Mon, Aug 29, 2022 at 01:10 PM
Lactation specialists on staff at both hospitals to help new moms
Breastmilk can mean the difference between life and death for a newborn, high or low intelligence for a toddler and normal weight or obesity for a child. Science supports every aspect of mothers’ milk over synthetic, but breastfeeding rates still lag behind formula feeding. Since August is Breastfeeding Awareness month, we asked the experts in Marshall Medical Centers’ Labor and Delivery departments to share what they are doing to promote the healthiest feeding of newborns.
Turns out, a lot is being done, according to lactation specialists on staff at both Marshall North and South, where OB units have changed many policies and practices in the past several years in order to support, promote and protect breastfeeding.
“We really do want to provide the best care for our mothers and babies,” said Courtnie Chaffin, RN and a board certified lactation consultant on staff at Marshall North.
Before they ever get to the hospital for delivery, expectant moms are offered breastfeeding education classes to prepare them for what lies ahead. Upon admission to give birth, women are provided information on the many benefits of exclusive breastfeeding. Chaffin makes herself available to meet with and assist patients getting started.
“We also train our nursing staff on proper communication, assistance and troubleshooting techniques with breastfeeding.”
According to the World Health Organization, breastmilk is the ideal food for infants. It is safe, clean and contains antibodies which help protect against many common childhood illnesses. Breastmilk provides all the energy and nutrients an infant needs for the first months of life, and it continues to provide up to half or more of a child’s nutritional needs during the second half of the first year, and up to one third during the second year of life. Breastfed children perform better on intelligence tests, are less likely to be overweight or obese and less prone to diabetes later in life.
Only 1 in 4 infants is exclusively breastfed until they are 6 months old as recommended.
Chaffin has been a great source for Marshall South’s Robin Dilbeck, a 30-year veteran of nursing who recently became a certified lactation counselor. The additional education has made a world of difference, she says.
“Moms and partners and their families need the support to help breastfeeding be a success,” Dilbeck says. “There can be struggles with breastfeeding. I’m here to help with that.”
Dilbeck encourages moms to call her if they need help after they’ve left the hospital. Some young moms are shy and fearful about breastfeeding so she wants to motivate them to continue after they’re home.
“I think it’s good support for patients,” she says. “It gives them confidence. That’s the goal.”
Nurse Hailey Taylor and her husband Jaxon recently delivered baby Cooper at South by C-section. The new mom couldn’t say enough about how helpful and kind the staff – her co-workers – was during her stay.
“If I didn’t work on the unit I would still rave just as much,” she says.
Emotions spill over as Taylor described how much Dilbeck assisted her in breastfeeding.
“Robin has been a huge help to me,” she says. “I know I’m not alone. She works one-on-one with mothers. She’s doing more than just her job. I can say that about everyone during my stay. It was just perfect.”
Lactation experts know it’s crucial to start newborns on the breast as soon as possible.
“Our goal is for the newborn to latch on within one hour after a vaginal delivery and at least two hours after a cesarean section,” Chaffin says. “This early initiation and skin to skin has proven to be vital for breastfeeding success.”
McKenzie and Drew Lester have great memories of the help she received after the birth of their baby.
"I was determined to breastfeed this go around,” she recalls. “Courtnie came in to help. Riggs latched like a champ, but then things took a 180.”
The infant had to be transferred to a NICU in another hospital after he began having trouble breathing. The OB staff at North worked extra hard to help McKenzie keep breastfeeding.
“Courtnie stayed that evening to help me get hooked up to a pump and get a routine going even though my baby was in the NICU. Even through one of the best/worst days of my life, these girls remained positive and always knew the right words to say. They helped me remain strong and pushed me to be able to provide for my little boy, and now we’re going on 13 months!”
Elizabeth Gunther and her husband Josh delivered baby Oaks this year at Marshall North. Chaffin helped her not only with breastfeeding her newborn but also guided her through breastfeeding a toddler at the same time.
“I can’t say enough about the staff of MMCN as a whole,” Gunther says. “Courtnie Chaffin has a forever spot in my heart. She’s been a constant resource for almost 2.5 years.”
A relatively new practice on OB units is rooming in, which is hospital policy now. Rooming in is the practice of keeping newborns and mothers together for approximately 23 hours a day in order for parents to learn and bond with their babies. This closeness also aids in exclusive breastfeeding, as does early skin to skin contact.
“We promote, allow and encourage skin to skin contact between mother and newborn after both vaginal and C-section deliveries,” Chaffin said. “Skin to skin is also offered for fathers and other family members.”
Marshall North OB Nurse Dayleigh Wisener chose her own hospital when she and husband Jake had baby Remi earlier this month.
“My breastfeeding experience was made so special through the supportive nature of the staff at MMCN,” she says. “I was able to experience skin to skin with my baby girl, which created such an instant bond and helped her to navigate latching with ease. The staff also supported a delayed bath, allowing for a more natural experience with my baby and her senses when converting to life outside of the womb. When moving to my postpartum room, my baby was able to stay with me constantly, helping both of us to accommodate each other’s schedules with feeding. I truly believe my time in the hospital has prepared me to successfully breastfeed with confidence after my discharge.”
Studies show that delaying an infant’s bath until after successful breastfeeding sessions is best, Chaffin explains. A newborn is the most alert and eager to breastfeed right after birth. Bathing can tire them out and make them sleepy.
“We usually recommend waiting to bathe until an infant has achieved a successful breastfeeding,” she says.
A huge part of breastfeeding success is preparing moms to keep it up after they go home.
“I like to make sure that all mothers are equipped with the tools and knowledge they need to help them be successful after they are outside of the hospital setting,” Chaffin said. “I make sure that moms are provided with a breast pump or I’ll help arrange for getting a breast pump through their insurance. Every patient is provided with take home education and as well as my personal phone number for lactation assistance /advice after discharge.”
Changes appear to be paying off. Chaffin has noticed an upward trend of breastfeeding initiation and exclusivity while infants are in the hospital. The month of July 2022 has been one of the highest averages of breastfeeding with 83 percent of infants born in Marshall North being given breastmilk during their stay.
“This could be the result of the recent formula shortage, but I also feel like our staff's practices have also contributed to that number being so high,” she said. “Our goal is for that number to be even higher and to increase the percentage of infants being exclusively breastfed.”
“Breastfeeding is something that we are passionate about,” said Brandy Ross, OB nurse manager at North, where more than 330 babies have been delivered this year. “I am so proud of how far we have come to ensure that our patients have the knowledge, resources and support that they need to be successful.”
The South OB unit, which has welcomed more than 450 babies this year, has seen a 20 percent increase in breastfeeding recently, said Leanna Dilbeck, director of the Women’s Center, whose husband happens to be a cousin of Robin’s husband. The formula shortage could be responsible but whatever the cause, it’s a welcome outcome.
“I’ve heard so many positive comments during patient rounds about our lactation counselor,” Leanna says. “Even a husband talked about how much he has learned. Having it as a designated role has been instrumental.”
After a lapse through the pandemic, Leanna plans to restart breastfeeding and childbirth classes this fall. Her nurses will be teachers and the classes will be open to anyone delivering at Marshall Medical.
Nurses accept that not all moms are able to or want to breastfeed, and they respect their choice without judgment.
“I want every patient to be empowered, educated and prepared to make the decision if they want to breastfeed or formula feed, and I try my best to support them with whatever decision they make,” Chaffin says. “I never want a mother to feel judged. I want her to feel like she's the best mom ever.”
She believes new moms could benefit from a breastfeeding support group in Marshall County, and is planning to create one.
“I hope it will help new moms develop relationships and support outside of the hospital to help them with their journey,” she said. “We want to help our patients achieve their goals whether breastfeeding or formula feeding.”