For many new moms, breastfeeding can be a challenge, all while they are learning to adapt to less (or zero) sleep, the health and care of a tiny child and healing from pregnancy and childbirth. It can be a lot, and we are so thankful there are services to help support new moms throughout their breastfeeding journey. In fact, lactation services at SSM Health are even offered BEFORE birth, so moms can make a feeding plan and have support early and often.
We had the chance to talk about the lactation services available at SSM Health with two members of their lactation team that have over five decades combined experience working with moms and babies! Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge with us, Polly Karl-Wisdom and Leigh Platt!
Can you provide a brief overview of the lactation services available at SSM Health?
Polly: SSM Health offers lactation services both inpatient at St. Mary’s hospital and outpatient at 4 of the Madison metro clinics: Sun Prairie, East, West and the new South Madison Campus. All breastfeeding mothers can participate in these services. While in the hospital, all breastfeeding mothers will be seen by a lactation specialist. They are available 7 days a week. After discharge from the hospital, lactation services are available in the clinics Monday through Friday.
There is no cost to these services. Under the Affordable Care Act, health insurance plans must provide breastfeeding support, and this includes the cost of an office visit with a lactation consultant. Typically, patients will have a zero co-pay for these visits. Our outpatient services are provided by two International Board Certified Lactation Consultants.
What are the benefits for mothers that participate in these services?
Polly: An increased sense of confidence and a more positive breastfeeding experience. We know that statistically speaking, most mothers choose to stop breastfeeding due to nipple pain. Nipple pain is almost always related to an incorrect, or shallow latch. We can work with you to position your baby correctly and learn the techniques to make the latch more comfortable. We want breastfeeding to be enjoyable for both parent and baby. If breastfeeding is comfortable and enjoyable for both parent and baby, we will see increased duration of breastfeeding which we know contributes to best health outcomes.
Leigh: After over 15 years of experience working in the neonatal intensive care unit, my love for and understanding of the late preterm infant can be very helpful for families struggling with the challenges/feeding patterns/behaviors of a late preterm baby. In addition to the late preterm baby, many parents struggle with the feeding challenges of a baby with a cleft lip/palate, a baby with decreased muscle tone or a baby with other underlying medical conditions. Both Polly and I are here to assist these families and if we’re unable to help them, we will refer these families on to the most appropriate provider for their individual situation.
What services are available prior to birth and which are available after the baby is born?
Prior to birth we offer prenatal lactation visits where we can discuss feeding intentions, what to expect at the hospital when baby is born, how to get breastfeeding off to a good start and go over any questions or concerns the patient may have. After baby is born, we offer follow up care as soon as the day after discharge from the hospital. Some patients feel that their concerns are addressed in one visit, while others may want several visits. We are available to work with someone for as long as they would like, over a period of several week or visits, until they feel like breastfeeding is going well for them.
What can someone expect the first time they participate?
Polly: Patients can expect a warm, calm and inviting environment. We will sit down and discuss how your feeding experience has been going so far, concerns you have and what your feeding goals are. We can address concerns such as: engorgement, sore nipples, low milk supply, overproduction, plugged ducts and mastitis. We can assist you with feeding your baby at the breast and we will weigh baby after they have nursed so that you can see how much they are getting while they are feeding. We will discuss normal newborn growth patterns and milk requirements for good growth. If a patient is having difficulty, we will come up with a feeding plan. We can also go over pumping and flange fit.
What results have you seen from the services?
Polly: I have seen mothers leave from an outpatient lactation appointment feeling confident. They feel reassured knowing how to feed their baby and knowing they are getting what they need to grow well. When difficulties arise, we can help to work through them.
Any other information you’d like to share?
Polly: I’d like to people to be aware of these services and utilize them. There are many helping hand available in the hospital after baby is born but people can feel isolated and not know where to turn for help once they are home. Help is available. A lactation consultant can be part of the care team, working collaboratively with the pediatrician, midwife, or obstetrician.