Welcome back to Meet our Members, a series where we sit down with the individuals and organizations that make up our devoted Alliance. This week we’re sharing an interview with member, Melisa Riehl, President and General Manager of Perspective Enterprises, to showcase work her work in this field, connection to the cause and reasoning for joining BFIDSA.
- Tell us a little about you. Please share details about your work, initiatives, or projects you are involved in, and why you decided to join BFIDSA.
I am Melisa Riehl, President and General Manager of Perspective Enterprises, a manufacturer and supplier of anthropometric equipment (that is, human height and weight measuring devices).
Perspective Enterprises has been the leading supplier of anthropometric equipment to our nation’s Public Health Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program since its inception in the 1970’s. This program provides supplemental food, and education on good nutrition and breastfeeding, to low-income women, as well as their infants and children up to age five. A critical mission of the WIC Program is to help increase breastfeeding initiation and duration rates among our nation’s low-income, at-risk population.
Thus, twelve years ago, in 2010, Perspective Enterprises added breastfeeding-support products to its offerings. Today, these valuable products are used extensively by WIC programs, and birthing hospitals that serve low-income families, to encourage and enhance the comfort, health, and safety of breastfeeding mothers and their infants.
I joined the BFIDSA because, as the President and General Manager of Perspective Enterprises, I know that low-income mothers and their infants benefit greatly from the use of breastfeeding and infant development support products. As a mom, I also personally believe in and love feeding support products.
For these reasons, I strongly believe that improperly developed government standards for/ restrictions on or, worse yet, a complete ban of these products would have severe negative consequences for our nation’s breastfeeding rates; for maternal and infant health; and, most critically, for infant safety.
- What do nursing pillows mean to you? What is your personal experience with these products? What have you observed of the importance of these products for mothers and caregivers?
I want to share a personal story. I am a mother of twins born two months prematurely and each weighing only three pounds. I needed a “nursing pillow” to help put my tiny infants simultaneously up to my breasts and still have hands free to help position and hold my breasts and their weak heads and necks for proper latch and feeding. I found that, if I did not feed my twins simultaneously, I would never get a break from breastfeeding. I’d be feeding one or the other all day, around the clock. In addition, I found that, if I did not use a nursing pillow, my infants would be laying in my lap, and I would be hunched way over to put my breasts in their mouths. Doing that for practically endless hours around the clock gave me excruciating back pain. Without the support of a “nursing pillow,” I’d have given up on breastfeeding, and my infants and I would have missed out on its tremendous benefits. The safe and proper support I obtained with the use of a “nursing pillow” enabled me and my twins to have early success with breastfeeding and continue for nearly two years! I completely understand why so many new mothers consider their “nursing pillow” to be their most useful and cherished infant/nursery item. It enables them to have comfort, safety, and success at doing, literally, the most important thing they can for and with their infant, that is bond with and feed them, at the breast!
Professionally, while exhibiting annually for Perspective Enterprises at numerous meetings of health care professionals, I constantly hear from these professionals how much they, and the mothers to whom they provide care/education, absolutely love their nursing pillow! One of the public health programs that we supply, in conjunction with a large hospital system, orders thousands of “nursing pillows” each year to gift to moms in the hospital, right after they have delivered their new baby. A public health lactation consultant in this program offers valuable breastfeeding education along with instruction on properly using one of these nursing pillows that the new mom can, then, take home with her. It’s a safe and effective breastfeeding tool that has measurably improved breastfeeding initiation rates. But, more than that, it’s a delightful gift that helps build trust by showing these moms, who might not be able to buy their own “nursing pillow,” that there are caring people available to support them in their upcoming motherhood journey.
If trust is developed, the mother may allow a consultant from the public health program to meet with the mom, in the mother’s home, to continue providing breastfeeding support and other valuable assistance and education, beyond breastfeeding. Such includes proper interaction with and understanding of the infant’s behavior and needs; safe preparation and maintenance of the home; and safe use of infant products for everything from feeding to bathing to clothing to playing to transport and to sleep.
- What do you want the CPSC to know and remember about the importance of feeding supports?
The AAP advises that mothers and babies are comfortable and supported during breastfeeding. Standard household items, like pillows and blankets, are not designed to support breastfeeding, and do not provide the same comfort and support as nursing supports. Moreover, when these products are used as supports for mom or infant during breastfeeding, there can be folds and crannies created that could pose a danger to infants.
Fortunately, breastfeeding supports, commonly called “nursing pillows,” are commercially available; and, most importantly, they are purposefully designed to be the safest feeding supports a mom or caregiver could use. Thus, it is very important to distinguish “nursing pillows” from any pillow designed for the adult bed or adult sleep.
Feeding supports are designed for adult-supervised, infant-awake time only. The products that Perspective Enterprises supplies are clearly labeled with this information; and, as is true with any product, it is important these product-use instructions are followed.
Further, these valuable feeding support products are used extensively by public health programs and birthing hospitals that serve low-income families to encourage and enhance both the comfort and the safety of breastfeeding mothers and their infants. I do not believe that these reputable organizations would be using breastfeeding supports if they did not whole-heartedly believe in their safety and efficacy.
Finally, I strongly believe that improperly developed government standards for/ restrictions on or, worse yet, a complete ban of these products would have severe negative consequences for our nation’s breastfeeding rates; for maternal and infant health; and, most critically, for infant safety.
Follow along on our blog and social platforms to meet all the BFIDSA members!