Skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby a few minutes after delivery makes the new mother more likely to try breastfeeding and more likely to succeed at it. Keeping the baby in a crib near her bed throughout her hospital stay, a practice called rooming in, likewise promotes breastfeeding success among new mothers by helping them quickly learn when their baby is hungry.
Highlighting such evidence-based best practices that promote breastfeeding is an increasingly visible element of prenatal education and breastfeeding classes at St. Tammany Parish Hospital through the New Family Center and Community Wellness Center. A National WIC Association Healthy Mothers and Children grant to the Community Wellness Center provides additional education and support to local mothers about breastfeeding’s significant health benefits to mothers and babies alike.
“The Healthy Mothers and Children grant will make a huge difference in the lives of mothers and children in our community,” said Charley Strickland, executive director of the St. Tammany Hospital Foundation, which secured the grant.
Breastfeeding has been identified by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists as a best practice in the care of newborns. The goal of the expanded breastfeeding-education initiative at STPH is to help more mothers try breastfeeding their babies and breastfeed as long as possible.
“We want mothers to be prepared and educated so they can make well-informed choices about caring for their babies,” said Sandy Matthews, director of the Community Wellness Center.
Misinformation about breastfeeding and frustration with early attempts often discourage mothers from trying. Exploring best practices during prenatal and breastfeeding classes helps moms-to-be develop a full understanding of them well before they head to the hospital for delivery.
For instance, skin-to-skin contact is about more than just bonding. Such contact stabilizes the baby’s breathing and heart rate and allows the mother to transfer illness-preventing antibodies to her baby, explained Jan Waddell RN, one of five internationally board certified lactation consultants at STPH. Research also shows that extended, uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact must take place within the “magical hours” after birth to realize maximum benefit to mother and child, Waddell said.
Discussing best practices with expectant parents also provides the opportunity to counter misinformation about breastfeeding. For example, mothers whose babies room-in with them sleep as well or better than those who send their babies to the hospital nursery to sleep, Waddell noted. During classes focused on preparation, Waddell encourages moms to recruit the baby’s father or a friend or relative to serve as a member of their “breastfeeding support team” before the baby’s arrival. The team member should attend prenatal and breastfeeding classes with the mother so he or she can provide meaningful support after the baby’s birth.
“It’s important for the mom to have someone who supports her decision,” Waddell said.
Stacey Dennis understands the role of support in breastfeeding success. She hoped to continue breastfeeding her baby after returning to school when he was 4 months old. Her decision would mean pumping breast milk and juggling commutes from Mandeville to a nursing program in New Orleans.
“People told me I shouldn’t even try,” she said.
A visit to the Community Wellness Center gave Miss Dennis the shot of confidence she needed. Of course, she could succeed, lactation counselor Sharon Insalaco LPN told her. Insalaco talked the young mother through her worries, which included the fact that she had never used a breast pump.
“I walked in crying and then I walked out telling myself I was going to do this,” said Miss Dennis, who breastfed her younger son, Austin, almost exclusively until shortly before his first birthday. “There is support out there if you look for it.”
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