August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month, and Tuomey Healthcare System is celebrating how far its staff has come on becoming a Baby-Friendly Hospital.
“We were chosen as one of 90 hospitals nationwide to participate in the ‘Best Fed Initiative,’” said Barbara Kenawy, registered nurse and clinical nursery manager. “It was a national grant process from the S.C. Breastfeeding Coalition to help us educate the staff.”
Earning the designation of “Baby-Friendly facility is a comprehensive, detailed and thorough” process using “evidence-based maternity care with the goal of achieving optimal infant feeding outcomes and mother/baby bonding,” according to babyfriendlyusa.org. It also requires adhering to the “Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding.” These steps include such practices as rooming in where the baby remains with the mother in her room instead of being taken to a nursery.
“Rooming in allows mom to learn the baby’s wakeful cues and ask the nurse questions,” said Amy Chappell, registered nurse and lactation consultant.
The thought used to be that mothers got more rest with the baby elsewhere, but recent studies have shown they sleep better with the baby in the room, said Susan Gaymon, director of Tuomey Healthcare System’s women and children’s services division.
Staff members have been trained in these steps, and they have been implementing them for more than a year now.
“We’ve made great progress,” Gaymon said. “It’s been a big cultural change.”
By now it is becoming part of the normal care of mamas and babies, Kenawy said.
“People are not so much discussing it as doing it,” Chappell said.
Members of the breastfeeding committee meet weekly to discuss hospital policies and procedures as well as information being provided to patients. An integral part to that team is the support mom, Gaymon said.
“She helps us interpret the educational material through mamas’ eyes, not nurses’,” she said.
Katie Hodge delivered her second child at Tuomey nearly two years ago but is otherwise not connected with the hospital.
“I really like it,” she said. “We’re making good progress, and it really helps moms and babies.” She has also started a monthly breastfeeding support group.
Hodge first learned about the importance of breastfeeding with her first child. Her daughter, who turns 6 in October, was born at 26 weeks. Most babies are considered full term at 37 to 40 weeks.
“At first she was tube fed, and I was able to pump milk for her,” Hodge said. “Then she was able to go to the breast and finally to a bottle. It was giant that I was able to do so. It was the difference between living and dying.”
Kenawy agreed, explaining that premature babies’ digestion systems often cannot handle formula, and that leads to part of their gut dying. This means surgeries to remove pieces of the system and to set up a waste-removal process.
But breastfeeding is also beneficial for full-term babies.
“The importance of nursing the first six months cannot be overstated,” Chappell said. “It reduces the risk of obesity and saves money.”
Obesity can lead to problems such as diabetes and respiratory ailments.
“We have 5- and 6-year-olds coming in with sleep apnea from being overweight,” said Delany McDonald, registered nurse and clinical manager of the children’s center.
While breastfeeding is highly encouraged, staff will also support mothers who wish to use formula.
“Moms-to-be are worried we will not have formula and they have to bring their own,” Gaymon said. “They don’t have to bring their own. We have formula. It’s the mama’s choice. We just want them to make an educated choice.” For more information, visit the Baby Fair on Sept. 7 that is being sponsored by the Tuomey Women and Infants’ Services.