Welcoming a new child into your family is both exciting and scary for many new parents. Breastfeeding can also be a challenging time for new moms, but GRH’s Baby-Friendly designation ensures that all new moms receive the help and support they need to succeed in breastfeeding.
Joanna Harris, a lactation consultant at GRH with over 10 years of experience as a childbirth nurse, offers her tips on helping new moms succeed and feel confident in breastfeeding.
What is a lactation consultant?
A lactation consultant is a professional breastfeeding, or lactation specialist, who is trained to teach and support women who are learning to breastfeed their baby or who are experiencing difficulties with breastfeeding.
How do you help new moms in the hospital who are learning to breastfeed?
Lactation consultants provide both individual and group instruction to mothers who have delivered their babies in the hospital or who have a baby in our neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). We use a variety of methods to help moms learn how to correctly position and latch their babies to the breast, how to know if their baby is feeding well, and how to avoid some of the common challenges new mothers face.
After meeting with a mother and her baby we work with her and her partner to develop a feeding care plan that meets her goals and the needs of her baby. Along with practical teaching and instruction, lactation consultants also provide new mothers with emotional support and encouragement as they learn to breastfeed.
What services do you offer new moms who have already been discharged from the hospital?
We see many new mothers and their newborns in our bilirubin, or newborn screening, clinic. This clinic provides post-discharge follow up to those babies who have been discharged at less than 24 hours of age. We provide a lot of teaching and support to new mothers regardless of how they are feeding their babies, and we assess each baby for jaundice.
Grand River Hospital achieved a Baby-Friendly designation from the World Health Organization and UNICEF in 2008. Can you tell me what this means for the hospital and our patients?
Being designated as a Baby-Friendly hospital demonstrates our commitment to providing the highest standard of care to infants.
Delivering your baby at a Baby-Friendly hospital like GRH means you can count on receiving the support necessary when learning to breastfeed. Parents can be assured that the hospital has implemented a set of best practices that have been shown to support a mother's goal to breastfeed; such as 24-hour rooming-in, early initiation of breastfeeding after delivery, and not giving baby anything other than breast milk unless otherwise medically indicated.
The Baby-Friendly designation benefits all babies, not just those who are breastfeeding. All families, regardless of how they choose to feed their baby, can count on receiving consistent care, information and advice.
What are the top five tips you would give a new mom regarding breastfeeding?
Be prepared: during your pregnancy learn as much as you can about breastfeeding (BF). Attend a prenatal BF class, read a book about how to BF and/or look at reliable websites such as the La Leche League (LLL), talk with friends and family members who have breastfed; and learn about what resources are available in your community. Knowing more about how breastfeeding works and what to expect in the first weeks after your baby's birth will help you feel more confident.
Establish a support network: If you are committed to breastfeeding, talk with your support people, your partner in particular, about your desire to breastfeed. Their support in the early days after your baby's birth will be very important. Ask your partner to attend a prenatal BF class with you. Your partner will feel more empowered to help you and your baby master breastfeeding if he/she understands how breastfeeding works and knows what to do to be supportive.
Begin breastfeeding your baby as soon as possible after birth: At most births, GRH care staff will place your baby on your chest immediately after birth and your baby will be ready to learn to breastfeed soon afterwards. Most newborns will start trying to breastfeed in the first hour or two after birth. We encourage you to keep your baby near the breast and skin to skin for those first few hours to give your baby that important opportunity to start learning.
Understand that breastfeeding takes time to learn. Most mothers will tell you that it takes 4-6 weeks for breastfeeding to become easy and 'natural' so make time in the first month to spend a lot of time with your baby learning to breastfeed. Try to limit visitors and interruptions during this time and make breastfeeding and getting plenty of rest your top priorities.
RELAX! Spend time enjoying your baby and bonding with your baby. Skin to skin is one way to bond with your baby (and it also helps babies learn to breastfeed sooner), but there are many ways to bond with your baby: bathing, rocking, singing and reading stories are just some of the ways that you and your family members can bond with your baby.
What is the biggest breastfeeding challenge experienced by new moms, and how can they overcome it?
I would say the biggest challenge is a lack of confidence. It is normal to worry about your baby and have lots of questions. There are a lot of supports available in the hospital and in the community. The best way to overcome this is to prepare yourself and learn as much as you can before your baby is born. The more you know, the more confident you will feel about yourself and your ability to breastfeed.
If someone is interested in becoming a lactation consultant, how does one go about it?
You can start by talking with an IBCLC or by visiting the www.iblce.org website. How you prepare to be certified as an IBCLC depends on your professional and educational background.