August is National Breastfeeding Month, and nobody knows the importance of breastfeeding more than mothers. Breast milk is a nutritional powerhouse for infants and can provide babies with complete nutrition and protects both mothers and children against illnesses. Breastfeeding protects babies from ear infections and diarrhea, and breastfed babies are at lower risk for serious problems like asthma, diabetes, and sudden infant death syndrome. Breastfeeding mothers are at a lower risk for developing heart disease, certain types of cancers, rheumatoid arthritis and Type 2 diabetes.
A large part of successful breastfeeding is support—from family, friends, and your medical professionals. That’s why OakBend Medical Center is a Texas Ten Step (TTS) designated facility—we are committed to supporting you beyond your baby’s delivery and want to set you up for breastfeeding success. The Texas Ten Step is an evidence-based group of practices that have been proven to support breastfeeding and improve maternal care, and hospitals who receive the TTS designation must strictly follow 10 steps set forth by the initiative:
1. Have a written breastfeeding policy. OakBend Medical Center has a written breastfeeding policy which is publicized and routinely communicated to all healthcare staff.
2. Train all healthcare staff in the skills necessary to implement this policy. We train staff continuously through classroom education, check-off sessions, online educational resources, and mandatory breastfeeding education classes offered by WIC.
3. Inform parents about the benefits and management of breastfeeding. We offer a childbirth education class the first Saturday of every month, where we invite pregnant women and their partners to ask questions about the labor, delivery and breastfeeding process. We visit obstetrician offices with breastfeeding information to inform the community about the benefits of breastfeeding.
4. Help mothers initiate breastfeeding within an hour of birth. Place babies in skin-to-skin contact with their mothers immediately following birth for at least an hour. Encourage mothers to recognize when their babies are ready to breastfeed, and offer help if needed. The skin-to-skin practice helps mothers initiate breastfeeding within an hour of birth. We keep mom and babies in skin-to-skin contact for one hour or until the baby finishes the first feeding. We delay weighing and other postnatal procedures until the completion of this process.
5. Show mothers how to breastfeed and how to maintain lactation, even if they should be separated from their infants. Two Lactation Consultants make rounds on all mothers at OakBend on weekdays to assist and support in breastfeeding and provide advice if needed. Five of our CNAs on the Labor & Delivery unit are trained Breastfeeding Counselors to support our mothers.
6. Give infants no food or drink other than breastmilk unless medically indicated. Every mother at OakBend is encouraged to breastfeed exclusively. The Lactation Consultants that round on all of our mothers and additional staff teach mothers about the importance of exclusive breastfeeding, and the effect of formula feeding on their babies. Even if the baby is admitted to the NICU, breast pumping is initiated as early as possible within six hours of delivery.
7. Practice rooming in: Allow mothers and infants to remain together 24 hours a day. Here at OakBend, we keep mothers and babies together at all times. We transition mothers and babies from the delivery room to the postnatal care room together, and pediatricians round in the mother’s room.
8. Encourage breastfeeding on demand. Teach mothers cue-based feeding, regardless of method. We encourage all mothers to “watch the baby, not the clock!” and place feeding cue posture visual reminders in each postpartum patient room.
9. Give no artificial nipples or pacifiers to breastfeeding infants. We limit the use of artificial nipples such as pacifiers for breastfeeding babies. We encourage and help mothers practice feeding through cups, syringes or spoons if supplementation is necessary. We limit pacifier use to painful procedures like circumcision.
10. Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support groups, and refer mothers to them upon discharge from hospital or clinic. At OakBend, each postpartum patient goes through a discharge class, held daily at 10 a.m. in our second floor classroom to educate them on support and resources available to them. We also hold a free breastfeeding support group, Latch and Learn, on the first Monday of every month at our Williams Way campus to help new mothers learn helpful tips and tricks to make breastfeeding easier. We place follow-up telephone calls to all mothers who are discharged to provide a telephone consultation and provide them with a direct Breastfeeding Support Line telephone number.
These evidence-based steps are put into practice every day at OakBend, with every patient and newborn we see. The Texas Ten Step Program encourages breastfeeding as the preferred method of feeding for newborns and infants. OakBend joins a growing number of Texas birth facilities that are supporting new mothers through breastfeeding initiatives.
We know that breastfeeding is one of the best things you can do for your baby and your family, and we are committed to helping you through the process. You can read more about our labor and delivery department here.
RNC-MNN, BSN, IBCLC