The Important Role a Lactation Consultant Plays in Helping Mother-Baby Pair in the NICU
Every August, World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated in more than 170 countries around the globe. It is an annual reminder to improve the health of babies around the world by encouraging breastfeeding. Breast milk is the ideal food for babies. It is an amazing “brain food,” containing more than 200 ingredients that are specifically designed to provide the most ideal growth and development for the human body. Breast milk is rich in nutrients needed by the baby for brain growth and development.
ProgenyHealth case managers offer education, support, and encouragement to the mothers of babies in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). We also provide access to a board certified lactation consultant 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Mothers who utilize this service find it extremely helpful. Recently, a new mom named Ashley contacted our lactation consultant while her baby was in the NICU to ask specific questions about pumping milk and breastfeeding. Breast milk is especially important for preterm and medically complex newborns that require medical care in the NICU. This amazing food provides nutritional, gastrointestinal, developmental, psychological and immunological benefits that are not found in formula. The nutrients that are provided can impact long term growth and development.
However, breastfeeding can be particularly challenging for the mother-baby pair who begin their relationship in the NICU, as many NICU babies aren’t ready to feed from the breast at first. Ashley, who anticipated being with her baby immediately after birth to establish breastfeeding, was suddenly separated from her baby. The worry and stress of a NICU admission can make the establishment of breast milk and breastfeeding very difficult. Because feeding is so essential to nurturing her baby, a mother’s plans and decisions are likely to be loaded with emotion. Surrounded by medical personnel who provide care for the baby, Ashley was probably feeling like most mothers of NICU babies – helpless and wishing she could do more for her infant. Support, accurate information, and encouragement from knowledgeable healthcare personnel helped Ashley establish a milk supply and eventually breastfeed her baby. Being able to provide breast milk for her baby helped to soothe her distress over her baby’s hospitalization and it made her an active participant in the care of her baby.
Once her baby was home, Ashley continued to contact the ProgenyHealth lactation consultant, asking for help on issues such as: diet while breastfeeding, causes of discomfort in the baby, medications while breastfeeding, maintaining breastfeeding while returning to work, and starting solid foods while breastfeeding. Ashley’s baby is now nine months old and the breastfeeding relationship continues. Our lactation consultant feels privileged to play such an important role in the life of this mother-baby pair. Ashley stated: “Having you as my personal lactation nurse has lifted an enormous amount of stress especially since I am a new mom. I felt completely safe with your knowledge of breastfeeding do’s and don’ts. I felt very comfortable talking with you about how my baby was nursing and how I was managing the new mom stress. I felt listened to and cared for when I divulged my postpartum problems, which was an extremely low point for me. I am forever thankful to have you as my lactation nurse!!!”
In celebration of World Breastfeeding Week, we would like to thank our wonderful lactation consultant for educating and encouraging mothers of NICU babies to meet their breastfeeding goals – even with the challenge of a NICU admission!
About Our Authors:
ProgenyHealth is a leading provider of neonatal care coordination services. Focusing on the unique health care needs of infants in intensive care nurseries, ProgenyHealth’s neonatologists, pediatricians, and NICU nurses, partner with the infant’s neonatologists and primary care providers to deliver care management services from birth through the first year of life.
Our lactation consultant, Donna More’, RN, MSN, IBCLC, has been board certified by IBCLE in lactation for 27 years while maintaining a volunteer position with La Leche League for 34 years. As a nurse, Donna has worked in NICU for 14 years, coordinated a Mothers’ Milk bank, and previously worked in utilization review and case management at ProgenyHealth. She currently works as a lactation consultant in the intensive care nursery. She enjoys spending time with her husband, children and grandchildren.