LMH breastfeeding support group gets babies, moms, dads off to a solid start
- on September 13, 2011
Even if you didn't notice the tiny, fragile bundles of new life in their arms, you can spot the first-time moms whose infants are just days old just by looking at their faces. It's as if someone has dropped them onto an alien planet where they're expected to navigate proficiently when they don't know the language and it's a different century.
Maybe somebody HAD told them it was going to be hard for a while, that they'd be doggone tired because they don't sleep for more than an hour or two at a time. But they didn't say just HOW hard it would be. And they didn't explain just how zombie-like they'd feel. And breastfeeding? Wasn't that supposed to be natural and easy? But now it's just plain overwhelming and many are scared that they're just not going to get it right.
And then you look at the moms whose infants are three months old. Or who have just had their second child. Veterans. They jiggle their babies on their knees, and at the first sound of discomfort aptly interpret their baby's desire for clean diaper, burping, food or change of position. They provide solid comfort to the newbies that it's going to get better, that most babies are tougher than they appear to be and relatively forgiving of their parents' bumbling.
Every Monday morning at 10 a.m., a group of moms, dads and babies gather at Lawrence Memorial Hospital for advice, comfort, friendship, and camaraderie, just as moms, dads and babies have come together here nearly every week for more than 10 years. They receive expert advice on breastfeeding and caring for their babies from lactation experts, weigh their babies, and spend 90 minutes chatting, feeding and burping infants, and changing diapers. The rooms buzzes with chatter, squalling infants, laughter, and sometimes tears. Older siblings, usually toddlers, streak and shriek playfully around the perimeter. A roving center of calm amid the chaos is Melissa Hoffman, LMH community education specialist and trained lactation nurse. She's also Kansas coordinator of Postpartum Support International.
The goal is to have moms breastfeed their babies for at least six months, explains Hoffman. The women form friendships and bonds outside the group, including play groups, moms nights out, stroller walks, etc. A community of about 200 moms in Lawrence and Douglas County gathers virtually on the Mommies for Mondays Facebook group. The Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health Department has started another breast-feeding support group that meets in the evenings and caters to working moms.
Less than 5% of U.S. babies are born in "Baby-Friendly" hospitals, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control's Breastfeeding Report Card.
To be a "Baby-Friendly" facility, a hospital has to jump through quite a few hoops, according to the Babyfriendlyusa.org site. In fact, they call it a "lengthy journey". You can find the details on their site.
Although LMH doesn't have one of those designations, it has integrated the “Ten Steps To Successful Breastfeeding” into its practice for healthy newborns, says Hoffman.
So, these are the 10 steps to successful breastfeeding for hospitals in the United States, as outlined by the World Health Organization and UNICEF, the United Nations International Children's Fund, followed by information from Hoffman how LMH has integrated the steps into its service.
- Have a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all health care staff. LMH has written infant nutrition policies, one for breastfed babies, and another for formula-fed babies.
- Train all health care staff in skills necessary to implement this policy. New nurses in the Family Birthing Center take a three-hour breastfeeding education class, and everyone attends annual skills classes and meetings that provide updates. They gain experience working with inpatients and outpatients at the infant nutrition center on the hospital's third floor.
- Inform all pregnant women about the benefits and management of breastfeeding. All pregnant women who receive care at LMH ob/gyn offices receive information about breastfeeding and are encouraged to attend a class. The two family practices in Lawrence also hand out this information.
- Help mothers initiate breastfeeding within one hour of birth. Yes -- that's when babies are most alert, says Hoffman. After that, they go into a sleepy phase that can last a couple of days. Before the baby is passed around to the rest of the family, it's best to make sure baby and mom have that skin-to-skin contact, that the baby latches on to mom's breast and becomes familiar with the smell of being close to mom. "This increases the success of breastfeeding by 80 percent," says Hoffman.
- Show mothers how to breastfeed and how to maintain lactation, even if they are separated from their infants. In the cases where a baby cannot be with mom, the nursing staff encourages mothers to pump breast milk right away to stimulate breast milk production. And breast milk is given to the baby in a way that won't interfere with breastfeeding, via a syringe or spoon.
- Give newborn infants no food or drink other than breast milk, unless medically indicated. "Absolutely," says Hoffman. "Breast milk is enough. There's no need for anything else."
- Practice “rooming in”-- allow mothers and infants to remain together 24 hours a day. "Absolutely," says Hoffman.
- Encourage breastfeeding on demand. This is where some important education comes into play, says Hoffman. "With newborns, there's no such thing as a schedule. Listening to their cues is the best thing you can do." About eight to 10 years ago, a book called "On Becoming Babywise" advocated putting infants on a schedule convenient to parents. Not so, says Hoffman. "We do recognize that parents may see some predictability in their infants, but not by the clock. They may not like feeding every hour for several hours in the evening, but they do begin to recognize it's necessary, because the baby's hungry. That's why the support group is so necessary, so at 3 a.m. they won't feel so alone." They can tell themselves that it gets better, that parenting won't feel like this all the time, that once their baby goes through the amazing growth spurts during the first 6 weeks, time between feedings will lengthen.
- Give no pacifiers or artificial nipples to breastfeeding infants. "Pacifiers are given only with parents' request, to avoid nipple confusion," says Hoffman. "We advise not giving an artificial nipple -- a pacifier -- to an infant for the first three or four weeks, or until the baby is well established in breastfeeding."
- Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refer mothers to them on discharge from the hospital or clinic. When moms leave LMH, they're given information on where to get help, the phone number of the infant nutrition center, the time and location of the two support groups. The only thing that isn't available in Lawrence is a visiting nurse to make an at-home visit for every new infant, something that Hoffman supports.