After her third child was born, Joelina Panamarioff of Kodiak Island, Alaska, knew she would need the services of Kodiak KINDNESS. The Providence Kodiak Island Medical Center community benefit program is dedicated to helping new mothers nourish their newborns through personal coaching.
KINDNESS helped Panamarioff get used to nursing her first son. When her second son was born after an emergency C-section and then spent 10 days in the newborn intensive care unit, KINDNESS was there again.
“He was tube fed and bottle-fed, so it was really hard for us to bond later,” Panamarioff said. “And when my third son was born, he had a deep palate and it was very difficult. I’ve had different circumstances with each baby, and every time she knew what to do. She’s always been there.”
Program developed by mothers, for mothers
The “she” to whom Panamarioff refers is Heather Preece, a registered dietitian and lactation consultant who developed Kodiak KINDNESS 10 years ago. The program operates thanks to yearly community benefit contributions from Providence Health & Services Alaska and donations to Providence Alaska Foundation, totaling more than $65,000.
Preece knew the technical side of nourishing babies from her work – but it wasn’t until she had her own children that she fully understood what motherhood is all about.
“I realized how challenging it can really be,” Preece said. “In the middle of the night when I was beside myself and I felt so incompetent as a mom, having a friend to call and come over to help really brought it home for me.”
Nutrition education helps 1,500 babies in remote community
Kodiak KINDNESS (the KIND stands for Kodiak Infant Nutrition and Development) is available to all families on Kodiak Island, Alaska, at no cost. Due to limited resources in the remote area, the program fulfills a need for quick access to providers who can assist with infant feeding issues. More than 1,500 babies have received KINDNESS services since the program began in 2006.
After years of support, KINDNESS officially became a Providence program in 2014. New parents are first visited by their feeding coach after their baby is born at Providence Kodiak Island Medical Center, and contacted at key times throughout the first year of the baby’s life. For parents who find themselves frustrated in the middle of the night – like Preece and many others have – they can call a “warm line” at any time for same-day help.
Building the foundation for lifelong health
Panamarioff says she believes all three of her sons benefitted from KINDNESS services. Not only are they her children growing up healthy, but she also feels more confident about the quality and quantity of nutrition they received at a young age.
“I don’t give up very easily, but I think I would have given up earlier if I didn’t have their help,” she said.
Preece stresses that KINDNESS is not just for mothers who want to breastfeed, it’s a comprehensive nutrition program designed to keep every baby well-nourished regardless of feeding choice. “No matter what, we just want babies to grow up to be healthy,” she said.