U of A Makes Game Days More Family-Friendly with Tiny Tusks Program
By Shannon Magsam | Photos courtesy of the College of Education & Health Professions
Tiny Tusks crewmembers
Home games are more comfortable for the tiniest Razorback fans — and their parents — now that the University of Arkansas nursing school has teamed up with Razorback Athletics to deliver the Tiny Tusks program.
Tiny Tusks Breastfeeding and Infant Support started in a small pop-up tent at the first home Razorback football game in 2019. It has now expanded to permanent locations in three U of A sport venues: Barnhill Arena, Bud Walton Arena and Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
Alumna Laura Gowan was grateful to find Tiny Tusks at the stadium last fall. She and her husband attended a football game without their six-month-old daughter. It was the first time they had been away from her overnight. “I needed a clean place to pump since Mary Oliver did not come to the game,” she said. “The space was air-conditioned, private and clean. Everyone was very helpful. Traveling for the first time as a new mother can be very stressful, and I am thankful that Tiny Tusks was able to alleviate some of that stress.”
Gowan, who earned a Master of Arts in teaching from the U of A in 2014, has helped spread the news about Tiny Tusks. “And I’ve heard great things from others who have used the spaces,” she said.
Tiny Tusks is also available for breastfeeding mothers to nurse their babies or for caregivers to change a diaper. They have access to rocking chairs and changing tables. Volunteers from the U of A Eleanor Mann School of Nursing help keep older siblings occupied with coloring pages and other age-appropriate activities. This football season, there are three spaces in the North End Zone location and one in the South. Barnhill and Bud Walton each have one space.
Stadium Tiny Tusks areas are staffed by U of A nursing faculty, Honors College nursing students and final-semester nursing students completing their community clinical hours. Nursing staff is available at the other two venues during select games or meets only.
“The spaces are being well utilized,” said Allison Scott, an assistant professor of nursing. “The main purpose of Tiny Tusks is to provide a comfortable atmosphere for breastfeeding and breast pumping.” Breastfeeding is legally allowed anywhere in the stadium, though. “It’s covered by Arkansas law HB2411, which passed in 2007,” Scott said. “Tiny Tusks is an alternative space to use for mothers who desire more privacy.”
Nursing student Emma Hulbert
U of A nursing students interact with a young Razorback fan while her mom takes advantage of the North End Zone Tiny Tusks space
Scott and Kelly Vowell Johnson, also an assistant professor of nursing, established Tiny Tusks through a grant from the U of A Women’s Giving Circle. It’s modeled after Auburn University’s Tiger Babies initiative.
U of A nursing students provide infant-child education on various topics while staffing the Tiny Tusks spaces. So, the program helps not only the public but also the nursing students who are preparing for careers after college.
Quinn Owen, a nursing student and Razorback track athlete, created a pamphlet about breastfeeding and COVID-19 as part of her nursing honors project. She also worked on a literature review with co-intern Brianna Purser about the barriers to breastfeeding in neonatal intensive care units. “After spending time in the NICU for clinical and seeing how vulnerable NICU patients are, I wanted to know more about what deters people from breastfeeding their babies who have been admitted,” she said. Quinn, who graduated in May, plans to specialize in neonatal or pediatric care.
Connecting Campus and the Community
Tiny Tusks is now expanding beyond the U of A campus. Scott and Johnson received a new Women’s Giving Circle grant to expand breastfeeding awareness and education into the Northwest Arkansas community.
Tiny Tusks is collaborating with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and the State Physical Activity and Nutrition for Arkansas, or SPAN, program. U of A nursing faculty and students will help facilitate the breastfeeding education piece of the initiative. SPAN is working with family medicine providers, who play a key role in promoting breastfeeding with their patients. They’re also working with early childcare centers on how to be breastfeeding-friendly.
The Tiny Tusks program will also host several community events during the fall and spring semesters to raise awareness about breastfeeding benefits, normalizing breastfeeding and protective legislation.
Nursing student and Razorback cheerleader Emma Hulbert is helping expand Tiny Tusks into the community. In addition to assisting at the Tiny Tusks spaces during basketball and volleyball games this fall, she’ll help share breastfeeding information with area clinics. She’ll also explore possible funding to sustain the program past 2023, when current grant funding ends.
“I wanted to be involved in this amazing program because, as a member of the Razorback cheer team, I have the opportunity to meet fans of all life situations, including breastfeeding mothers,” she said. “The University of Arkansas prides itself on welcoming and accommodating each and every Razorback fan, and the Tiny Tusks program is an amazing extension of that dedication.”
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