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Berkshire Nursing Families: Help Beyond Breastfeeding

line three frogs sitting together

Worrying, crying, connecting…. Depending on where you live, it may be difficult to find breastfeeding support. For twenty years, Berkshire Nursing Families has provided essential, wide reaching services to families in the Berkshire counties, all for free.

Rosalie Girard, IBCLC, is the founder and director of Berkshire Nursing Families. She described how this began and how it has grown.

Rosalie’s graduate work was in Psychology, though attending La Leche League meetings with her baby inspired her lactation work. She became a counselor and led the monthly support group. Over time, she realized she needed more knowledge. She earned her IBCLC credential in 1993.

At first, she offered sliding scale her private practice consultations. “That did not work out.” She told me. Most people just could not pay. Most did not even know what an IBCLC was.

With no hospital support, few classes or community resources, the situation was bleak for families. Rosalie saw that women needed support earlier and continuing for longer. Beyond lactation care, she also saw that parents needed to understand babies’ growth and behavior. “If you don’t get it, you’re going to misread stuff.” Rosalie said.

In 1998, Rosalie created Berkshire Nursing Families with a grant from the March of Dimes. Berkshire Nursing Families serves the entire Berkshire County from Vermont to Connecticut. In 2015, they served over 800 families. Their referrals come from W.I.C (Women, Infant and Children supplemental nutrition program), OB offices, pediatricians, other parents and hospitals.

Berkshire Nursing Families offers prenatal education, support, classes and individual consults. Their curriculum is based on the work of T. Berry Brazelton.

They offer as many visits as needed, follow up calls, a weekly support group, a playgroup and a support phone line. They also have a program called the Teen to 23 Project. All their programs continue to be free.

Yes. All their programs are for free. The program is successful because the community realizes how important this is. When this organization began in 1998, only 50% of Berkshire families started breastfeeding. By 2014, the initiation rate was 87%.

Berkshire Nursing Families is an official 501.c.3 non-profit organization. Their funding comes from donors and grant awards from foundations that are local to the county. In 2015, The Commission on the Status of Women awarded Rosalie Girard the Unsung Heroines of Massachusetts.

A program such as Rosalie’s benefits the whole family. It’s an excellent model for supporting the health of our communities.