Upcoming presentation on human milk for babies born with unique challenges

Bethany Gallagher, MS, CCC-SLP, CLC, CNT is a Senior Speech and Language Pathologist who has over 14 years of experience working in a level 2 NICU.

“Initially my interests focused on helping children with special needs communicate and quickly spread to treating and feeding the NICU, neonate, and infant population,” Gallagher says. 

Source: United States Breastfeeding Committee
(Photo by Sara D. Davis)

“After years of working with babies in the NICU and other settings, it became clear that best practices for these little ones had to involve their caregivers and educating mothers and parents on how to provide the best chance at success in this life,” she goes on. “Becoming a mother myself for the first time also pushed me into this field as I appreciated how much loving advice and support I received from healthcare specialists.”

Gallagher is currently part of an interdisciplinary lactation and feeding team at Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital which she helped to create. Their lactation team is comprised of one IBCLC, RN, one Dietician, CLC, one RC, CLC and two CCC-SLP, CLCs. She’s helped develop a variety of other programs like Video Fluoroscopic Swallow Studies and a Fiberoptic Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing clinic. 

Gallagher tells the stories of two incredible mothers she worked with who persevered infant feeding challenges.

C.H. came to us as a former 26 week premature infant whose twin brother passed away not long ago at 3 weeks of age.  Mom had maintained her supply and was pumping for C.H., however he had not been cleared to eat by mouth when he was admitted to our level 2 NICU. Through working with mom and C.H. for about five weeks, C.H was discharged home to mom fully breastfeeding with bottles used only for caloric supplementation. 

Skylar was admitted inpatient for failure to thrive at the age of two and a half months and had been inpatient for 6 weeks when I saw her.  Mom stopped pumping when baby was admitted and it was discovered that Skylar needed a liver transplant. Mom was upset and shocked and realized the best/only thing she could do for her baby was provide breastmilk.  Mom began the relactation process and was able to re-establish milk supply within 2 to 3 weeks with diligent pumping. 

Gallagher and her colleagues often see babies with medical challenges and families enduring unthinkable situations, but she says the most grueling challenge she sees for her patient population is the lack of supported leave time after becoming a parent. 

Source: United States Breastfeeding Committee.

“There are enough challenges in becoming a new parent without worrying about returning to your job three months (best case) after becoming a parent,” she begins.  “This is especially true for babies that require extended hospitalization, as these parents are often required to return to work before their baby is home. It is difficult enough being a new parent without the worry of losing your job and therefore your ability to provide housing, healthcare insurance, food, and necessities for daily life.”  

Gallagher  will present  A Review of Congenital and Genetic Disorders and Their Potential Impact on Breastfeeding and Benefits of Premature Infants Receiving Breast Milk and Strategies to Safely Feed Them alongside colleagues Kate Hale, MS, CCC-SLP, CLC, CNT and Lorilyn Russell, MS, RD, LDN, CLC at the upcoming International Breastfeeding Conference

The craniofacial and genetic disorders presentation will feature “before and after success story pictures that are adorable and of actual patients we have treated and helped through the years,” Gallagher reports. 

Her other work will cover nutritional information of human milk and its importance for babies born prematurely. 

Gallagher says she is most looking forward to connecting with different disciplines and learning from a variety of expertises.   

“…And,” she adds, “the nightly happy hour is always an added bonus.” 

Register for the conference to connect with Gallagher and others here

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