Franciscan Health lactation consultants triple percentage of mothers exclusively breastfeeding infants in one year

Franciscan Health lactation consultants triple percentage of mothers exclusively breastfeeding infants in one year

Lactation consultants at Franciscan Health Michigan City’s Family Birth Center tripled the percentage of mothers who are exclusively breastfeeding their infants in just one year, representatives said.

The campaign to encourage mothers to exclusively breastfeed their babies began just over two years ago when Patty DeStefano became the manager of the Family Birth Center.

“We always had lactation consultants, but people weren’t into exclusive breastfeeding as much and there wasn’t as much support,” said Echo Denny, one of two certified lactation nurses at the Family Birth Center working to encourage breastfeeding through the first year.

The nurses conduct follow-up calls with all moms one week after discharge and contact all breastfeeding moms 30 days, 90 days and six months afterward.

“Our consultants are available to trouble shoot, meet one-on-one, and sometimes they are there to simply listen,” DeStefano said.

Denny said women have different reasons for not wanting to breastfeed.

“Most people I talk to who don’t breastfeed or who stop think they don’t have enough milk for the baby,” Denny said. “A baby’s stomach is the size of a marble the first day. They don’t need that much. Sometimes they say they had trouble with their first child and I’ll ask why. Maybe it was positioning or latching and we can work on that.”

For others, it’s a lack of support from family members.

“Grandma may say she gave her babies full bottles, burped them and they slept for four hours,” Denny said. “If you stuff yourself with fast food burgers and fries, you may be full for six hours but if you have a salad with boiled chicken, you may be full for three hours. It doesn’t make the fast food the healthier option.”

August is World Breastfeeding Month, during which the benefits of breastfeeding are highlighted.

According to the Institute of Medicine, babies who are fed human milk have reduced morbidity, mortality, gastroenteritis, necrotizing enterocolitis, sudden infant death syndrome, childhood leukemia, middle ear infections and respiratory tract infections.

Human milk consumption is also associated with reduced incidence of childhood obesity as well as type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Mothers who breastfeed are more likely to have accelerated weight loss after birth, reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, myocardial infarction and type 2 diabetes. 

“Breastfed babies also sleep better at night because breast milk has melatonin in it,” DeStefano said. “Your body knows what the baby needs.”

Some mothers say they don’t have the support they need from their employers to exclusively breastfeed. Denny helps the women understand their rights.

The federal Break Time for Nursing Mothers law requires employers to provide reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child's birth and to provide basic accommodations for breastfeeding mothers at work.

Denny said the recent formula shortage brought with it an increased interest in exclusive breastfeeding as well.

“People have been calling and Facebook messaging me about relactation,” Denny said. “One patient started breastfeeding, then went to bottle feeding and wanted to try relactation. If the supply was good in the first place, however long it has been since you stopped, it takes that long to get it back.”

Cayla O’Donnell of LaPorte County and her husband, Craig, welcomed their daughter Freyja at Franciscan Health Michigan City on Aug. 8. Cayla said she breastfed their son and plans to exclusively breastfeed their newborn daughter.

“Formula is really expensive right now,” Cayla said. “I like breastfeeding and the bonding time.”

Cayla said the lactation nurses in the Family Birth Center, “made it 100% easier and are a very good support system.”

A Breastfeeding Support Group is available from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays in the Family Birth Center.

To learn more about the support group and assistance from certified lactation consultants, contact the Family Birth Center at Franciscan Health Michigan City at (219) 877-1610.