There’s no doubt breastfeeding promotes good health and is a great way for moms and babies to bond – but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy.
Regional One Health understands that, and has made a commitment to promoting breastfeeding not only during August’s National Breastfeeding Month, but all year long. That commitment includes education and support for patients as well as a unique program through which women can donate excess breast milk to help babies in need.
“The main things we want patients to know are that any mom can breastfeed as long as there are no medical contra-indications, and that there is support available,” said Sharonda Taylor, RN, a lactation consultant at Regional One Health. “Our team sees every new mom, breastfeeding or not. Sometimes once we talk to them about the benefits and offer support, they give it a try.”
The support starts even before baby arrives.
Expectant mothers can attend a free breastfeeding class that covers all the basics, focusing on two of the biggest challenges: finding the right hold and establishing a proper latch.
Taylor aims to provide options so women can decide what works best for their baby.
A football hold, with the baby to the mom’s side, is great for moms with a C-section incision. A cradle hold, the classic way of holding a baby, works for larger infants; while a cross-cradle, where the arms switch places, is ideal for smaller babies. At night, Taylor suggests patients try nursing side-by-side – just remember to put baby back in his or her own bed for safe sleeping.
As for latch, Taylor said learning from an expert can be extremely helpful to avoid the most common cause of pain associated with nursing. Lactation specialists can show moms how to aim their nipple to the baby’s upper lip and nose, tilting the baby’s head back slightly.
While the class is designed for women to attend while they’re pregnant, lactation specialists keep working with moms after their babies arrive, Taylor said.
In the hospital, they visit every post-partum patient to offer hands-on help. Before a patient is discharged, they provide information about breastfeeding support groups and Tennessee’s Breastfeeding Hotline, 855-4BFMOMS (855-423-6667).
The outreach doesn’t stop there. Earlier this year, Regional One Health started a program where lactation specialists follow up with new moms by phone at three, 10 and 30 days post-birth. Taylor said patients can also call anytime with questions or to make outpatient appointments.
“We make sure we have resources available for our patients at all times,” she said. “We want to normalize breastfeeding so more women will give it a chance.”
The health care system even makes it possible for women to help others by donating their excess breast milk.
Regional One Health is home to Memphis’ only Milk Depot for the Mother’s Milk Bank of Tennessee (milkbanktn.org), a nonprofit that lets women go through a screening process and then provide milk for preterm and ill infants.
“It feels good to us to do that because we use donor milk here in our NICU,” Taylor noted.
Promoting breastfeeding is a priority to the health care system, and Taylor said that’s because it helps moms and babies bond and maintain good health.
Breastfeeding lowers babies’ risk of childhood cancer, obesity, diabetes, gastrointestinal issues, allergies and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and improves immunity:
“Antibodies mom has developed over her lifetime are passed to the baby, so they don’t get sick as much,” Taylor said.
Moms enjoy a decreased chance of breast cancer and diabetes, plus quicker post-partum weight loss: “Mom is going to burn about 500 calories a day from breastfeeding alone!” Taylor said.
Taylor said it appears the news is getting through to patients.
When she started at Regional One Health six years ago, breastfeeding rates were low; now, she estimates between 50-70 percent of patients at a given time are giving it a chance.