Bridging Hospital and Community for Improved Breastfeeding Rates

Posted November 30, 2016 by Wendy Loveland

Hispanic Mother Nursing Her Child

As the only El Paso member of the NICHQ-led Texas Ten Step Star Achiever Breastfeeding Learning Collaborative (TBLC), Las Palmas Medical Center’s Newborn and Breastfeeding staff know the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding. So does La Fe, an El Paso Women, Infants and Children’s (WIC) clinic that offers breastfeeding education and support to women in the community.

In 2015, Las Palmas and La Fe WIC formed a partnership to improve breastfeeding rates and duration. This bridge from hospital to community extends support beyond the mother/baby discharge and adds additional WIC family services. WIC services are designed to increase exclusive breastfeeding rates and improve the health and well-being of babies, mothers, families and communities. 

“This is a great area of achievement! WIC peer counselors work with our mothers in the hospital, helping us with breastfeeding education before delivery and providing lactation support during hospitalization,” says Rhonda Sparr, DNP, APRN, FNP-C, CLC, Project Manager of Las Palmas’ Breastfeeding Learning Collaborative. “They are an integral part of our team.”

Las Palmas also employs a lactation consultant and 11 certified lactation counselors, who are NICU and post-partum nurses who earned breastfeeding support certifications to better assist their patients. However, the staff can’t sit with every mother for the duration of their inpatient stay. 

This is where the WIC comes in: Two peer counselors work Monday through Thursday at Las Palmas, where they are part of the center’s volunteer program and receive the same orientation as new hires. A Las Palmas nurse will prioritize the mothers, and assign them to the WIC counselors for help in latching, positioning, and feeding cues education. Mothers become more confident when they develop the skills to successfully breastfeed. 

“It is so rewarding to teach a mother and her baby how to breastfeed, and reassure mothers that they are doing an amazing job,” says Melinda Gutierrez, BSN, RN, IBCLC, Las Palmas’ lactation consultant. “I depend on the WIC counselors. I trust their assessments and value their passion to help as many mothers as possible.”

Las Palmas also practices skin-to-skin contact after birth, unless there is a medical reason to delay it, and promotes further contact through rooming-in during mothers’ stay. Evidence shows that this practice helps to stabilize vital signs, and together with the support, reduces stress levels in both the baby and the mother, as evidenced by the babies’ blood-glucose levels – a measure of stress.

Helping Moms Meet Their Goals
Formalized measures are used to assess breastfeeding rates and mothers’ experience. This includes measuring skin-to-skin rates and duration, and if the mother did not reach her target, documenting why. The staff also records each mother’s goal for breastfeeding, whether it is exclusive breastfeeding, bottle feeding, or the use of formula. 

“We do not judge mothers’ choices. If they are educated on the benefits of breastfeeding but choose formula, they receive formula,” says Sparr. “It is important to meet the mother’s goal.”

The La Fe WIC counselors work toward the same goals. In addition to the inpatient counseling, WIC collaboratively markets Las Palmas’ Baby Café and Outpatient Breastfeeding Care Center, scheduling follow-up visits to provide further support around breastfeeding and other issues. 

WIC also offers other community services, such as training for community health professionals on the benefits of breastfeeding, and working with local businesses to help them become mother and breastfeeding-friendly.

“The partnership with Las Palmas is giving us the opportunity to reach more families and offer our services,” says Lucy Rodarte, Chief Finance Officer, Centro de Salud Familiar La Fe, Inc. and visionary of the Las Palmas/WIC partnership. “We can help families and mothers to breastfeed exclusively for the first six months of the baby’s life.”

Hospital/WIC partnerships are a win-win, and can be easily implemented. Hospitals always need the extra help, and WICs have a strategic plan to outreach to area hospitals. 
“We simply reviewed contracts and though it took a while, it was worth it, because we have developed a great team,” says Rodarte. “I am pleased that we are collaborating on improving not only breastfeeding, but also overall public health through this partnership.”


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