In December, Novant Health Matthews Medical Center received designation as a “Baby-Friendly” hospital – a designation that less than 20% of hospitals in the U.S. have achieved.
The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative is a global initiative of the World Health Organization and the United Nation Children’s Fund (UNICEF) that recognizes the practice of the highest standard of maternal-child care, specifically regarding breastfeeding. This means that when a mother comes to a Baby-Friendly hospital like Matthews Medical Center and their Women’s Center to give birth, she can be assured that every aspect of her care is practiced in a way that supports the highest quality of care for her and her baby.
By now you have probably heard of the saying, “breast is best.” According to Laura Corsig, an international board-certified lactation consultant (IBCLC) and lead lactation consultant for Novant Health’s Charlotte market, studies show that there are numerous benefits of breastfeeding for both mom and baby. “Children who are breastfed have an improved immune system and fewer infections, a four-fold decrease risk of developing childhood leukemia, and a long-term decrease in their risk for developing diabetes or obesity,” said Corsig. “Moms who breastfeed also have a decreased risk of breast and ovarian cancer, are able to lose their “baby weight” faster, and have a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes during their lifetime.”
The journey toward reaching this world-class standard of maternity care is a long one. The hospital must demonstrate the 10 steps to successful breastfeeding developed by a team of global experts. “It was truly an investment in the health of the community,” Corsig said. “It couldn’t have taken place without everyone on the team and the support from hospital staff and administration.”
There is immediate benefit in placing baby on mom’s chest after birth. Research shows that skin-to-skin contact helps the baby cry less, stay warm, and even stabilize heart rate and blood sugar. “Skin-to-skin promotes maternal bonding and secrets a hormone called oxytocin, or “the love hormone,” says Corsig. “Oxytocin helps mom relax, zone in, and really focus on the closeness between her and baby.” Mom is encouraged to breastfeed her newborn within an hour of giving birth, and lactation consultants provide guidance and support for new mothers.
The staff at Matthews Medical Center works hard to create an environment where mothers and babies are positioned to experience success. Corsig says the most current and highest level of scientific evidence is practiced in order to make this happen. “We now know that babies are born with 9 specific reflexes that help them to breastfeed, and that if we place the naked newborn on the mother’s bare chest immediately following birth, then those 9 reflexes are awakened and the baby will breastfeed better,” she says. “Before we knew that, babies were born and then taken to a warming area where they were assessed, weighed, measured, even bathed before being swaddled and returned to their mother.” Now, all of those assessments are done right on the mother’s chest, and mom and baby remain together for at least one hour and after the first breastfeeding session.
Mothers and newborns are cared for together in the same room and separated only if there is a medical reason. “Rooming in allows for more of that skin-to-skin time and helps newborns adjust to life outside of utero by being near their mom,” Corsig says. “It promotes breastfeeding on cue and allows mom and family more bonding time with the new baby.”
Meigan Alexander, mother of two, says that rooming in allowed her the opportunity to breastfeed on demand. “Having your baby in the room with you makes all the difference. I had more time to bond with my son and breastfeed when we needed to, rather than having to call a nurse to bring him to my room,” she said.
Lack of family support can be hard on a new mother. She might have trouble breastfeeding and really not know who to call on for help. Support is key to both helping mom have time to breastfeed and giving her time to focus on her new baby, and Corsig notes that moms who don’t have family support are at greater risk for postpartum depression.
“Breastfeeding is a relationship, and it’s hard work,” said Meigan. “There were days I would just cry, but I knew I could get through it. My mom and I had already had wonderful conversations about breastfeeding, so I felt comfortable in working through the issues.” Meigan’s company, BettyRuth, helps moms who are overwhelmed with the day-to-day pressures of having a new baby in the house. Meigan understands that moms need to be relaxed to breastfeed properly. She designs and sells clothing for breastfeeding moms that incorporate style and easy breastfeeding access.
The staff at Matthews wants moms to be informed of the benefits of breastfeeding, but of course, not all moms can breastfeed. For mothers who decide to formula feed, they are supported with proper instruction on formula preparation. “Breastfeeding is natural, but it’s not easy,” says Corsig. “Childbirth is natural, but no one equates it to easy. It’s not something you’d do in private on your own without any help, and breastfeeding should be no different.” She notes that women who can’t breastfeed often heap that failure on themselves, but should remember that breastfeeding struggles are perfectly normal.
“Seeing moms come back for a follow up and say, ‘that was really hard, but I did it and I’m where I had hoped to be,’ that’s the biggest reward,” said Corsig. “It’s what we want for all of our moms.”
For more information, visit novanthealth.org/womens and select maternity. If you are interested in giving birth at one of Novant Health’s Baby-Friendly facilities in Matthews or Charlotte, connect with a Novant Health OB/GYN near you by visiting novanthealth.org/doctor.
Matthews Medical Center opened a brand new expansive Women’s Center in August 2016. Hospitals and birthing facilities must address 10 key steps in achieving Baby-Friendly status, an involved process that takes time and dedication. Photo courtesy of Novant Health.