Once a baby is born, many new parents are faced with immediate questions about breastfeeding. PeaceHealth has made it a mission to help mothers with this critical time in their baby’s life by offering lactation consultations at their PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center in Vancouver. Leading the charge is Maggie Leyburn, lactation program coordinator. Leyburn worked as a labor and delivery nurse for 12 years and has spent the last 9 years coordinating the lactation program.
“Our lactation consultations are available to any mother with the goal of educating about breastfeeding,” says Leyburn. “Often we see new mothers who have never held a baby and need help with the logistics of breastfeeding. But we also see mothers who may not be sure if breastfeeding is for them or who are experiencing problems and are unsure what to do.”
Lactation consultations begin shortly after birth. A Family Birth nurse assists with the first feeding. “If a patient requests or if the RN feels the family may need additional specialized help with breastfeeding, lactation will come help,” says Leyburn. Lactation consultants will meet with the mother and her newborn to make sure she knows what she needs to do and to answer any questions she may have before she leaves the hospital. All of the PeaceHealth lactation consultants are board certified.
“Our fantastic team is well trained to offer many services to make sure our mothers and their babies have the best start possible to their new life together,” Leyburn says. “From shortly after birth when we show them how to nurse, to aftercare support once their baby is at home, we are here for them.”
On Going Care
After the initial consult, mothers return two days later to meet with their lactation consultant. The baby is breastfed and then weighed to ensure they are gaining the proper amount of weight. If they have had a weight loss of ten percent or greater since birth, the team at PeaceHealth puts them on an individualized feeding program to ensure proper development and growth. “We also screen for jaundice and illness in the baby,” says Leyburn.
Part of the program includes Breastfeeding Classes and Support Groups. The breastfeeding classes and prenatal support groups are for mothers and their chosen partners and are free. These classes teach on a wide variety of topics from labor, birth and of course, breastfeeding from those first few hours of life through your baby’s first few months. Breastfeeding Support groups are for moms and babies only, meet every Thursday and are also free. Those with babies that are birth to four-weeks meet from 12:00 p.m. – 1:15 p.m. Babies one month and older meet from 1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.
PeaceHealth knows there are many benefits to both mother and child when breastfeeding takes place. There is a reduced risk of breast cancer in the mother, as well as lower rates of type 2 diabetes. Mothers also lose their “baby weight” quicker when they breastfeed.
The health benefits for the babies are plentiful as well. Babies who are breastfed are three times less likely to be hospitalized for health-related issues. And they are at a lower risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Child leukemias are seen less in breastfed children. They also tend to have higher IQs. “On the emotional side, we see an increase in satisfaction and bonding between mother and child when they breastfeed,” says Leyburn.
Breast milk changes as the baby ages, to adapt to what their body needs for development. It does this in ways manufactured formulas cannot duplicate.
But PeaceHealth understands that breastfeeding is not for every mother. Sometimes there are complications with the breast or breast tissue and they are not physically able to feed. Others may feel cultural or family pressure to not breastfeed. For these mothers, the lactation consultants at PeaceHealth are there to offer support and answer questions to ensure mother and baby are doing what’s right for them – whatever is the healthiest option. “If a mother can’t breastfeed or does not want to, we need to support them without making them feel guilty,” explains Leyburn. “Guilt is not healthy for either mother or baby and at the end of the day our goal is to have healthy, happy children and healthy, happy, educated mothers.”
Baby Friendly Designation
As part of their commitment to mothers and babies, the PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center is in the process of becoming a Baby Friendly Designated Hospital. This designation was created to improve maternity care practice in health care systems. In order to become designated, PeaceHealth must follow their 4-D pathway to designation, which includes implementing the Guidelines and Evaluation Criteria, passing an on-site assessment, verification of policies, quality improvement projects, staff training and competency verification and more.
“We feel this designation is a sign of our commitment to local families and we are excited to complete the process,” says Leyburn.
To learn more about the lactation consultation services, including classes and support groups, visit the PeaceHealth website or call 360-514-BABY (2229). If you think you need extra help, talk to your doctor about being referred to PeaceHealth’s Lactation Services program.