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STEPHEN HEMELT — Fiesta-themed event welcomes all to breast-feeding celebration

With her first child, a daughter, Kara Michael knew she wanted to breastfeed.

Unfortunately, she encountered a lot of struggles.

“I realized it’s pretty common for moms to have challenges, but at the same time, here in Southeast Texas, we didn’t have a lot of resources for moms on where they could go to get assistance,” Michael told me this week. “That inspired me to be the help for moms that I needed when I had my first kid.”

Today, Michael has a 6-year-old daughter and 18-month-old son. She followed through on her parental inspiration to become an international board certified lactation consultant and today works with Port Arthur WIC (Women, Infants and Children).

Michael said breastfeeding creates an empowering bond between mothers and children.

“There is nothing like it, feeling like you can fulfill all of your child’s needs, nutritional and emotional,” she says. “You feel like you are a supermom just by fixing a booboo or fixing them something when they are hungry. You can do all things. For me, especially when I was a first time mom, I didn’t have a lot of confidence because I had not been around a lot of children before. How do I know if I am doing anything right? Whenever we did get breastfeeding down, I was like, ‘I am a supermom. I can do this.’”

Just because new moms or experienced parents run into hard times with breastfeeding, it doesn’t mean they won’t be able to accomplish their ultimate goals.

Michael and others are taking that message (along with tons of useful information and aides) to the community.

The Port Arthur WIC clinic is inviting breastfeeding mothers in Port Arthur, Mid County and beyond to its inaugural Jefferson County Breastfeeding Celebration Friday (Aug. 6).

The FREE event runs from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the La Plaza Garibaldi back patio, located at 3350 Jimmy Johnson Blvd in Port Arthur.

Michael is serving as one of the event’s lead organizers.

Planned attractions include crafts and activities geared toward moms and babies, fun competitions like a baby race for crawlers and walkers and a diaper-changing contest with a plastic baby doll. Prizes will be awarded.

“The theme of the event is ‘lets taco about breastfeeding,’” Michael said. “There will be lots of fiesta theming. We’re going to have individual mommy and me photo opportunities, as well as a group breastfeeding opportunity. We’re having a Zumba instructor come from a Zumba class.”

The first 50 moms to attend will enjoy free food through an open taco bar.

“We’ve got shirts; we’ve got all different kinds of things for moms, sleep sacks, toys for babies, and all kinds of fun stuff,” Michael said.

The effort is grant funded by the Healthy Moms and Babies Coalition and City of Port Arthur Health Department.

“We want to support and encourage moms to consider breastfeeding,” Michael said. “We’re calling it a breastfeeding celebration, because moms tell me one of the biggest barriers to their success is they feel like it is hard to breastfeed in public and there is an embarrassment piece to it. We want to demonstrate for them there is a community thing with moms coming together to show support. This will definitely be occurring again next year.

“This is open to the public. We are inviting breast-feeding mothers, mothers who have breastfed in the past, women who are pregnant and anyone who supports breastfeeding in the community.”

For more information, email Michael at Kara.michael@portarthurtx.gov.

Look for the Jefferson County Breastfeeding Celebration Facebook page for additional information.

Stephen Hemelt is the president of Port Arthur Newsmedia, which publishes The Port Arthur News, panews.com and other products. He can be reached at stephen.hemelt@panews.com or 409-721-2445.