Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Community Perspectives on Breastfeeding Support at the Birth Center

Welcome to our second blog post celebrating World Breastfeeding Week 2010. Yesterday, U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley guest blogged about the importance of supporting mothers and babies to breastfeed. Today, we invite women, families and the community to share their experiences with the lactation services available at the PeaceHealth Nurse Midwifery Birth Center by completing an online survey. Tomorrow, Janie Akerlund guest blogs about her more than two decades’ experience working as a nurse and lactation consultant in Lane County.

Baby Friendly care at the 
Nurse Midwifery Birth Center

A year and a half ago, the future of the PeaceHealth Nurse Midwifery Birth Center was uncertain. PeaceHealth and the community worked together to clear obstacles and Lane County enjoys ongoing access to a new and beautiful freestanding, out-of-hospital birth center. (Take a virtual tour of the new facility.)

Before the Birth Center’s future was secure, families and community members reflected on what its absence would mean. In our letters and petition comments, many of us emphasized the critical role Birth Center lactation services play in initiating and maintaining breastfeeding.

We have since learned that the breastfeeding care we describe as lifeline-like is not magic or luck but rather the outcome of the Birth Center practicing comprehensive, evidence-based breastfeeding care. Specifically, the Birth Center practices the “Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding” and is officially designated "Baby Friendly" by the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative.

To celebrate World Breastfeeding Week, Friends of the Birth Center invites parents, extended family members, friends and supporters to share their experiences with Baby Friendly care via an online survey. Our perspectives, as recipients of this critical care, can encourage Lane County maternity service providers to make Baby Friendly baseline for everyone. Anonymous results will be shared with staff and administrators of Lane County hospitals.

Breastfeeding is a family and community affair. Convey this by having your partners, extended family and friends respond to the survey by August 17, 2010.

In the mean time, here’s what community members had to say about evidence-based Baby Friendly care at the Birth Center in 2009:

Both breastfeeding and transitioning into being a parent were a lot more difficult than I anticipated and the caring and compassionate staff at the Birth Center helped me through it.

When our daughter was about 3 weeks old, I started to have problems with breastfeeding. She wasn’t getting enough milk and therefore wasn’t gaining enough weight. It was a very scary and frustrating time. Through the constant support of the lactation nurses, we have been able to continue breastfeeding through her first birthday! If it weren’t for their unfailing support, we wouldn’t have made it to through her fourth week.

We had various challenges after delivery with the establishment of nursing, and the lactation consultants were always there for us in person or via phone to listen and offer advice. They even met us on weekends and holidays to allow us to track our son’s weight. There were times when I thought we might give up on trying to breastfeed our son, but after many weeks, my wife and son were finally successful at nursing. I attribute this in a large part to the staff at the Birth Center and the support we received from them.

The follow up by the Birth Center after my granddaughter’s birth has been more than I could have ever dreamed of having. I have gone with my daughter and granddaughter for a weekly “check in” at Baby Clinic. You can’t put a price tag on how important that kind of support is for a new mother. In the waiting room are mothers, fathers, and babies of all sizes.

My first birth was an unsatisfying high-tech, low-touch experience that left me dazed and, ultimately, deeply dissatisfied. Recovering from surgical birth was not easy especially as I mightily struggled to initiate breastfeeding and establish myself as a mother for the first time. My obstetrician’s practice employed a lactation consultant but she was hard to reach, pressed for time and, in the end, not helpful despite my repeated calls. Following my first son’s birth, I felt alone without anyone knowledgeable in breastfeeding and infant care with whom to check in.

I had my second son, a vaginal birth after cesarean, with the Birth Center. Watching first-time moms receive the Birth Center’s breastfeeding services as a matter of course was revelatory – this is how it’s supposed to be! Receiving this care the second time was wonderful and life altering as I not only thrived and enjoyed initiating breastfeeding the second time but loved doing it an community of other women where help from a friend or a provider was always within reach.

My daughter gave birth in July at the birthing center.  The midwife and the lactation specialists were incredibly encouraging, kind, & informative to my daughter as well as the rest of us in the room.  Following the birth, my daughter continued to ask many questions about breastfeeding for several weeks.  The lactation consultants always took their time listening to her concerns.  Without their encouragement, I am doubtful that she would have been able to continue breastfeeding.  Also the baby clinic was a wonderful way to check her baby's progress and connect with other mothers.  Having a baby and the follow-up she received was a far superior method of having a child than what I experienced long ago in the hospital with my births.  I can't imagine Eugene without this center. 

The Birth Center also provided me with the support I needed to continue breastfeeding my newborn through the first few difficult days. I made many friends on Tuesdays in the lobby of the Birth Center that first year.

… the excellent after care that I received at the Birth Center and the expert lactation advice that gave me the sense that the consultant was always there for me when I needed to call with questions and concerns. She knew me. She cared consistently and she never tired or expressed anything other than hope.

The Birth Center is such a special place for my family and me. They know me and my child by name. The Birth Center has been a great place to meet other moms and families through the birthing classes offered and the weekly baby clinics. We have made strong and lasting connections that strengthen our abilities to be the best parents that we can be.

Friend of mother
… delivery went smoothly but there were nursing difficulties. Within a half-hour of birth, the midwife and her assistant were providing information and assistance which were key to the nursing process, and which in my experience are rarely available in larger hospital settings.

My husband and I received education and information through the prenatal visits, the breast feeding class and child birth classes, that allowed us to make educated decisions about what was best for us and our baby.

The follow up care from the first home visit to the many consults with the lactation consultants, to the numerous visits to the baby clinic, have provided me with continued support to successfully nurse my baby (even through teething!).

I was allowed to hold my daughter, skin-to-skin, from the moment she was born. There was no pressure to breastfeed immediately or bathe her before I was ready too. I, personally, had problems with breastfeeding and they help my daughter and I figure it out without me feeling like I was failing as a mother.

My husband and I attended birth classes at the center, and found them valuable even as second-time parents. I have since visited the free baby clinic numerous times for information, support, and camaraderie with other mothers. I can honestly say that without the baby clinic and on-call lactation specialists, I would not have breast-fed my son past the first month. He is now 9 months old and I feel confidant and comfortable breast feeding at least to his first birthday, which was a personal goal of mine. I credit the supportive staff and community atmosphere of the birth center in making this possible.

My son thrived, but I continued to go to the well-baby clinic for the reassurance of tracking his growth and the camaraderie of the other new mothers.

Mother and father
We even called for support from the Birth Center lactation consultant in the middle of the night while we were still in the hospital and she made all the difference in easing our worries.

Our favorite aspect of the Birth Center has been the weekly baby clinic. My family has found the baby clinic invaluable for lactation support as well as helping enhance our sense of community with our fellow new parents.

We are again enjoying the benefits of the baby clinic and have recommended the Birth Center to many friends.

After our baby was born, I had an amazing experience of holding him on my chest for two hours. Annie took care of all the members of our growing family and checked on us throughout the night. We went home at 7am to start our new life with a baby. She noted we were having some difficulties with nursing, but gave me some suggestions of how to assist him in learning this important first skill.

I was recovering well from delivery, but we were continuing to have difficulties with breastfeeding. This visit started a very close and important relationship for our family with Hope and the other lactation consultants at the Birth Center.

Over the next 8 weeks, we visited the Birth Center (and Hope or Annie) at least twice a week to weigh our son, who slowly started to learn how to nurse and gain weight. Hope called me at home over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays (and many other times) to check on how we were doing. On several occasions, I also talked to the other lactation consultants, Annie and Janie, on the phone with a variety of concerns.

Each time I called with a new problem (often in tears), I felt that my concerns were treated with the utmost respect and concern. Ultimately with their wonderful care and support, we were able to determine the causes of my nursing problems and associated pain and find ways to resolve the problems.

Hope, Annie, and Jude never gave up on finding solutions for me. They suggested books to read, lactation tools to try, and foods to eat. Hope recommended that we visit Tuesday Baby Clinic to meet and talk with other Mamas.

Every Tuesday, I felt that I was wrapped in a new community that cared about me, my husband, and our son. This community encouraged us even on the most difficult days when it felt like I would never be able to breastfeed.

I had always envisioned myself breastfeeding my children. One day, almost magically, when our son was four months old, nursing stopped hurting, and we were able to nurse just like I had imagined. Nursing is a skill that he has perfected, and now, one year later it is hard to image all of the problems that we had with our rough start. However, I do remember that I could not have continued learning how to breastfeed and survive the early weeks of motherhood without the love and support that I received from the staff of the Birth Center.

In an era where families are scattered around the globe and women do not share in the common experiences of pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding with their female relatives, we need places like the Birth Center.

After the birth, I continued to discover the uniqueness of the services at the birth center. I had heard about baby clinic during my consultation with Hope, the lactation consultant, and when my daughter was three weeks old I brought her to baby clinic for the first time. The benefits of baby clinic were two fold. For one, I got incredible ongoing breastfeeding support from the nurses and assurance that my daughter was indeed thriving. The simple 5 minute visit each week put my mind at ease to all of the little worries I was having about caring for my newborn.

Additionally, knowing that I could call a nurse 24 hours a day and receive breastfeeding support made me feel at ease. I was never fearful of a middle of the night incident sending me over the edge because I knew help was always available.

The second benefit of baby clinic is perhaps even greater than the first and that is the community that is created each week in the living room of the birth center. Mothers come together and talk, share, and support one another. Any topic related to new motherhood, newborns, or postpartum experiences is open for discussion.

The first time I went I felt right at home with all of the other breastfeeding mothers. In those early weeks of motherhood and breastfeeding it saved my sanity to have a place I could go and be with other nursing mothers who were also learning how to breastfeed our babies.

I quickly made friends with a few other new moms. I looked forward to seeing them each Tuesday and I am convinced that this support network is a big reason that I did not experience any postpartum depression. It is almost a year since my daughter’s birth and I am still close friends with many of the women I bonded with at baby clinic.

I chose the birth center because the midwives and staff are committed to natural birth and it is one of the only places in our community that natural birth is fully supported on a daily basis. The pre and postnatal care in connection with the community of support makes the Nurse Midwifery

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