children,” Cherlene Goodale explains, “everyone can be tracking their cumulative exposure with this card.”

Everyone can be and everyone should be; communication between you and your doctor will help you both determine what is necessary, when and why. As we become more informed consumers, it is important to protect our most valuable commodity, our bodies and our health.

Getting Care Close to Home- Style Magazine

Heather Schichtel

In the last year, the average premium for family health insurance jumped 9 percent, a dramatic increase from past years. At the same time, many employee plans require members to pay more out of pocket before insurance actually kicks in. As a result, patients are becoming savvy about where and how their healthcare dollars are being spent and what they can do to cut down their medical bills.

Balancing a family’s medical budget while ensuring all members are receiving the best possible care can be tricky, fortunately the caregivers at Banner Health have developed a network of care that is not only convenient for patients but cuts hospital overhead to make sure all patients receive diagnostic care quickly, efficiently and in a cost effective manner.

Skyline Imaging and Horizon Labs opened in November 2004. Both offices are part of the Banner Health system and provide care to patients with non-critical medical issues.

“There are absolutely times when you need to be seen at the hospital emergency room,” states Cherlene Goodale, Medical Imaging Manager at McKee. “In cases where you suspect stroke or heart attack, the hospital is equipped to handle those emergencies quickly; however, if you need to receive follow-up care or have a non-life threatening issue, Skyline Imaging or Horizon Labs is the appropriate place to be.”

There are several reasons why Skyline Imaging or Horizon Labs is the place to search out non-emergency medical care.  Medical centers continually strive to provide the best care to their patients for the best value. Outpatient care within a hospital can be costly especially if a patient is only seeking routine blood work or a follow-up image. Since hospitals are equipped to handle traumas or acute care, a patient might have to wait longer for a non life-threatening procedure if specialists are called to treat an emergency.

“Since we are equipped to handle many different medical emergencies, the overhead at a hospital can be more expensive. If you don’t need care at a hospital level, the satellite offices might be able to meet your needs quickly and with less cost,” states Jo Terry at Skyline Imaging.

Banner Health has worked to guarantee the quality of care patients receive at a satellite office is virtually the same as at the hospital. Routine brain MRI’s can be done at Skyline as well as bone density scanning, obstetric ultrasounds and cardiac ultrasounds. The imaging equipment at the clinic is state of the art and includes a large bore MRI machine, ideal for larger patients or those who are claustrophobic.

Certified MRI and CT technicians do all imaging care. Both McKee Imaging Center and Skyline are certified by the American College of Radiology. Between the two offices, the qualified staff has 1032 years experience.

Horizon Labs, also a part of the Banner Family, is committed to providing high-quality, convenient services in a local setting. Horizon patients can come into the lab without an appointment to receive blood work. Lab work can also be performed without a physician’s order. Horizon has accessible hours, minimal wait times and low cost.

In a hospital setting, acute, life-determining lab work can supersede routine tests therefore result times can be longer. Since Horizon lab is not running diagnostic work on emergency patients, people can expect results faster. 

Highly specialized tests are sent to Mayo Medical Laboratories, the reference lab for the Mayo Clinic. The Mayo Clinic also offers consultation to Horizon physicians and scientist.

The care and transfer of information between the clinics, Banner specialists and primary care providers is seamless. Electronic file transfer has made it possible for Banner Health doctors and nurses to immediately read results from the tests run at Skyline Imaging and Horizon Labs.

“Many times we don’t know if the tests were run at the hospital or at the lab, we only know that they were run and we’re able to analyze them,” states Goodale. “Even though Horizon and Skyline aren’t physically at the hospital, they are another department under the hospital.”

2012 goals are to have the Banner staff cross-trained so that technicians, nurses and specialists can work at McKee and the Skyline Center.

“Many times patients admitted into McKee, will receive follow up care at Horizon Labs.”

Banner strives to provide the finest care, at the most appropriate place, for the best patient outcome and there are still times when follow-up care needs to be performed at the hospital. Certain procedures such a diagnostic nuclear medicine [AG3] imaging require treatment at the hospital. Tests that involve nursing care such as sedation or IV medication are also implemented at McKee.

“We have had instances where a patient comes in for service and really does need to be seen at the hospital. In that case, we call an ambulance and take them over to McKee.” [u4] 

Both groups work closely with Skyline Urgent Care, helping to confirm if a swollen ankle is broken or sprained and decide the best course of treatment. “If it is the weekend and you have a suspected bladder infection, you would probably be best off coming to urgent care than the emergency room. We can assess and treat you quickly with the least cost to the patient,” states Terry.

Skyline Urgent Care is open from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on the weekends. If you have health concerns outside of these hours, the emergency room at McKee is open 24 hours, seven days a week.

In a time of rising healthcare costs, it is reassuring to know that Banner Health has heard these concerns and are helping to reassure their clients that they are as healthy as they possibly can be; getting the best care, at the best price with the most convenience.


Breast Feeding: Style Magazine

Heather Schichtel

From the time women find out they are pregnant; many have ideas of how their pregnancy and birth will proceed; for many these plans included breast feeding. Breast feeding makes sense to many new families; it is the perfect balance of nutrients between mother and child, it is an amazing bonding experience and beneficial for both mom and baby . From an economical and efficiency standpoint, families who breast feed do not have to pay $100 a month for formula and there are no late-night bottle warming’s.

Breast feeding makes sense; it is what mother and child have been doing together from the beginning of time.

Ironically, as natural as breast feeding should be, it can be frustrating, tiring and even frightening, especially those first couple weeks. Fortunately for Northern Colorado families, there is a wealth of support to try and make breast feeding as natural as Mother Nature intended.

Kelli Robinson is a Lactation Educator within the Poudre Valley Health System and works with a program called Wee Steps. Wee Steps is invested in helping mothers successfully breast feed. New mothers can schedule an appointment with a lactation consultant during their babies first week of life. This is an outpatient appointment where a nurse will take babies’ weight, talk about any problems or concerns and most importantly, assess how the new mother is doing. This program is free and available to moms as long as they are breast feeding.

As mother and child progress and situations change, the Wee Steps program is there to help Moms who intend to go back to work and still successfully breast feed. Wee Steps also helps with the weaning process, making this change successful for both.

Kelli was a Labor and Delivery nurse for fifteen years before finding her true passion within the Wee Steps program.

“This is a very different program from other hospital systems,” states Kelli. “It is at no cost to the family and we are truly committed to helping the mom and new baby especially in the first couple weeks when everyone is adjusting to home life.”

Karen Moore is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, also through Poudre Valley and speaks highly of the support provided in Northern Colorado. “Not only is it the best source of nutrition for newborns and infants, it also provides immunologic protections against many infections. There are also studies that show breast fed babies have less allergies later in life,” states Karen. “Even from decreased obesity to higher cognitive scores in school, you can’t negate the positive outcomes from breast feeding.”

A breast fed baby will learn to self-regulate feedings; pulling away when they are full by being allowed the chance to feed to more often. Breast fed babies become the ultimate ‘small meal eaters’. The American Academy of Pediatrics now advise that Moms breast feed exclusively for 6 months and supplement with other foods for one year. In comparison, the World Health Organization recommends breast feeding up to two years of life.

Support that Wee Steps provides includes making sure the baby has a healthy latch, is gaining weight properly, that mom has a good supply and both are doing well in a home environment. Wee Steps offers one-on-one support and group support where Moms can get together and guide each other through this process.

“I love to see a group sitting together with a 6 month old, a 3 month old and a newborn. Everyone is providing support; the new mom feels like she can do this.  The mom of the three month old is learning about solid foods. It’s how it should be; everyone supporting everyone else,” states Kelly Robinson.

Support groups are offered at the Medical Center of the Rockies, McKee, and at Poudre Valley. In fact, if you are a new mother in Larimer County, you could attend a support group five days a week throughout the community. At times that level of support is absolutely needed in order for mom and baby to be successful.

“This is not always easy,” states Karen. “those first couple weeks can be difficult. This is where we step in an access how the mom is doing; most importantly, someone needs to mother the mom. Are they resting enough? Are they eating properly ?”  States Karen Moore at Poudre Valley, “And most importantly, what are their intentions? Are they tired but feel like they should breast feed because they should? This is not a healthy situation for mother or child.”

At this time a lactation consultant can step in and make sure Mom is getting the confidence and support she needs; because a happy mom equals a happy baby.

There are instances where the need for breast milk becomes imperative and a breast milk donor is needed. This can be when a baby is born premature and the mother’s milk has not come in yet or when mom’s milk supply is not quite what it should be yet.

Fortunately, in Colorado we have the Mother’s Milk Bank which services not only the Front Range but provides milk in 117 cities and 29 different states. The Mother’s Milk Bank began in 1984 when a mother lost her milk supply. She had been living in a state that had a milk bank and decided to start one.

90% of donated milk goes to premature babies.

States Dr. Jeffery Hanson, Medical Director of Presbyterian St. Luke’s, “Mother’s milk is liquid gold to babies who are fighting for their lives. It can mean the difference between life and death.” Premies’ face an even higher risk of infection because their immune system is even more premature. The antibodies and other protective factors in breast milk are incredibly beneficial.

Donors go through phone screening, family screening and a blood draw to insure they are proper milk donors. Once donors are approved, they can pump in their homes and drop off milk at Wee Steps in Fort Collins and Loveland. Donors must be healthy, they cannot be on any medication nor can their baby be sick.

“We are always looking for donors,” states Loraine Lockheart at the Mother’s Milk Bank of Denver. “These are very special people who know the precious gift of mother’s milk to these babies.”

Milk is chosen from different donors and mixed together. It is then pasteurized slowly to insure nutrients remain but bacteria is killed off.

As more research is released with the benefits of breast feeding, new parents are listening. In 2000, 70% of new moms were breast feeding their babies. In 2008 that number had increased to 75%. As part of the Healthy People 2020Initiative, the national goal is to have 81.9% of new mother’s breast feeding by 2020.

As this number increases society is changing to accommodate new moms. In 2010, President Obama made an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act requiring employers to provide reasonable time for new mothers to express milk for her nursing child while at work. Providing support as babies get older is important. While 75% of mothers start breast feeding immediately after birth, only 15% of moms are breast feeding exclusively at 6 months of age.

The consultants at Wee Steps do what they can to support moms through any stage of breast feeding.

“Sometimes a mom is only able to breast feed for a month or two before her supply runs out. Our job is to support that mother in her success during that time. Even that first little bit of colostrum is formulated differently to help tiny, immature digestive systems,” states Kelli at Wee Steps. “Whatever that mom can do is important, even if it’s only for a week or two.”

Wee Steps also encourages skin to skin contact for all babies; breast fed or bottle fed. “Feeding, no matter breast or bottle fed, is an important time for mother and baby to bond,” states Karen.  

What is most important, through the support at Wee Steps or any other lactation support group is that new families are finding a sense of community within their medical system. It takes a village to create balanced healthy children and balanced healthy moms. The team at Wee Steps is there to make sure those first couple months are as positive; if a mom is able to breast feed for a month or 12 months, they are there to make sure both get the best start possible.