More new moms at NorthBay Medical Center are choosing to exclusively breastfeed their babies than ever before. New statistics had staff celebrating this spring, when they learned that nearly 40 percent more new moms have made the decision to give their babies the healthiest start possible than just one year ago, according to Cindy Stade, R.N., lactation support coordinator.
In February, 72 percent of patients who gave birth at NorthBay Medical Center opted to exclusively breastfeed their babies. Another 24 percent said they planned to use a combination of breastfeeding and formula, which means only 4 percent planned to exclusively use formula.
“This is great news, and it coincides with our efforts to become a Baby Friendly Hospital,” explains Deborah Thorson, director of Women’s and Children’s Services.
That journey is part of a four-phase process, which began nearly a year ago, when NorthBay Medical Center was one of 90 hospitals around the country selected to participate in Best Fed Beginnings.
It’s a program developed by the National Improvement of Childhood Health Quality’s collaborative to advance perinatal services and breastfeeding education to improve long-term health for women and children.
About the same time NorthBay was chosen to be in Best Fed Beginnings, it also launched an outpatient lactation service for new moms.
“We recognized that budget cuts in local organizations have reduced the number of lactation consultants available,” explains Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer Kathy Richerson. “This is a service specifically aimed to help the uninsured and under-insured in our community.”
Although breastfeeding is one of the most effective preventive health measures for infants and mothers, about half of all U.S. born babies are given formula within the first week, and by 9 months, only 31 percent of all babies are breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding: For moms with full-term, healthy babies. Every Tuesday from 12:30 to 2 p.m. in the Women’s Resource Center in the Gateway Medical Building, on the same campus as NorthBay Medical Center in Fairfield. Free. Call (707) 646-5024.
NICU Moms: For moms whose babies spent time in NorthBay’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Classes are on Thursdays from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. on the second floor at NorthBay Medical Center. Call (707) 646-5024.
According to Richerson, the hospital experience plays a big role in influencing a mother’s ability to start and continue breastfeeding. “We are committed to implementing evidence-based care through the Baby-Friendly designation process,” she said. “This will ensure that mothers delivering in our facility who intend to breastfeed are fully supported.”
It starts with birth, of course. Cindy, along with lactation consultants Abbie Hoag, R.N., and Christi Tenret, R.N., will visit new moms to make sure they have the support they need. They coach, encourage and invite moms to come back and visit NorthBay’s ongoing breastfeeding support groups.
Cindy offers one group for moms with full-term, healthy babies, and another for those who are learning to nurse the “graduates” of NorthBay’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
“We separate the two groups, because the needs and issues are different,” explains Cindy. “Right after birth, we put a lot of emphasis on the value of skin-to-skin contact with mom and baby, within the first two hours of life.
“It makes such a difference. It helps with the baby’s temperature, mom’s milk supply and the baby’s blood sugar regulation.”
Staff in the Women’s and Children’s Services Department have all been educated on the value of breastfeeding and are quick to encourage moms who show an interest.
“Some moms come in thinking they want to bottle-feed, but once they have the skin-to-skin contact, they change their minds. We’re here to support them in whatever choice they make. We want them to know that breast milk is the healthiest choice possible, but if that doesn’t work for them, we teach them how to use formula or a combination of the two.”