With tears in his eyes, a father hugged Mary Ryngaert, ARNP, IBCLC after she clipped his baby’s tongue tie and his wife reported breastfeeding feeling much better. (Note: Releasing tongue-tie is within the scope of practice of a nurse practitioner.)
“Anytime I clip a tongue tie and the mother’s first words after the baby goes to breast are It doesn’t hurt at all, I can’t believe the difference– that makes my day,” Ryngaert says.
Seven years ago, Ryngaert and her colleague Dr. Sandra Sullivan, MD, IBCLC, opened the UF Center for Breastfeeding and Newborns (CBN) outpatient clinic.
Ryngaert reports that the most common concerns mothers come to the clinic for are painful feedings and low milk production. Other times, mothers come to talk about pumping milk for when they return to work.
“Whatever is an issue for parents, as long as the breastfeeding relationship goes on, that’s our business,” Ryngaert says.
She recalls helping another family who struggled for months with supply and suck challenges.
“They traveled an hour each time they came to see me in clinic,” Ryngaert reports.
The infant benefited from working with an occupational therapist who understands how to work toward breastfeeding and how to maintain and increase milk production. Previously, the family visited an OT who told the mother that her baby was using too much energy nursing, and recommended she bottle-feed.
“You may be certain that I did some education after the mother reported that!” Ryngaert exclaims.
After working with Ryngaert and her team, Ryngaert recalls how pleased she was that she had help working toward her goals. The baby’s grandmother, who hadn’t breastfed, was equally excited.
The grandmother became invested in the breastfeeding relationship when she realized how important it was to her daughter, Ryngaert explains.
“She made the hour drive with her daughter and granddaughter for all of the visits and sincerely thanked me every single time,” she remembers. “I was so happy to receive an email a few months later that the baby was fully breastfed at the breast.”
Teaching is an important component to the support system at the UF Center for Breastfeeding and Newborns clinic. Helping parents read their babies’ cues and understanding what is normal and expected in terms of feedings, sleep, diapers is all part of helping moms meet their feeding goals.
“I particularly enjoy hearing parents talk about this brand new baby’s personality as though they’ve known the child forever!” Ryngaert exclaims. “And I love pointing out the way the baby tracks the parents down from a few feet away. It’s such a privilege to be a witness to this intensely important time in the life of a family.”
The Center for Breastfeeding and Newborns’ engages in a community-based effort to increase breastfeeding initiation, duration and exclusivity among all families.
“We have been facilitators for breastfeeding support groups, in particular a very popular group for African American mothers,” Ryngaert says.
Reducing disparities in breastfeeding was a core concern in the Community Practice Training Initiative grant, which was awarded to CBN in 2010 to provide support for an advocacy program to promote breastfeeding as a strategy to reduce pediatric obesity and overweight and the many health problems associated with these.
“We are interested in increasing community-based peer counselors and expanding postpartum breastfeeding support groups sites,” Ryngaert explains.
She, Dr. Kristina Carswell, and Health Education doctoral student Cynthia Sears are currently working together to apply for grant funding to improve breastfeeding support in communities where there is not a tradition of breastfeeding.
As part of the Baby Friendly core team at UF Health, Ryngaert helped develop the prenatal education program that is used in the prenatal and family medicine clinics. The clinic is part of Step 10 for Baby Friendly— a key to continuity of care.
Ryngaert also engages with several Facebook groups to stay visible.
“Education of upcoming providers is a big part of the work,” Ryngaert adds. “The pediatric residents all rotate through the breastfeeding clinic, seeing first hand the history, feeding assessment and advice we give to support and protect feeding.”
Ryngaert is the chair of the Breastfeeding Education Special Interest Group for NAPNAP and serves as a NAPNAP delegate to the United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC).
At the 22nd Annual International Breastfeeding Conference, Ryngaert will co-present Culture Change in an Academic Medical Center Setting-The Key word is Quality: The Journey to Baby-Friendly.
“I think it will be a fun presentation that will equip others who are trying to work toward Baby Friendly with some tools to assist in the process,” she says.
To register for the conference, click here.