Zika in pregnancy: Small bite, big effects

Aug 8, 2016  •   Written by Jerail Fennell   •  no comments

With the first locally-transmitted cases of Zika popping up in the Miami-Dade area in July, experts are predicting local outbreaks throughout the state. While the disease may cause no symptoms or mild symptoms in adults, it is potentially devastating for unborn babies if acquired by a pregnant woman.


Photo courtesy of the Florida Department of Health

There have been six confirmed cases of of the Zika Virus in the Jacksonville area, all travel-related, according to the Florida Department of Health, with the potential for many others to become affected.

The Zika virus is a mosquito-borne illness that is spread by the Aedes species of mosquitos. Mosquitos that carry the Zika virus are more active during the day and can survive in both indoor and outdoor locations.

Although mosquito bites are the most common way the Zika virus spreads, having sex with an infected partner, blood transfusions, and pregnancy are also ways of spreading the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Mothers who are pregnant or are trying to become pregnant should take precautionary actions to
prevent them from becoming infected with the virus. Being infected by the Zika virus during pregnancy has been linked to fetal brain defects that causes problems in infants including eye defects, hearing loss, and impaired growth.

Although there is currently no vaccine for the Zika virus, there are many ways to prevent being infected, according to the CDC.


  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
  • Treat your clothing and gear with permethrin or buy pre-treated items.

Insect repellent:

  • Repellents that contain Deet are the most effective during pregnancy
  • Picaridin is an alternative repellent that is safe to use during pregnancy
  • Do not use products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol on children younger than three-years-old.
  • Do not use insect repellent on babies younger than two-months old.

Sexual transmission

  • Prevent sexual transmission of Zika by using condoms or not having sex.

Many people affected with Zika will have mild symptoms or none at all. Symptoms could include a fever, rash, joint pain, headache or conjunctivitis (red eyes). If you have experienced any of the symptoms and have been to a region where the Zika virus is present, it is recommended that you visit a physician or healthcare provider and request testing

To get more information about the Zika Virus and possible ways of prevention, visit: http://www.cdc.gov/zika/pregnancy/question-answers.html http://www.marchofdimes.org/complications/zika-virus-and-pregnancy.aspx


It’s a tough job, and only a mother can do it!

Aug 2, 2016  •   Written by Jerail Fennell   •  no comments

A Mother’s Journey through Breastfeeding: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Written By: Samantha Thompson


Samantha and Baby Bryce

      When I was asked to write about my experiences with breastfeeding, I was honestly very excited!  I feel extremely accomplished in my seven-month journey and definitely have some stories to tell.  But when I sat down at my computer, I drew a blank.  Not a blank as in “I have nothing to say,” but a blank as in “where do I start?”  So I decided to just start writing and see where it leads me.

     Any parent can probably write an entire book telling stories of parenthood, but I only have a few paragraphs. So, I’m going to focus on three aspects of nursing my son: the good, the bad and the ugly.  Let’s start, though, with the ugly and work up to the good. If you can get through the ugly and the bad of breastfeeding, a.k.a the first few months, you are good to go.

breastfeeding week 4

Samantha and husband, Tory

     The ugliest part of breastfeeding for me was the pain. …LOTS of pain.  I took a nursing class a few weeks before my due date, as many mommies-to-be will or should do.  It was great information. I was informed about the science of breastfeeding, the techniques of breastfeeding, the benefits of breastfeeding and more. I was certain that I was well on my way to becoming the best breastfeeder in the world. What they left out in the class, was the emotional and physical toll nursing has on a new momma.  I had terribly cracked and bloody nipples for the first two months of nursing.  Every time my son latched, it was excruciatingly painful. I thought many times about giving up and struggled with the notion that I was somehow failing my little boy. I wanted to be sure that I wasn’t doing anything wrong so I contacted a lactation expert. After talking with the expert, I found out that my pain was completely normal.  There are, though, many different remedies for the physical pain, as explained to me by the expert. The things that saved me were lots of nipple butter, a nipple shield and ibuprofen.  At about the third month, I didn’t need any of those things! For the emotional struggle or baby blues, I found a lot of relief in talking to other mommas, whether they breastfed or not.  It’s super important to have an army of support around you!

       The bad part of breastfeeding, and the toughest for me, was the constant work and effort that is required initially. Everything was new to me! Newborns need to eat every hour or so and because breast milk is mainly water, it digests super quickly. Think about that for a second… that means that I was sitting with my newborn every other hour for at least 20 minutes per side all day every day…including nights. Although I enjoyed the timing bonding with my newborn, it was very tough for me to adjust. The nights were the worst for me. I’m very grumpy on minimal sleep, so says my husband. During this time, it is very handy to have an army of support. You have to have help! While you cannot give your boob to your significant other to feed the baby, there are things that they can do to support you. They can clean, cook dinner, wake up with you for the extra company or rub your feet when you become overly stressed.   Don’t be scared or feel less powerful by asking for a little help. Even if it’s just for someone to watch over your little one while you take a shower!

breastfeeding week 2

Samantha & Baby Bryce

Now that we’ve waded through the yucky stuff, let me say, breastfeeding is the most empowering thing I have ever done as a woman and mother. The benefits are honestly countless!  Every year there is more and more research that supports breastfeeding for the first six months of life (any amount is AMAZING!).  Not only are you feeding your baby with the most nutritious milk possible, you are also building their immune system.  Because the milk is organic, it actually changes to fit what your child needs.  As you nurse, your body picks up on any bacteria and viruses in your baby and creates pathogens to protect and fight against illness, all on its own! Breast milk has also been found to help prevent allergies. From my personal experience, my eight-month-old, whom I nursed for seven months, has only ever had pink eye once. No other fevers, funks or sickness!

breastfeeding week 1

Baby Bryce, 8 months old

Breastfeeding is not only tremendous for the little one, it’s also wonderful for the mother! Nursing mothers are less likely to suffer from postpartum depression. Remember those baby blues from earlier?  After I got the hang of nursing, those quickly went away! Feeding my little dude became stress relieving and relaxing. On top of that, breastfeeding helps momma lose some, if not all of the baby weight. I gained about 80-85 pounds in my pregnancy. Eight months later, I only have 15 more pounds to lose to break even! But the most rewarding part, for me, is the bond that my little one and I now share. Deciding to breastfeed has been one of the best decisions I have ever made.

There are many, many, more benefits of breastfeeding; I can’t possibly fit them all! Remember, you are a beautiful and wonderful mother, and whether you decide to breastfeed or not, you are going to be great! You can do this! Happy Worldwide Breastfeeding Week! #BreastMilkIsTheBestMilk


The top six reasons why moms-to-be should consider breastfeeding

Aug 1, 2016  •   Written by Jerail Fennell   •  no comments

If you’ve been thinking about whether you will or will not breastfeed, you may have weighed the pros and cons… Before you make your final decision, consider these six reasons why you should breastfeed.

  1. Breastfeeding Reduces Mommy’s Risk of Breast Cancer

Because your breasts will be busy making milk 24/7, breastfeeding limits cancerous cells from developing. Also, because Mommy will be focusing on eating more nutritious foods and following a healthier lifestyle (not smoking or drinking), the chances of cancer producing in the breast, as well as the entire
body, becomes limited, according to breastcancer.org.

  1. Breastfeeding May Help Mommy Lose Weight

This is a biggie! So the doctor tells you to wait until your six-week postpartum visit before you can start to vigorously exercise, but you really want to lose some of your baby weight! Breastfeeding helps mommy lose some of those pounds because your body naturally burns calories to produce milk. Also, as mentioned in reason number one, to produce healthier milk, many moms choose healthier eating options.

  1. Breastfeeding Allows Moms AND Dads to Sleep More

Because there is no prep needed to breast feed (making the bottle, warming the bottle up, testing the temperature of the milk, repeat), moms and dads get to sleep a little more during the night.

  1. Breastmilk is Always Ready and at the Right Temperature

It’s 4:37 a.m. and your baby is hungry. Instead of walking all the way to the kitchen, searching for the formula, plundering through the bottles until you find the correct size, measuring out the amount of formula needed, adding water, turning on the bottle warmer, waiting until the bottle is warm and then walking back into the bedroom to feed your baby, you could relax in your rocking chair, with all of the feeding materials need at arm’s reach.

  1. Breastmilk is Free

The estimated total cost of formula ranges between $1,138.50 and $1,188 per year. Again, breastmilk is FREE!

  1. That’s What Breasts Are For!

Need we say more? #BreastMilkIsTheBestMilk

First Annual Father’s Day Barbecue

Jun 24, 2016  •   Written by Erin Addington   •  no comments

IMG_0684The air began to fill with smoke and the smell of charcoal, oak, cedar and apple wood at 7:30 a.m. on the Saturday before Father’s Day in the parking lot of the Magnolia Project on Pearl Street.,  as seven fathers and their assistants fired up their grills to begin the first annual “Fatherhood Program Barbecue Competition.” The dads are all enrolled into the Responsible Fatherhood Initiative but on June 18th, they were grill masters elite.

While each of them may have different reasons for participating in the program, they all have the same goal: to better their relationship with their children and eradicate infant mortality in Northeast Florida. Fathers play a critical role in the development of their children — the event was held to recognize the impact of dads on positive and healthy infant and child development on Father’s Day weekend.

IMG_0721While the fathers were grilling, their families and other attendees enjoyed the vendors, raffles, games for the kids, bounce house, music and other promotional & educational materials.  As the crowd began to get anxious, six judges sat down at the judging tables.

Grevin Payton, father of one daughter, won the overall highest prize in all three barbecue categories. The judges enjoyed his unique flavors and cooking techniques as the best all around.

First place winners were: Marvin McCoy/Claude Ross Jr; Grevin Payton/John Catlin and Billy Stanley/Blake Beasley. Second place winners were: Charles Lockland and Glen Taylor. Third place winners were: Billy Stanley/Blake Beasley, Marvin McCoy/Claude Ross, Jr and Bernard Charles/Ivan Taylor

The barbecue provided a family-friendly way to celebrate Father’s Day, bring together families and enjoy good food!

Guest Post: Fatherhood taught me the value of quality time

Jun 21, 2016  •   Written by Erin Addington   •  1 comment

Devin Coleman2Devin Coleman is an author, poet and speaker, and currently serves as the Vice Chair of the NEFL Fatherhood Task Force. In honor of Father’s Day, he shares an important lesson he learned as a dad.

One the most important lessons I’ve learned thus far as a single Father is the importance of spending quality time with my daughter. Often times parents (men in particular) focus on the financial obligations of child rearing such as shelter, electricity, food, and clothing. Provision is a very important aspect of raising a child, especially if we expect them to perform optimal in school as well as the community at large, but it is not the only thing to consider. I have come to realize that we as men have a duty to nurture our children as well.

One afternoon after picking my daughter up from her after school program she asked, “What are we going to do today Daddy?” The innocent and sincere manner in which she proposed the question shifted my entire perspective of Fatherhood. I looked in her eyes and told her, “We are spending quality time together.” Her face lit up with joy and revealed a beautiful smile and almost instantaneously she said, “That means no phone daddy!”

Devin Coleman1From those two questions I learned that in her mind quality time with me was very important and her definition of quality time meant no outside distractions. At that moment “Daddy Daughter” in our household became a reality. It’s during these times I have an opportunity to impart our family’s moral and value system into her. I tell her about her lineage and the importance of legacy. The conversations that we have during our quality time has brought us closer showing her that I value her and her words.  Thereby building the type of trust that will give her the courage to come to her Father and confide in me in the future. My words say I love you and you’re important, but my actions show that I actually mean it.

In conclusion, I would like to think that Fatherhood has caused me to become a better man.  As I’ve come to realize the awesome responsibility it carries.  As men we are the first interaction that our children will have with a male.  It’s vital that we set the stage properly, showing them what a man is and what a man does.  This will potentially serve as a measuring stick by which our sons strive to be and the qualities our daughters seek in a potential mate.