After receiving a one-time grant of $2,500 from the Breastfeeding Support Funding opportunity through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health, the Johnson City Medical Center Family Birth Center implemented a trial program in March aimed at increasing breast-feeding rates among local expectant mothers.
Chasta Hite, RNC, IBCLC and Mountain States Health Alliance lactation services manager, said MSHA had been working for a while to increase the health system’s breast-feeding rates, but the idea really took off after breast milk feeding became a Perinatal Care Core Measure of The Joint Commission and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
“When those centers also started to recognize that breast-feeding is that important ... the hospital really needed to seek out more ways to increase our breast-feeding rates. What we identify is that the moms coming into the hospital already have made their decisions about how they’re going to feed the baby and ... have kind of some preconceived notions,” Hite said.
“What we really figured out was that we needed to target our moms before they came into the hospital to have their babies, to hopefully provide them with accurate information so they can make an informed health care choice for their babies.”
She said receiving the grant has given MSHA funding to cover the hours that lactation consultants are away from the hospitals visiting local OB/GYN practices.
Hite said right now there are two lactation consultants visiting Johnson City OB/GYN and East Tennessee State University OB/GYN offices each week, twice a week.
“The medical center got the grant because they’re the ones trying to increase their breast-feeding rates, but because the OB/GYN practices feed us the patients, we’re trying to look at the prenatal setting,” she said. “Right now there’s just two because this is kind of a trial project. If it is successful, we are looking at rolling it out in all the OB/GYN offices with ... Mountain States.”
Hite said initially figuring out patient flow and consultant strategies of not interfering with a patient’s visit time took some tweaking, but said so far the trial has been running smoothly.
She said in the coming months they will be able to collect data comparing the moms’ initial decision on whether to breast-feed from the doctors’ offices, what they decided to do upon delivery of their child and whether they continued to breast-feed when leaving the hospital.
“If that is showing that we are increasing the rates of mothers coming into the hospital wanting to breast-feed, then we can show that this would be beneficial ... as far as budget wise to have the lactation consultants in all the doctors’ offices,” Hite said.
She said mothers choosing whether to breast-feed is no longer a choice centering around how to feed the baby, but said it’s focused more now on making a decision for the baby’s overall health.
“Breast-feeding is very much a preventative medicine for many illnesses and there are actually many many risks of giving a formula to a baby during the first few days or weeks of their life. Breast-feeding can prevent lots of childhood illnesses, primarily obesity,” Hite said.
Other childhood medical illnesses or problems that are reportedly prevented by breast-feeding include heart disease, diabetes, sudden infant death syndrome, allergies, asthma, food intolerances and cancers. It is also believed to raise a child’s IQ and help with their brain and vision development.
For more information about MSHA Lactation Services, call 431-5432 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.