The LVMC board room is a quiet, contemplative meeting place, where decisions of great importance are made for the future of the healthcare district.
But every Friday morning the sound of laughter – and sometimes crying – bursts through the closed door. At those times, a gathering of a dozen or so mothers meets in the room with their babies, as part of the LVMC Breastfeeding Mothers Support Group.
The weekly group, open to all nursing mothers regardless of where they gave birth, is facilitated by International Board Certi ed Lactation Consultant Haley Hays, a labor and delivery registered nurse and LVMC’s lactation program coordinator.
Hays leads the discussion about topics of interest to the mothers; weighs the babies and facilitates the conversation and advice offered by other moms.
“As a mom, I know the joys of breastfeeding as well as the road bumps that can pop up along the way, making things challenging,” Hays says. “It’s so important as a new mom to have access to support and information about breastfeeding. That is what I hope this group provides. I would hate for any mom who desires to breastfeed to not have the support she needs to meet her goals and get to the lovely part
of breastfeeding – the attachment and bonding are huge components.”
So in addition to the support group, there’s online invite-only help; lactation consultation to inpatient post-partum mothers and assistance for nursing mothers facing surgery.
“We provide hands-on assistance and education to get breastfeeding off to a good start in the hospital,” says Hays, who is assisted by RN Lydia Valdez, also an International Board Certi ed Lactation Consultant. “There are so many health benefits, not only for babies but for moms.”
According to the World Health Organization, breastfeeding promotes bonding between a mother and child; gives a baby all the vitamins and nutrients it needs in the first six months of life; builds a child’s immunity against diseases and illnesses; reduces the risk of a child being obese and is considered to be an “unequalled way of providing ideal food for the healthy growth and development of infants.”
“Every year, more health benefits are discovered that breastfeeding provides for both mothers and their babies,” says LVMC Director of Perinatal Services Sue Wilcox, who wrote a Community Health project for her bachelor’s degree on ‘Breastfeeding Promotion Strategies.’
“We’re not just talking improved physical health,” Wilcox says. “Breastfeeding contributes immensely to the emotional and psychological well-being of the entire family unit. All of these benefits lead to improved health for the entire community. I’m proud that LVMC can provide such a vital service to Lompoc families.”
In the first few months of having a newborn, there are ups and downs that require tremendous support, says Hays, the mother of a 3-year-old and 15-month-old.
The LVMC board room is a quiet, contemplative meeting place, where decisions of great importance are made for the future of the hospital district.
“Being a new mom at home with the baby, you can really become isolated,” Hays says. “Getting support is huge.
It can be so overwhelming without support. It’s really humbling.”
During one recent class, a mother bemoaned the reaction she experienced from people about her decision to breastfeed.
“I didn’t realize the stigma about breastfeeding,” she told the moms. “My family says, ‘Why are you still breastfeeding?’ I’m not going to change my mind about breastfeeding. Why is it their business?”
Hays told the woman and other mothers that the World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for the first two years of life, to bene t a child’s immune system.
Hays reminded the mother, “It’s such a short and sweet time. Don’t let anyone’s comments bother you ... You are totally supported. Emotionally and psychologically the bond is very healthy. It’s totally a relationship between you and your baby. You’ll know what’s right for you. Do what’s best for yourself and your baby.”
The testimonials from the women attending the group affirm its support – some moms say they would have stopped breastfeeding sooner than they wanted to if they hadn’t had the group. Another mom, Anna Moya said, “This group has been a lifesaver.”
Beth Chi said she wishes the group had been around four years ago when she was nursing her daughter.
“Having the breastfeeding support group and Haley has made such a difference for me in being able to nurse Oliver for 15 months,” she said of her youngest child.
Tanya Portillo goes to the group with 10-month-old Karim.
“The most important thing I have taken from this group is that breastfeeding doesn’t have to be all or nothing.
You haven’t failed because you only nursed for a day, week or month. Every drop counts and any amount no matter how small has been greatly beneficial for your baby.”
As a supplement to the support group, an invite-only Facebook page provides a sounding board for moms, as well as an informal advice column and an online support system. Topics in recent days have included questions about colic, milk production, weaning and babies who seem to constantly nurse.
“It’s been life-changing,” attests Jacqui Bravo, who nurses 19-month-old Weston. “Haley changed our lives.”
The results are showing.
According to the Santa Barbara County Breastfeeding Coalition, LVMC was able to increase its “fully breastfeeding” rate from 34.6 percent in 2013 to 45.4 percent in 2014,
a change of 10.8 percent. Those numbers are anticipated to increase even more for 2015’s statistics.
In addition to having an employee dedicated to assisting moms with breastfeeding, the labor and delivery department has also implemented an emphasis on skin-to-skin time for moms and babies after delivery and throughout the hospital stay, Wilcox said.
“This is a small change that can have a big impact on good outcomes for breastfeeding,” Hays said. “What happens during the first few days of life can really make a difference for the success and duration of breastfeeding, one of the reasons having breastfeeding support is so important at the hospital.”