Local moms Krista Hicks, Jessica Barrett and Kathryn Olson agree – without the help of the Columbia Memorial Hospital (CMH) Lactation Program, they might have given up on breastfeeding their babies. As first-time moms who gave birth at CMH, all three had problems come up when first attempting to breastfeed.

With the help of the CMH Lactation Program and Family Birthing Center staff, each woman had success with nursing. The program was recently recognized with the International Board Certified Lactation Consultant Care Award for the fourth two-year term. This award honors hospitals, birthing facilities, birthing services and community-based health agencies that hire currently certified IBCLC lactation consultants and have a dedicated lactation support program that is available five to seven days a week. CMH’s certified lactation consultants are nurses Laura Brown and Kelsey Betts.

The CMH Family Birthing Center provides breastfeeding training for medical staff that care for new families and has recently completed activities that help protect, promote and support breastfeeding. This is the fourth two-year award term for CMH.

Hicks, Barrett and Olson all said they think the program deserves the award. With two certified lactation consultants on staff, the program supports new moms and gives them the confidence and help they need to have a successful breastfeeding journey – an invaluable service for new moms and babies. 

When the Baby is Early

Olson’s daughter was born six weeks early and lacked the muscle tone to draw enough milk. Being so small, she also had trouble staying awake to nurse.

“Within 24 hours of her birth, Laura and Kelsey were there to support me,” Olson said. “In the months following her birth, we saw them at least once a week, and we worked with baby to help her learn to nurse more efficiently. They gave me a sense of stability and hope during a very difficult time.”

The CMH lactation consultants discovered Olson’s daughter had a lip and tongue tie, meaning the movement of the lips and tongue is restricted and mobility is impaired. Tongue and lip ties cause many infants to have trouble nursing, as Olson’s did.

“Getting that corrected was a real turning point in helping her nurse better and managing her colic,” Olson said. “I didn’t even know what tongue tie was. I am so grateful that they discovered it early, as it could have caused a whole host of problems later on.”

Olson’s daughter is now five-and-a-half months old, and while Olson pumps the majority of her milk due to being back at work, she nurses “10 times better,” Olson said.

“Feeding her breastmilk is so important to me,” she said, “but I honestly may have given up if it wasn’t for Laura and Kelsey’s support.”

Managing the Stress of Being a New Mom

Like Olson’s baby, Barrett’s first child also had a lip and tongue tie. Without the assistance from the Lactation Program, Barrett said she doesn’t think she would have had success in nursing. From weight check appointments and help with pumping to the development of a nursing routine, the program gave her the advice and support she needed to learn how to nurse her baby.

“My second [baby] was much easier to nurse from the get-go, and I think we could have struggled through it,” Barrett said, “but with the support of the Lactation Department, it was a much easier journey [than before].”

With the stress of being a new mom, she said Brown and the “clean, warm and quiet” Lactation Room at CMH offered a sense of relaxation.

There for Moms Through the Journey

Hicks echoed Barrett’s thoughts. She gave birth on a Saturday when neither lactation consultant was at the hospital. The baby developed jaundice and needed to stay at CMH an extra day – a blessing in disguise, Hicks said, as it allowed them to meet with Betts on Monday. She and her baby also met with Brown later that week and were provided with answered questions, instructions on proper technique and a daily routine.

Hicks said the routine was time consuming, and “at times, a downright pain in the butt.” It was worth it, though, because her daughter quickly gained back a lost pound and had more success nursing. After three or four appointments, Hicks “graduated” from the Lactation Program – but with engorgement issues, yeast infections and mastitis plaguing her, Brown was still available for assistance.

“For every issue, Laura was there for me, even without an appointment,” Hicks said. “She would call me and talk me through what I needed to do to remedy whatever ailment I had at the time. Day or night, she was there to help.”

To learn more about the CMH Lactation Program, visit columbiamemorial.org/lactation-program.

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