Teamwork makes the dreamwork

Sometimes, when my kids are clawing and screeching at one another like feral animals, I close my eyes, sway gently and sing Kumbaya my Lord, kumbaya. Kumbaya my Lord, kumbaya. My strategy is only successful long enough for them to flash me a puzzled, disrupted look. 

What I’ve found to be more fruitful in restoring peace, is to offer the little animals a shared task. 

Something like, “Quick! Clean up all of the art supplies before this song is over, and then we will go to the park.” 

Whether it’s siblings or friends or partners or colleagues, teamwork makes the dreamwork! 

Julie Grady, assistant professor of nursing at Curry College, is calling on maternal child health care providers and other stakeholders to band together toward the common goal of improving patient outcomes. 

She explains that in some facilities, patient continuity of care is often interrupted for a variety of reasons. After delivery, dyads are sometimes waiting an entire weekend until a breastfeeding “specialist” is available. 

In an environment where staff may be low and where many care providers are being stretched thin, everyone, with or without credentials, can help foster a culture of inclusiveness and support. 

“We need to do away with any form of hierarchy,” Grady urges. “There shouldn’t be one title that supercedes another title. We are a team that’s there to support [the dyad.]” 

Academy of Lactation Policy and Practice (ALPP) Director Ellie MacGregor, MPH, CLC puts it this way: 

Across the U.S., there are a startlingly low number of lactation support providers – a number that we should all be striving to increase in order to support the families we serve. 

With the knowledge that everyone comes to this field with a variety of backgrounds and experiences, we firmly believe that credentials are just one aspect of how a person can contribute to breastfeeding support and care. 

In fact, many CLCs who are also doctors, nurses, physician assistants, doulas, and midwives become lactation counselors after and in addition to their other educational qualifications. 

Rather than creating an unnecessary and discriminatory hierarchy within the field of lactation consultation and support by propping up one credential over all of the rest, ALPP believes that all members of a family, a community, and a health care team can contribute to bettering our breastfeeding outcomes.”

It is important of course, that messaging and education about infant feeding stays consistent throughout the entire continuum of care. Grady points out that one way to tackle consistent messaging within maternity care facilities is by working toward becoming Baby-Friendly

Becoming Baby-Friendly has its challenges, but Grady says: “Nurses as a profession, we want the best for our patients. If we can work together, and ultimately improve our outcomes, we’re receptive to a change of practice.” 

The United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC) has recognized that collaboration and continuity is a critical part of improving health outcomes. In fact, their strategic framework includes collective impact in order to “facilitate deeper, more effective, and more inclusive collaboration across the breastfeeding field.”

Put into action is the USBC-affiliated Continuity of Care Constellation which has come together “to advance the understanding and importance of application of tools and best practices to engage all opportunities to connect and support those in need of breastfeeding support and education. Families live, work and play in a variety of places and need help to avoid falling through the cracks due to systems, policy or care issues as well as transitions across various types of care and support.” (You can participate in an online survey intended to gather information to help develop the outline of what falls within the frame of continuity of care in breastfeeding support.)

To reduce the work ahead of maternal child health advocates to holding hands and singing Kumbaya would be unrealistic and foolish, but with concerted effort, the future is bright. 

Photo by Val Vesa on Unsplash

Part of Cindy Turner-Maffei’s Reflections on United States Breastfeeding Committee membership meeting and National Breastfeeding Coalitions Convening sums up this sentiment well. 

“…It was so heartening to attend the 20th anniversary of that pivotal moment, to see and feel the evolution of this organization represented in the diversity of its board, committee chair leadership, membership and meeting attendees. One of my favorite highlights is the recent tradition of recognizing emerging community leaders and tribal trailblazers. The opening moments of the NBCC conference brought tears to my eyes, as pastor and singer extraordinaire, Myron Krys, sang Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On?. That powerful song from the 1970s resonates today, evoking the need to work for justice for all, and peace between and among us. Equity in lactation and maternity care for all new families, respect for all lactation care providers, regardless of their credential, are two of the ways USBC is working for a better future…” 

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