When Abigail Richardson was born by Cesarean section, her mother, Rebekah, worried that it might interfere with successful breastfeeding. Because Susquehanna Health is on its way to becoming a Baby Friendly Hospital, everyone involved in their care was motivated to help them be successful with breastfeeding.
Rebekah’s research convinced her that breastfeeding was the best choice for her baby. Breast milk is baby’s perfect first food helping with digestion and nutrition while boosting an infant’s immune system and supporting a child’s ability to learn. It also helps prevent obesity and chronic diseases later in life. Breastfeeding benefits mom by shrinking her uterus to pre-pregnancy size, helping her lose “baby weight” and reducing her risk for certain cancers. The emotional benefits include a demonstrated decrease in risk for postpartum depression for moms who are successful at breastfeeding. Families benefit from the reduced cost of breastfeeding over formula.
To facilitate breastfeeding, staff makes keeping families together a priority. Rebekah saw Abigail immediately after birth and as Rebekah’s surgery was completed, her husband, Thomas, stayed by Abigail’s side for weighing and initial testing. Not more than ten minutes later, they all arrived in the recovery room for family bonding. Lactation consultant Natalie Mccullen, RN, IBCLC, offered suggestions for a holding position that enabled Abigail to get a good latch and her first dose of breast milk.
“Being able to breastfeed gave me a connection with Abigail that I wouldn’t have had otherwise,” says Rebekah. “To know that I could provide anything that she needed, including nourishment, gave us a stronger connection in those early days that we continue to have today.”
Baby Friendly Hospital is a designation from Baby-Friendly USA, Inc. which is awarded to hospitals and birthing centers that offer optimal care for infant feeding and mother/baby bonding. To date, just three hospitals in Pennsylvania have the designation which requires adopting the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding. These steps, which cover policy development, training for staff, physicians and families, hospital procedures and follow-up support for breastfeeding moms, were developed by a team of global experts and are evidence-based practices that increase breastfeeding initiation and duration. Susquehanna Health’s goal is to become Baby Friendly by 2016.
“Breastfeeding is part of a special mom-baby relationship—one that is a natural, but not always easy, part of childbirth. As part of providing optimal care for our patients we’re helping more moms be successful with breastfeeding,” explains Natalie. “Through the Baby Friendly initiative more staff know how to help moms who are breastfeeding, and because breastfeeding is more top of mind it’s gaining broader support. Simple practices, like keeping moms and babies together, promoting skin to skin contact and learning babies’ instinctual feeding behaviors, support overall success.”
Abigail initially lost 10 percent of her birth weight partly because she couldn’t stay awake to complete feedings. Natalie and peer volunteers in the lactation program offered Rebekah several different approaches to try. They also helped Rebekah learn how to pump breastmilk to maintain a good supply.
“They gave us many ways to succeed until we found one that worked for us. They helped give us confidence that we were doing the right thing, and really involved my husband and gave him ideas for how to be supportive,” says Rebekah.
After discharge from the hospital, Rebekah participated in the Baby Café, a lactation support group that meets weekly at the James V Brown Public Library and the Life Center at the new YMCA. There Rebecca and other breastfeeding moms check on their babies’ weight gains and meet with a lactation consultant to troubleshoot problems. Finding other moms who share her goals helps Rebekah continue to be successful.
– Rebekah Richardson, Williamsport