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Now parents are overwhelmed with well-meaning advice from a variety of sources on infant care as well and breastfeeding, before they leave the hospital. As lactation consultants, we want to tell parents they are doing a good job. We know that encouragement from a health care provider improves breastfeeding initiation and duration rates. Yet many families worry about whether or not their babies are “getting enough”. It is a common concern amongst mothers across the world. Parents want to know what things to watch for in the early weeks and how to know they are being successful. Lactation Consultants need to listen to parents concerns. There are articles and blogs on the internet that scare parents about breastfeeding. Their concerns are real and should not be dismissed as a “nervous new parent”. After we listen, we can support them by providing the appropriate anticipatory guidance to give parents objective standards, so THEY can evaluate if their babies are “doing great”.
What does that mean? Instead of saying, “you’re doing great, mom” as a parent is discharged from your hospital, describe to them what you see and how they compare to these objective measures. Some scripts many nurses and lactation consultants find helpful are:
*Show them how their baby is hydrated, “see how the baby’s mouth is wet and moist”. Or “notice how your baby’s pee doesn’t smell like urine? That is exactly what we expect.” Or “today your baby is one day old and you noticed those uric crystals. You should not notice them when you are home. If you do, you may want to contact your pediatric provider or lactation consultant”.
*“Continue to write down the pees and poops to know if your baby is transferring colostrum. Remember, what goes in, comes out! If the baby has >3-4 wet and >3-4 bowel movements per 24 hours, that is a good sign that the baby is transferring well. The poop should be yellow in color by day four. Keep a chart by the changing table or use an app, which is shared by all who are caring for the baby, to help you keep track. Everyone is tired and may become forgetful in the first few days you are home.”
*“If, during the first week of life, the baby goes more than 24 hours without a bowel movement, contact the pediatric provider or lactation consultant. It may be a sign that the baby is not sucking in a way to transfer the milk.” It is highly correlated in the research that if, during the first week of life, a baby does not have a bowel movement in 24 hours, the baby is not transferring adequately, and thorough evaluation is necessary.
*Show them how to tell WHEN their baby is swallowing, indicating a nutritive suck.
*Tell them HOW you know the baby is transferring appropriately. “We expect babies to lose weight in the first few days. Your baby has lost 5% of birth weight, which is in the range of normal weight loss. The baby may continue to lose weight for the next 24 hours. It is ok and we expect a baby to begin to regain birth weight around day 4 or 5”.
*” The first night or two when the baby is home, it is normal for the baby to be awake at night. Their circadian rhythms are opposite of yours. They are a bit jet lagged! Expect the baby to wake at night and feed almost every hour on the hour. It doesn’t mean that your baby isn’t getting enough. The output is what tells you that. Their wakefulness shows you they are ready for a feeding. They will get into a better schedule to be up more during the daytime soon.”
Nipple pain and trauma are a top reason why people stop breastfeeding. Many families want a skilled nurse or lactation consultant to evaluate the latch prior to discharge or in the early days. Instead of saying “the latch looks good to me”, explain how it looks appropriate:
* “You seem to be in a comfortable position to bring the baby to the breast.”
* “The pillows you are using have brought the baby up to the level of the breast.”
* “Keeping the baby’s nose near your nipple will help the baby to open more widely.”
* “Notice how your baby’s mouth is open wide before you bring the baby to the breast.”
* “Holding the baby’s neck with your hand can help to guide the baby to the breast.”
* “Creating a sandwich of your breast with your hand can help to orient the breast to the baby’s mouth and allow for a wide latch.”
* “You should feel tugging and pulling of the breast and nipple but not pain.”
If a mother is in pain, it doesn’t matter that the latch “looks good to you”. It matters what it feels like to her. Nipple discomfort in the early days is common but not normal. She needs to find a solution otherwise, she will stop breastfeeding, either temporarily or permanently. Please refer to the appropriate lactation consultant for a more thorough evaluation.
Show them how they are capable to care for their baby. Telling them they are doing a good job without demonstrating how you know it, puts their need for an evaluation into someone else’s hands. Give them the tools they need to be successful.
What are some of the things that you say to parents to give them the confidence they need to know they are doing well with breastfeeding?
Provider encouragement increases initiation and duration rates:
Concern about whether baby is “getting enough”.
International Lactation Consultant Association: Guidelines for the Establishment of Exclusive Breastfeeding (2014) (Can be found at ILCA.org)
Reaching our Sisters Everywhere (ROSE) holds an annual Summit to engage and educate breastfeeding leaders who are on the front lines of supporting families in their communities. Breastfeeding rates amongst Black and Latinx families are lower than their white counterparts. https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/data/reportcard.htm and https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/resources/breastfeeding-trends.htm
This year’s theme was achieving health equity through breastfeeding
NAPPLSC sponsored a “retreat” prior to the ROSE summit. A retreat sounds nice, right? Discussing real issues facing our communities, being inspired, maybe some self-care involved for lactation support providers. The event was called the Amazing R.A.C.E.: Rejuvenating A Community of Excellence. I should have realized that it would not be what I envisioned, when the organizers told us to wear comfortable shoes!
Teams were randomly chosen and we were told to get to know each other quickly because we would need all the skill sets of our members, to succeed. The goal was to come up with an innovative program to support breastfeeding families. To brainstorm, create a vision, operationalize and implement with measurable outcomes. Final presentation was the next day.
Five people in our group with many years of serving breastfeeding families, this project should have been a piece of cake. HOWEVER, the organizers found creative ways to get us out into the city. They would tempt us with additional funding if we won a contest. They would provide a clue via Facebook LIVE. Our team would need to figure out where the next grant opportunity announcement would be presented, and RUN to that location. To win the funding for the mini-grant, we had to create and upload social media videos, MEMEs or participate in a spoken word competition. Clues were given at all times of the day and night. Therefore, we had to break up into smaller groups to sleep or work on creating those products to win contests.
This experience was a real-life example of how challenging writing grants to fund breastfeeding projects can be. We don’t live in a bubble and exclusively write grants. We have work responsibilities, family
obligations and LIFE. While this event was completely different than what I expected, I had a good time getting to know others from around the country. To listen to each other, add our skill sets and background to create a fantastic final presentation. I can’t wait to see what NAPPLSC will create next year. I hope to see you ALL there!
Katie Hinde is studying breast milk’s status as the first superfood, providing babies with invaluable microbes custom-tailored to their individual needs, via an incredible and unlikely dialogue between the mother’s enzymes and the baby’s saliva. And in studying the marvels of human breast milk she strongly advocates for a society and health care system that will support the breastfeeding goals of all women.
Katie Hinde Associate Professor, Director of the Comparative Lactation Lab in the Center for Evolution and Medicine and the School of Human Evolution and Social Change at Arizona State University. Click the link below to view her TED Talk.
Maybe her March Mammal Madness can be your inspiration for your next World Breastfeeding Week event! http://mammalssuck.blogspot.com/
Lactoferrin is one of the miraculous substances found in breastmilk which helps the infant kill bacteria and fight infection. It is the major whey protein in human milk and has its highest concentrations in colostrum. While it is important for all infants, it is especially important in the prevention of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) in preterm infants. Lactoferrin has an anti-inflammatory action that may mitigate the pro-inflammatory states present in the gut before the onset of NEC. This highlights the importance of mothers providing early feedings of colostrum and fresh mature milk to prevent necrotizing enterocolitis in their premature infant.
Researchers are experimenting with recombinant lactoferrin use in preterm infants and showing a benefit in reducing NEC. In recombinant DNA, molecules of DNA are recombined into sequences that would not otherwise be found in the genome. Recombining DNA is possible because DNA molecules from all organisms share the same chemical structure. They differ only in the nucleotides, the subunits of DNA and RNA, in the gene sequence.
Lactoferrin is present in cow’s milk in lower levels than found in human milk. And the process of creating formula lowers those levels even further. So, exogenous sources of lactoferrin must be added to formula if it is to match human levels. Recombinant human lactoferrin can now be obtained from yeast, transgenic cows, and rice which have structural similarity to endogenous lactoferrin.
There is already an infant formula manufacturer which is marketing Enspire™ containing lactoferrin in the range found in mature breastmilk. This formula uses bovine sourced lactoferrin and is being marketed for use in any baby, not necessarily NICU infants.
Why are research dollars being spent on developing a protein that mothers can provide to their own infants? Why don’t we spend the research dollars refining our techniques on how to best help mothers of premature infants provide their own lactoferrin, provide the best breast pumps, a place to pump, “rooming in” in the NICU and facilitate lots of skin-to-skin holding? In addition, when the mother is supplying her own lactoferrin, she is also colonizing the newborn's GI tract with beneficial bacteria and lowering stress levels in both herself and her infant.
Liao Y, Jiang R, Lönnerdal B. Biochemical and molecular impacts of lactoferrin on small intestinal growth and development during early life. Biochem Cell Biol 2012 90: 476–484.
Lönnerdal B, Jiang R, Du X Bovine lactoferrin can be taken up by the human intestinal lactoferrin receptor and exert bioactivities. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr 2011 53: 606–614.
Satué-Gracia MT, Frankel E, Rangavajhyala N , German JB. Lactoferrin in Infant Formulas: Effect on Oxidation. J. Agric. Food Chem., 2000, 48:10:4984–4990
Sherman MP, Adamkin DH, Niklas V, Radmacher P, Sherman J, Wertheimer F, Petrak K Randomized Controlled Trial of Talactoferrin Oral Solution in Preterm Infants. J Pediatr. 2016 Aug; 175:68-73.e3
Sherman MP, Sherman J, Arcinue R, Niklas V. Randomized Control Trial of Human Recombinant Lactoferrin: A Substudy Reveals Effects on the Fecal Microbiome of Very Low Birth Weight Infants. J Pediatr. 2016 Jun;173 Suppl:S37-42.
Sherman MP, Pritzl CJ, Xia C, Miller MM, Zaghouani H, Hahm B. Lactoferrin acts as an adjuvant during influenza vaccination of neonatal mice. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2015 Nov 27;467(4):766-70.
Sherman MP, Miller MM, Sherman J, Niklas V. Lactoferrin and necrotizing enterocolitis. Curr Opin Pediatr. 2014 Apr;26(2):146-50.
Sherman MP. Lactoferrin and necrotizing enterocolitis. Clin Perinatol. 2013 Mar;40(1):79-91.
Sherman MP, Petrak K. . Lactoferrin-enhanced anoikis: a defense against neonatal necrotizing enterocolitis. Med Hypotheses. 2005;65(3):478-82.
Sherman MP, Bennett SH, Hwang FF, Yu C. Neonatal small bowel epithelia: enhancing anti-bacterial defense with lactoferrin and Lactobacillus GG. Biometals. 2004 Jun;17(3):285-9.b, c
In the initial installment of this series, we discussed the swinging pendulum of breastfeeding rates across the nation, as highlighted by the CDC’s most recent Breastfeeding Report Card. Among the data are outliers on both ends of the spectrum that warrant a closer look. Over the course of the next four installments, we’ll hear from lactation supporters who are in the trenches in four cities that are performing demonstrably different compared to the total US average and compared to the Healthy People 2020 benchmarks. We’ll discuss what is working to reach families in a unique way in each city, then at the end of the series, we’ll explore state and national efforts to increase accessibility to lactation support across the nation.
As we delve into the challenges and victories occurring in various areas, one factor that is hard to ignore is demographics. Do extenuating factors such as the mother’s sphere of influence or race or line of work directly impact breastfeeding? In short, absolutely! Income, age, education, race, and even language spoken impact healthcare experiences. This is consistent with breastfeeding and the types of support that are available in some communities as well. Breastfeeding success today requires a delicate balance of support and encouragement from many parts of a community; access to current, evidence-based information provided by relatable and available sources; and a work environment that supports pumping breaks and milk storage. The absence of any one of these factors can upset the entire system and almost certainly lead to failure.
Without question, the worst performing area in this country in terms of breastfeeding initiation and duration is the deep south. With consistent averages of 10-20 points below the US average of 81.1% of babies ever breastfed, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee together represent a cluster of states where unique challenges like those listed above create a dearth of support and a veritable first food desert. Take Mississippi, as an example. The Breastfeeding Report Card assessed Mississippi as simultaneously having the lowest breastfeeding rates AND the lowest number of lactation support providers available (both free and paid). Success and support go hand in hand.
In the face of the lowest ratings in the nation, there are some methods that seem to be making progress. Taking a closer look at what is working allows for some insight into some of the tangible challenges, and allows for some exploration of replicating that success in further parts of this region. Looking at Tennessee specifically, we find that breastfeeding initiation rates are trending 10 points behind the national average. Not surprisingly, the data also shows a consistent lag across all the measured categories, including the number of lactation supporters per 1,000 live births. Per the TN.GOV site, some obstacles that exist within the state to prevent mothers who have the intention to breastfeed from achieving success are:
How Does Race Factor In?
Sadly, breastfeeding trends are often illuminated when broken down by race. Using almost any breastfeeding metric in the US, White mothers outperform their Latina and Black counterparts. This is even more true in communities that are segregated, which often translates into differing levels and quality of care for those mothers in underserved groups. Latino breastfeeding rates lag White mothers, but the gap is narrowed or widened depending on their country of origin and level of assimilation. This layered and complicated phenomenon will be a focus when we turn our attention to the western region.
Black mothers lag behind the general US population, white mothers, and Latina mothers in every breastfeeding metric, from a national to a local level. This creates a dire situation in many majority-Black cities where ill newborns could be greatly helped by the benefit of mother’s milk, and Black mothers could also be helped by the benefits of breastfeeding. Efforts like Black Breastfeeding Week were created to overcome the obstacles that Black mothers face and to highlight breastfeeding within the Black community to normalize it. With a Black population of over 950,000, Tennessee has a need for year-round, focused breastfeeding support that gets to the heart of the Black community and its specific challenges.
BSTARS: Memphis, TN
To gain a first-hand perspective of the impacts this type of focused programming and initiative could have on the lives of mothers at the local level, I had the opportunity to speak with Ms. Jada Wright Nichols, one of the founders of BSTARS in Memphis. She provided insights to better understand her program and the challenges that necessitated its inception. BSTARS’ mission is to support, protect, and promote Black women as they choose to breastfeed. Their work is impacting Black families in Memphis by combatting several of the listed obstacles to breastfeeding success in Tennessee. They are working to build a supportive community armed with confidence and solid information about breastfeeding. The template they have developed is tailor-made to fit the needs of mothers in Memphis, yet is flexible enough to plant elsewhere, and expect similar success.
Can you tell us about the inception of BSTARS?
Breastfeeding Sisters That Are Receiving Support (BSTARS) began in Memphis, TN out of the need to address the low breastfeeding rates amongst mothers of color in the city, while also highlighting those who do breastfeed, but often go unnoticed. Memphis has some of the lowest breastfeeding rates, highest infant mortality rates, highest breast cancer (and diabetes, and obesity) rates, highest poverty rates, and highest segregation rates in the country. We hope that helping to improve breastfeeding rates through consistent and accessible education and support, will also help to bring some of these other social and health issues into balance. We were created through the generous cooperation of the Shelby County Department of Health, Shelby County Breastfeeding Coalition, and Atlanta-based Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere (ROSE).
How has the organization grown/evolved since it began?
We began with a hearty level of interest. At our first official meeting, we had certified lactation counselors, WIC peer counselors, lactation consultants, nurses, and physicians of color all eager to support pregnant and nursing moms.
At each meeting, we discuss a health topic and how it relates to breastfeeding, while also offering skilled breastfeeding support. We have had speakers from the community to address nutrition, exercise, postpartum mood disorders, smoking, birth control, safe sleeping, and family support. We have a solid group of attendees, but as the topics change, so does the make-up of each month's group, depending on the needs and interests of the families. We love being able to support the entire family. We regularly have partners, sisters, mothers, and grandmothers present to hear the same information as the mothers. We always have a lite meal, and an area for children to play or do homework. We are in our second year and growing strong, heading toward becoming our own 501c3 organization.
How is the community better off due to your presence?
Thanks to several of our signature events, Memphis has a greater awareness and appreciation of breastfeeding moms within the city. We have a community baby shower where we distribute pack-n-plays, car seats, nursing pillows, and pumps to 30 families. We have an annual walk along Historic Beale Street and throughout downtown Memphis to promote breastfeeding, health, and sisterhood. We have many community sponsors for this event, including Hooters - our favorite. Perhaps most impactful, we organized a one day breastfeeding symposium, which attracted healthcare providers from 4 states to gather to hear about current research and initiatives in breastfeeding. We were greeted by city officials excited about supporting breastfeeding, and we heard from some of the top voices in the field of lactation. We also have an intimate Facebook group, wherein moms of color ask questions and document, with pride, their breastfeeding journeys.
Could something like BSTARS be duplicated elsewhere?
Absolutely! We are already discussing its replication in a few communities and we are happy to help any others who are interested.
It’s a little too soon to see empirical data on the effectiveness of BSTARS. However, historically, the type of focused attention that BSTARS provides yields notable increases in mother confidence, breastfeeding initiation, and duration. Anecdotally, Memphis physicians have already noted that Black mothers seem to be inquiring more about breastfeeding, and breastfeeding for longer periods since BSTARS launched. There is great promise and potential at the local level for closing gaps in breastfeeding and BSTARS is one shining example of how it can be done. Next up, we’ll look at trends in the Western US and explore a program that is focused on groups that are still challenged, even amid high breastfeeding rates in their state.
If you would like more information about BSTARS, please contact founder and director, Tiana Pyles at firstname.lastname@example.org or Memphis BSTARS on Facebook.
We have taken, as gospel, the guideline of weight loss of greater than 5-7% (7-10% in many circles) as dangerous for newborns and requires supplementation – for years. Is this an arbitrary line in the sand, or serious research?
What do you mean that the research upon which this guideline is based might be flawed? That data was incompletely gathered, sample sizes were too small, formula supplemented infants were not excluded or the supplementation was not recorded. Was the weight loss effect of maternal IV fluids during labor considered? The recent article in the Journal of Human Lactation Weighing the Facts: A Systematic Review of Expected Patterns of Weight Loss in Full Term Breastfed Infants questions the foundation of these guidelines. And this is not the first time the data supporting the weight loss guidelines has been challenged. Noel-Weiss did so in 2008.
The consequences of over-diagnosing excessive weight loss are many. The mother’s own breastmilk could be expressed and used as a supplement but often that is not considered, and the handy bottle of formula is offered. Volumes are often excessive. That formula bottle contains virtually unlimited amounts of supplement, compared to the volumes the baby would be consuming at the breast, if breastfeeding was going well.
Then there is the disruption to the gut flora. And the sensitization to cow’s milk through the porous newborn gut wall. Even one bottle can make a difference.
The possible physical sequela are a concern, but the most serious problem with incorrectly identifying an infant as losing too much weight is the damage done to the mother’s breastfeeding intention. “Well, from the start, I didn’t get this right”. So, what does it matter if I offer a bottle when the baby cries and I am tired, or I when I go for my OB check-up, and then one when my home is full of guests and I might be embarrassed, and then when I go out for a while with friends, and then, and then…. It starts a slippery slope. When a mother hears that her baby is losing too much weight she not only questions the adequacy of her breastmilk but of her mothering capacity.
So, who will do the research, the right way, and get reliable guidelines? We then can prevent the serious complications of hypernatremic dehydration in a few infants and preserve the breastfeeding relationship during the dip in weight before the mother’s milk comes in, in many infants. Research methods have improved, more researchers are looking at these issues and we owe it to our breastfeeding babies and mothers to get this right.
Thulier D. Weighing the Facts: A Systematic Review of Expected Patterns of Weight Loss in Full-Term, Breastfed Infants. J Hum Lact. 2016 Feb;32(1):28-34.
Noel-Weiss J, Courant G, Woodend AK. Physiological weight loss in the breastfed neonate: a systematic review. Open Med. 2008;2(4):e99-e110.
My first baby, born in 1975, was premature at 34 weeks gestation, cared for in an excellent NICU for its time. There was little communication to parents, no visits into the unit, no contact with baby until discharge, no mention of how you might intend to feed your baby. It was understood that breastfeeding was too hard for premies, and no mention of breastmilk by pumping. After 18 days, I took home a tiny "puker", allergic to most formula tried in the first year. I became an NICU nurse in 1978, began to hear about benefits of breastmilk, was exposed to a two day course on brestfeeding in 1999, that led to my becoming certified. That was only the open door. Lactation affords me opportunity to support breastfeeding, mother the mom, and fulfill my mission to God for this calling.
Breastfeeding prevents allergies. No it doesn’t. Breastfeeding helps prevent obesity. No it doesn’t. Breastfeeding babies have higher IQs later. No they don’t. It is dizzying to follow the research reports on the benefits of breastfeeding. Just when there are several studies showing a certain benefit, there comes along one that demonstrates otherwise. What in the world is going on?
I think that “Summarizing the health effects of breastfeeding” gives a good clue to what is going on. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/apa.13136/epdf. The act of breastfeeding is so complex in terms of how long, how much, supplements given, pumped breastmilk, timing of feedings, mother’s supply, feeding method, and so on. The milk is so complex in terms of daily variations, monthly variations, variations over the course of breastfeeding, genetic variations, and so on. The family in which the breastfed baby grows up is so complex in terms of maternal nurturance, life style, socio-economic influences, parental education and so on. The variables in any research study are enormous and although researchers attempt to mitigate those variations in the design of the study, it is virtually impossible to take them all into consideration. So we get research that is contradictory. If the new research not outright contradictory, at a minimum, it may draw differing conclusions.
So, just when you feel comfortable making a claim about a facet of the superiority of breastmilk, know that some research will come out that says something different. Studies that are replicated and come out with similar results are the most reliable. Be critical when you read research. Are there variables that were not considered in the study design? Who funded the study? Do the results support the conclusion?
Don’t be shaken by the fluctuations in published literature. Breastfeeding is more art than science.
After years of ousting breastfeeding moms, calling security and generally harassing women who breastfeed in their stores, Target now has a Breastfeeding Policy that is exemplary.
Breastfeeding Guests may openly breastfeed in our stores or ask where they can go to breastfeed their child. When this happens, remember these points:
OMG, did a LC write this?!
Now the rest of you retailers, follow Target’s lead. They have hit the target on this one!
I’ve participated in the Nestle Boycott for more than 25 years now. And I have been teaching about the dangers of formula discharge packs in every class I have taught the past 25 years, our lactation consultant training program, our Baby-Friendly Hospital program, in live courses, in online courses.
But those are puny efforts compared to the courage and sacrifices of Syed Aamir Raza Hussain who blew the whistle on artificial baby milk marketing practices in Pakistan.
The new film, “Tigers” exposes the aggressive tactics of companies in promoting the use of infant formula in places where its use is inappropriate. Where there are no facilities for clean water and the cost of formula is exorbitant compared to the poverty in which new parents are living. When Syed learned about the consequences of his marketing efforts, he quit his job and went on a campaign, with the help of IBFAN, to stop the use of formula where it can cause malnourishment and diarrhea, even death.
I encourage you to seek out where Tigers will be showing near you and make a point to view it. http://www.babymilkaction.org/tigers#monitoring You will wonder why you haven’t been doing more. Like I have.
(Addressing the Healthy Beginnings Partnership of Greater Prince William VA & Alexandria VA Breastfeeding Promotion Committee celebration, April 7, 2015)
There is a perspective you achieve having been in the lactation field for most of a career; for me it has been more than 30 years. I took the IBLCE certification exam the first time it was offered, in 1985. Back then there were no pre-requisites, just a desire to offer breastfeeding support. Eat your heart out - those of you who are taking 90 hours of training and hundreds of hours of clinical practice! But the changes have been good for the profession as there is so much more to know now, and we hit the ground running as a new IBCLC with a much better background.
Thank you to the La Leche League Leaders here who kept the torch burning during the years when breastfeeding rates hit their low point and the medical professionals were seduced by the claims of the artificial baby milk companies.
We have since developed organizations to foster information sharing and program collaboration; The International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA) and the United States Lactation Association (USLCA) for lactation consultants. The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (ABM), is specifically for physicians.
We have international organizations also working to promote breastfeeding and limit the use of artificial breast milk worldwide. The World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) promotes World Breastfeeding the first week in August each year. And the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) keeps track of compliance with the World Health Organization Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes. The “Code” limits the marketing of artificial baby milk.
The Baby Friendly Initiative has made huge strides in promoting the hospital conditions that promote the successful initiation of breastfeeding. There are now 250 hospitals designated as Baby Friendly which amounts to about 12% of babies being born in “ideal” breastfeeding circumstances. So there is certainly work to be done here as more hospitals address their policies and procedures to improve breastfeeding support.
The Office of Women’s Health (part of the Federal Government’s Health and Human Services) has primarily supported employed breastfeeding mothers and encouraged employers to provide facilities and time to enable breast pumping at work.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has developed a “Breastfeeding Report Card” benchmarking policies and procedures in hospitals. This allows administrators to compare their services and outcomes to other hospitals in their state and the nation.
Back in the day, we used to lament that there was no research on breastfeeding issues. That has certainly turned around. Now there is so much lactation related research in so many health science journals, it is hard to keep up.
Breastfeeding Coalitions, sponsored by the United States Breastfeeding Committee and the CDC, are active in all states and sometimes several coalition and workgroups are active in an area. I congratulate you in your efforts here in Northern Virginia to expand breastfeeding advocacy and support.
Laws ensuring the right of a breastfeeding mother to feed her baby in any public place have been enacted in almost all states. Congratulations to you for moving this through the Virginia legislature.
So, over the past 30 years, there have been tremendous changes in the breastfeeding landscape that is gratifying to see. I am sure I have not mentioned all of the groups involved or activities of concerned professionals. When you have a bad day, you encounter an “uneducated” health professional or a breastfeeding mother who did not receive the support she needed at the time she needed it, just think about all the improvement that has occurred over the past 30 years and keep the faith. Working together we are making progress!
I heard a quote recently that “Breastfeeding is part of mothering, not the point of mothering”. And I thought back on all of the mothers I have worked with over the years who desperately wanted to breastfeed but were running into problems; some easy to resolve, others seemingly unsurmountable complications. There have been mothers who endured sore nipples for months, breastfeeding/pumping/cup feeding around the clock, or repeated bouts of thrush or mastitis. Hero’s? Yes!
I have, at times, given a mother “permission” to supplement or to stop. Some have gratefully accepted the out, and others have done so with overwhelming guilt and sadness. Some have hung in there despite the problems. It seems some mothers have gotten the message that it is imperative to breastfeed. Exclusively breastfeed; supplement at your baby’s peril. Breastmilk is magic, to be sure. However, pushing moms to the edge is not part of mothering, and it is not the point of lactation consulting. Suggesting alternatives until we come upon the one that fits for this mom and baby is the point of lactation consulting.
We have a breastfeeding dyad here. Both must benefit physically and emotionally. What can we each do to prevent the kind of difficulties that get moms into those unsurmountable complications to start with? And what can we do to resolve them quickly? That is the point of lactation consulting.
Breastfeeding is a (REWARDING) part of mothering but, not the point of mothering!
I remember my experience following around Lactation Consultants at Georgetown University Hospital over 20 years ago. Those LC’s made a huge impression on me and I made several decisions about how I would or would not practice from those experiences.
Recently, I started working with Lactation Education Resources and began taking interns. Sometimes I think we see students as a burden, as rounding will take more time and there are always questions to answer etc. But, I have to say our experiences with these interns has been amazing. They are so excited and interested in what we are doing and beam when they have made progress. It made me remember that this his is how I was in the beginning too, and sometimes it’s hard to get that energy back.
These interns really remind us why we do this job of helping breastfeeding couplets. Our interns say thank you to us every single day and also say they have found that niche they have been looking for. They also keep me up on my reading research articles, looking at new products and going to seminars. If you want to get your enthusiasm back, support an intern- You won’t be disappointed.
We all know how important skin-to-skin (STS) contact is for a newborn and his mother. Most hospitals are moving towards immediate skin-to-skin for all newborns (breastfeeding mothers or not) in our delivery rooms! But what about the operating rooms?
At a time when families are under the additional anxiety of a surgical delivery, skin-to-skin care increases family togetherness and satisfaction with the birth. We have known for years that a cesarean delivery delays lactogenesis II and negatively affects breastfeeding duration. With a cesarean rate of 33% in many areas, this is an issue that affects many families.
A systematic approach makes this change more acceptable to all involved: nurses, obstetricians, anesthesiologists and lactation consultants. An organized process of planning, testing a pilot protocol, staff training will reduce the anxiety of all staff. Involve stakeholders from all disciplines in planning and executing the changes. An influential champion can provide the leadership to engage staff and create enthusiasm for the process of change. Finally, implement a preliminary protocol and refine it as needed, then make it policy.
Continual surveillance is needed to assure that the procedural changes are incorporated into practice and maintained and that there is no back-sliding into old habits. Analyzing the improvement in Quality Assurance measures can reinforce the hard work of the staff.
How this skin-to-skin procedure is implemented will vary from hospital to hospital depending on their facility and their staff. But Moms, infants and families will benefit as skin-to-skin becomes a normal and routine practice.
Want to explore this further?
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At this time of year, when we are scrambling around to find the perfect present for everyone on our gift list, let’s remember that breastmilk is the gift that lasts for many holiday seasons.
In fact it is a whole pile of gifts for everyone in the family: the baby, mother, and family as well as the community at large. And these gifts are free! Now where do you get a gift, that keeps on giving, for free?!
Here is wishing a years’ worth (or more) of breastmilk for every baby, mother, family!
You have seen it, a mother who runs into every problem possible as she attempts to begin breastfeeding. One problem is solved, another one pops up. How do these lactastrophies happen?
Usually it is related to a series of unwitting and unintentional circumstances during the newborn period in the hospital.
Perhaps it was no skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth
Or no initial feeding during the first hour after birth
Or separation of mom and baby for the initial bath, routine newborn care, or temperature stabilization
It could be a sleepy and sluggish baby due to maternal anesthesia during labor and/or surgical delivery
Maybe it was a lot of intrusions from visitors, cell phones or care providers interrupting the privacy of mom and baby
Maybe it was separation with the baby in the nursery so mom could sleep
Or a bottle of formula due to the infant’s excessive weight loss
Sometimes it is excessive IV fluids during labor causing both pathological engorgement and excessive infant weight loss
Sometimes is it a poor latch that leads to cracked nipples that leads to mastitis
Or a pacifier used to calm a baby when all he really wanted was to be held and fed
Perhaps to mother requests formula feeding due her misperception she has “no milk “ and then her baby learns to prefer the bottle nipple
Or the mother’s confidence is shattered in her ability to breastfeed by inconsistent or even incorrect advice from her nurse or physician
We can stop this from cascading into a lactastrophe by getting mom and baby together right from the beginning, avoiding separations and the need for supplementation. If we as a team of health care workers get most of this right, we can help avoid the next problem.
But if many of these events occur, it is a lactastrophe waiting to happen!
Thank you to Alison Stube MD for coining the term lactastrophe and for inspiring this blog.
I read recently the article on how difficult it is to get new research into practice. (Pravikoff DS, Tanner AB, Pierce ST. Readiness of U.S. nurses for evidence-based practice. Am J Nurs. Sep;105(9):40-51; 2005.). The author says it takes 17 years for research to make an impact on practice. And that change in maternity settings takes the longest. Why is that?
I did it that way
For the most part, nurses working in maternity are already mothers. They have made their choices about feeding and caring for their infants, long before they are confronted by research that perhaps shows that they did not make the best evidence based decision. Who would want to think that they did not do the best for their own children? So, the “my kids turned out fine” argument supersedes the research that shows otherwise.
Sometimes it is a matter of habit. We are learning that habits are neural pathways that have become hard wired in the brain. They are ways we have done something so often that the thought or the act of doing something different is difficult to change. It requires real effort.
Take the example of doing the baby bath. You learned to do the initial baby bath during the first hour or so of life. You have done it that way for so long that it is “hard wired” into your brain. That is how the bath is done. Neural pathways are set and it takes some effort to get the brain impulses to travel over different pathways.
Maybe it is even hard wired into your institution. There are policies and procedures that mandate that the first bath be done during the first hour of life. Even before the family has had a chance to really bond or breastfeed their baby. Now, that is going to take some effort to change the hard wiring in your institution as well in your practice.
It is possible to change. We used to think that neural pathways were set by adulthood and the brains physical pathway was permanent. Modern research has demonstrated that the brain continues to create new neural pathways and alter existing ones in order to adapt to new experiences, learn new information and create new memories. Here are some suggestions for unlocking the neural pathway rut and changing your thinking.
There are some who see a new idea and accept it readily (Innovators). There are some who see a few people doing things a new way and see the advantages (Early adopters). The Early Majority will adopt the new idea more slowly, but they will get there. Then there is the group of people who follow along what most people are doing (The Late Majority). And the final group is the Laggards. They will adopt the innovation after much resistance and social pressure.
So the trick is to engage the innovators and the early majority in making the change you want to see. Then allow them to spread the change throughout the staff.
Fear of the unknown
Changing a practice or policy leads the staff into the unknown. What could possibly change as a result? Could there be unintended consequences? Address concerns that change will bring. Who would change when they don’t see what the future will bring or that they aren’t sure they know how to do the new task. Talk about what can go wrong and have a plan for addressing it. Training will be the key in addressing the unknown and making it a “known”.
So if you are the change leader, plan how you can best accomplish your change. Gather your innovators and those in the early majority to assist you in planning and implementing your change. Address the staff concerns and determine ways to break old habits. Provide training to address the unknowns and make the change safe.
Good luck! ;-)
Our current acting Surgeon General, Boris Lushniak MD MPH, gave a rousing address to the attendees at the United States Breastfeeding Coalition conference held in Arlington, VA on August 4. His main message? Let’s go retro!
Dr Lushniak spoke about 3 “retro” actions that he believes will improve the health of the nation:
Walking, Cooking at home and Breastfeeding
Walking: What is retro? We used to walk everywhere we went: to school, to shop, to visit friends. Cars were for long trips. Not anymore. We tend to get in the car and drive everywhere we need to go. We might even drive our car from one end of the shopping center to the other if we go to both ends for the stores we want to visit. We could walk. Americans need to get out of their cars and walk more. And we can walk more just for fun and recreation.
Cooking: What is retro? Home cooked meals. And back in the day they were prepared from local ingredients. Not anymore. Americans are relying more and more on fast foods, precooked foods and convenience foods. These often have been processed so they have minimal nutritional content and fiber. They also often contain unhealthy amounts of salt, sugar and fat, and they cost more.
Home cooking affords the family the benefit of fresh foods prepared at the time of the meal to preserve the most nutrient value. It also usually means that the family sits down to eat together. In a busy family this may be the only time in the day that the family unit is together to talk and share.
Breastfeeding: What is retro? Every baby was breastfed for extended periods of time. The only alternative was a wet nurse. Not anymore. Artificial baby milk is everywhere. We are coming out of a period when breastfeeding was in severe decline. Thankfully, that has turned around and national breastfeeding rates are climbing to over 77%. We know well the benefits to the health of the baby and mother. There are also benefits to the family and cost savings to the health care system.
So let’s go retro by walking more, cooking more at home and breastfeeding!