Editor’s note: Presence Covenant Medical Center is a sponsor of Chambanamoms. World Breastfeeding Week is Aug. 1-7, celebrating the gift of breastfeeding for babies and mothers.
For Part I of our series on giving birth at Presence, click here.
The early periods of breastfeeding can be among the most challenging a mother will face upon the birth of her child.
Presence Covenant Medical Center is providing the resources to help mothers feed their babies, whether they be first-time moms or experienced moms who have been through the process.
“Breastfeeding is like a milestone,” said Casey Anderson, one of three certified lactation consultants at Presence. “As a culture, we don’t quite look at it as a milestone. We know that walking and talking are milestones, but in the first few days of life, breastfeeding is a milestone. They reach these milestones, and we want moms to know that we want to meet you on each milestone. We want to be there every step of the way because we know it can be challenging but also very rewarding.”
Anderson recommends expectant moms take an active role in breastfeeding before the baby is born.
“We know early education with breastfeeding is very important,” Anderson said. “We offer free prenatal and breastfeeding classes every other month. We encourage all moms that want to breastfeed to take that class. We touch on what to expect here, how to prepare at home, the importance of skin-to-skin and early breastfeeding. Things that may be normal, and things that might be outside of normal and how we can help with that. The prenatal classes touch on breastfeeding, but we have a breastfeeding class about two hours long every other month.”
Once the baby arrives, labor and delivery nurses facilitate the early moments of breastfeeding.
“We’re the experts for the first 48 hours,” said Jared Brown, a labor and delivery nurse, “helping you get the initial latch, the proper compression and direction of the breast, getting the baby’s mouth open, looking for feeding cues. Whereas the lactation consultants have a few extra tricks and can also work with you for weeks, months, years on out.”
Nurses can initiate breastfeeding immediately.
“I’ll do a latch for mom even though she’s out,” Brown said. “So mom can be completely passed out and we’re facilitating the breastfeeding. It happens even with some vaginal deliveries when moms are exhausted.”
A lactation consultant typically sees mom the next morning, providing emotional and educational support as well as physical.
“Debunking myths is an important thing, but also individualizing the care because each person’s experience is different,” Anderson said. “Each person’s body is different, each baby is different. Once we give those general benefits to moms, then we hone in on their individual needs.
“Moms have heard certain family members or friends tell personal experiences, but we really try to educate with evidence based, not our own personal experiences. That can help at times but we want to give them the education that is researched, that we know. For example, early skin-to-skin increases your milk supply early on. We know babies latch sooner and easier if moms and babies are not separated, and babies get to go to the chest early. We know that keeping mom and baby together in the room is crucial for breastfeeding success. So we don’t staff our nursery anymore. We encourage all procedures that are appropriate to be done at the bedside. We even have found that our hearing screens and our normal newborn procedures, babies do best when they latch – so we’ll do all of that even when the baby is nursing.”
The earliest moments can be the most frustrating, particularly for first-time moms. Anderson, who has been certified for more than three years and a nurse for six, wants to ease those potential difficulties.
“We (used to say) make sure you feed your baby every two to three hours. Putting that number in someone’s mind really structured it. You and I know that kiddos don’t feed every two to three hours; they feed when they’re hungry,” she said. “We have equipped the moms and dads and partners to know what the hunger clues look like, how your baby can tell you that she’s hungry. Feeding on demand and not structuring those feeds unless it’s medically indicated that we need to. Our goal is every baby gets to breast within one hour of their vaginal delivery, and within two hours for C-sections. That means we delay the baths, we delay the medications, we delay the things that, as nurses, we used to say, ‘Oh, we have to get this done.’ An initiation of breastfeeding is more important.”
Support doesn’t end once mom leaves the hospital.
“Once you get home it can be a totally different experience,” Anderson said. “The support we have here is free outpatient appointments. Every mom goes home with an education folder about breastfeeding but also about community resources. So they can come back here and be seen by one of the lactation counselors. We do those appointments every morning. I saw two moms this morning, one that delivered three weeks ago and one that delivered two days ago. We also work closely with some of the local private lactation counselors, Jody Fan and Theresa Hardy. La Leche League and WIC have tons of great breastfeeding support. At two to three days postpartum, I do follow up phone calls for every mom.”
There’s also a Facebook breastfeeding support page – a private group called Presence Health Breastfeeding Support – “that’s a huge success,” Anderson said, with close to 500 members. “They can direct message a lactation counselor and there is just tons of peer support.”
Complications can arise, of course, which might encourage a mother to use formula. Presence counselors work to find ways to avoid formula whenever possible.
“We know that formula is a great tool to have and in the developed world we should feel so lucky to have that, too. But if things are going well, and baby is doing well, we try to avoid early supplementation because the milk is tailored to the baby,” Anderson said.
“It’s a great gift that moms have, and the power that women have to feed their own baby like that. We want women to feel empowered and to know how special that is.”
For more on the birthing process at Presence, click here. And check out our next article on Chambanamoms!