By Monica Richter, MD
As a pediatrician, I am a strong supporter of breastfeeding. Human milk gives babies the most complete nutrition possible and helps protect them against many infectious diseases, SIDS, cancer and diabetes. Mothers who breastfeed have a decreased risk of breast and ovarian cancer, anemia and osteoporosis. In addition, breastfeeding saves families money on formula and health care costs, as well as decreases time lost to care for sick children.
The emotional benefits of breastfeeding include the very special, close relationship formed with your baby and the knowledge that you are able to provide him or her with complete and natural nourishment. Sometimes mothers have difficulty establishing breastfeeding and the staff at Valley Medical Center are prepared to help. With this important goal in mind, we have started the process of becoming “Baby-Friendly.”
As a Baby-Friendly birth facility, Valley Medical Center will join a select group of hospitals taking special steps to create the best possible environment for successful breastfeeding. We look forward to obtaining this designation as Valley Medical Center has always recognized the importance of breastfeeding and has implemented many of these 10 steps to achieve the “Baby-Friendly” designation:
1. Breastfeeding Education. Specially-trained staff will help you learn how to breastfeed your baby successfully.
2. Breastfeeding Discussions with your Provider. During your pregnancy, you can discuss breastfeeding with your healthcare provider who can answer any questions you have at each visit.
3. Immediate Mother/Baby Contact. Your baby will be placed against your skin soon after birth. We want you to take your time and will not interfere with your first breastfeeding but we will be there to help you when you and your baby are ready. Usually babies show readiness within the first 30-60 minutes.
4. Available Lactation Consultants. VMC’s Lactation Consultants will help you upon request. Staff can help you with basic feeding techniques and can help you determine if your baby is feeding well.
5. Pumping Education. You will be shown how to hand express your breastmilk and you will be given written materials including a feeding diary that you can refer to at home.
6. Optional Feeding Plan. Most babies do not need to be given anything other than breastmilk for their first six months, except Vitamin D if your baby’s doctor recommends it. If there is a medical reason your baby needs to temporarily have more milk, a feeding plan will be developed between you and the Breast Center staff that will be the least invasive to your breastfeeding experience. A hospital-grade breast pump may be used to stimulate your milk supply and allows for supplementation as needed.
7. Mother/Baby Bonding. Your baby will be with you at all times. If a medical procedure is necessary that can only be performed in another area, you will be invited to accompany your baby. Circumcision may be an exception.
8. Regular Feeding Schedule. You will be encouraged to feed your baby whenever he or she seems to be hungry. Please wake and offer feedings at least 8 times within a 24 hour period (every 3 hours) if your baby is not showing hunger cues on his/her own.
9. Avoid Props. We recommend that you avoid using bottles, pacifiers and nipple shields (unless staff has provided education on proper use) while your baby is learning to breastfeed. These items can change the way your baby sucks and make breastfeeding success more difficult. Sucking for comfort can be done using a clean finger (pad side up) if not at the breast.
10. Home Resources. You will be given the phone number for VMC’s Lactation Services when you go home. Please call if you have concerns, questions or need more individual help.
The Baby-Friendly designation is a program developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and supported by the Surgeon General’s Call to Action, Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Campaign, Healthy People 2020 Goals and the Institute of Medicine Early Childhood Obesity Prevention Policy. For more information about the Baby-Friendly designation, visit www.babyfriendlyusa.org.
Valley Medical Center will be celebrating World Breastfeeding Week August 1-7. The theme is “The Road to Lifelong Health Begins with Breastfeeding” – look for tables and posters set up on the second floor of the hospital with information and prizes for you and your new baby.
Dr. Richter is a pediatrician with Valley Children’s Clinic, located at 4011 Talbot Road S., Suite 220, in Renton. Phone: 425.656.5300. www.valleychildrensclinic.org.