The other day, an extremely upset mother went to her nurse, Lynn Stahr, RN, CLC, after an outrageous experience she had at her child’s day care. A new day care provider told the breastfeeding mother that she was starving her child.
“This is not nearly enough,” the provider decided of the pumped milk. She threatened to report the mother to a child protection program if she continued to bring “insufficient” milk for her baby.
Stahr, who has been working with breastfeeding mothers for over three decades, reassured the mother that she was providing the baby with enough milk judging by the child’s growth and disposition. She passed this information on to the ill-informed daycare provider.
Mothers living in Lincoln, Ill. suffer from many of the same infant feeding challenges that mothers across the country face: lack of maternity leave, low access to professional lactation support, overall breastfeeding un-friendly culture.
Fortunately, Stahr and colleagues are working hard to change this landscape.
In March 2014, Drs. Don Sielaff and Kristen Green of Springfield Clinic– the only OB/GYN practice in Logan County– requested Stahr dedicate a day of her work week to teaching nothing but breastfeeding to patients.
“I was thrilled!” Stahr exclaims.
She poured over books and articles to build a curriculum and started teaching two months later. Concerned that some of her knowledge was out of date, Stahr completed The Lactation Counselor Training Program to ensure the education she provides is purely evidence-based.
“In my community, some of the young girls don’t view [breastfeeding] as natural,” she reports.
In fact, she says that many of the expecting mothers are too uncomfortable with breastfeeding that they can hardly speak of it.
So Stahr provides one-on-one, prenatal breastfeeding classes. In these sessions she generally focuses on the benefits of breastfeeding. Stahr finds that after only about 15 minutes together, most expecting mothers have changed their minds about breastfeeding; from something unspeakable to something that they may, at least, consider.
What’s more is that when partners attend this initial meeting, they often become the biggest advocate for having their baby breastfed.
Drs. Sielaff and Green expect their patients to meet with Stahr at least once before they birth their babies. In fact, it’s placed as a physician’s order in their system.
Stahr also meets with pregnant mothers between 30 to 40 weeks, at which point they talk about “everything breastfeeding.”
Currently, Stahr is working on a more effective follow up system where mothers will be specifically asked about infant feeding at three, six, nine and 12 months.
In a town of 14,500, about 300 babies each year are given the best start at Abraham Lincoln Memorial Hospital (ALMH) where health care providers honor the 10 Steps of the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) and pursue accreditation. Last month, the hospital had a 100 percent breastfeeding initiation rate!
Stahr attends a weekly breastfeeding support group which was started and is held at ALMH. The Logan County Health Department WIC nurses attend some of the these meetings as well. This gave rise to the Logan County Breastfeeding Task Force. The Logan County Breastfeeding Task Force incorporates lactation professionals from the hospital, the WIC nurses, and Stahr from the Springfield Clinic. The Task Force is recognized by the Healthy Community Partnership (part of ALMH). The partnership has sponsored Breastfeeding Friendly Business window clings.
“We are now working on a letter to send to corporate offices of the businesses that refused us,” Stahr reports.
Eventually, the task force plans to create billboards, mousepads and other public images of breastfeeding to normalize the practice through every day exposure.
In a landscape with a growing divide between lactation professional credentials, Stahr says all task force members share their expertise, work together, “asking input from each other on our challenges and continue toward making Lincoln Breastfeeding-Friendly.”