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Community Clinics Prioritize Breastfeeding

Written by Camie Goldhammer and Rachel Schwartz

Nearly 10 months ago we began our Community Health Center Breastfeeding Promotion Project. The goal of this project is to address breastfeeding support at the primary care level. Although nine out of ten Washington babies begin life breastfeeding, we see a steady decrease in breastfeeding rates the moment mothers leave the hospital. Research shows that the support of the primary care provider is an essential part of a mother reaching her breastfeeding goals. During this project, clinics have been provided technical assistance from WithinReach as well as monetary funds from the Department of Health to help implement programmatic changes. A comprehensive evaluation of this project has been conducted by the UW Center for Public Health Nutrition’s Erica Lamson (Skagit Breastfeeding Coalition member!).

Some highlights from our eight clinics were:

  • Six of the eight clinics now have Infant Feeding Policies stating that breastfeeding is the preferred method of feeding infants.
  • Nearly 80 clinic employees received 8 hours of clinical lactation education hosted by WithinReach and taught by Evergreen Perinatal Education, while several more staff attended the Simkin Center’s 45 hour Foundations for Best Practice in Lactation Care and are not Certified Lactation Eductors.
  • Seven clinics are now formula free.
  • Seven clinics have designated space for both patients and employees who need to express their milk or nurse their babies in private (if they prefer).
  • All of the clinics have prioritized prenatal one-on-one breastfeeding education with patients.
  • Half of our clinics have begun or are planning on offering breastfeeding classes for prenatal patients.
  • Six clinics have adopted policies to ensure that all babies are seen in the clinic within 5-7 days post birth.
  • All clinics have begun tracking or are in the process of tracking breastfeeding rates.

As this project comes to a close we want to give a huge congratulations to the Roger Saux Health Center (Quinault Tribe), SeaMar Community Health Center-South Park, Port Gamble S’Klallam Health Clinic (Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe), North Bend Family Clinic/Tolt Community Clinic (Snoqualmie Tribe), Community Health Centers of Central Washington-Ellensburg, Tri-Cities Community Health Center-Pasco, Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic and the David C. Wynecoop Memorial Clinic (Spokane Tribe) for all your great work. The work accomplished by these clinics has been inspiring and the mothers and babies of Washington State will benefit for years to come!

We also want to thank these clinics for helping us pilot test the materials for the Washington Steps Up for Breastfeeding Success initiative. Once finalized, the clinic self-assessment, resource toolkit and provider reference card will be available to all clinics and providers in Washington State so they too can step up in support of breastfeeding.

Tags: Breastfeeding   Community Health Center   Lactation education   Washington Department of Health   

Washington Steps Up to Support Breastfeeding Moms

We recently hosted a visit with two Centers for Disease Control (CDC) staff members – Rosanne Farris and Carol McGowan, who oversee a CDC breastfeeding grant WithinReach was awarded.  It was a great opportunity to talk about the work we are facilitating around the state to create breastfeeding supportive communities.
Parenting is hard.  Right from the start parents are faced with choices at every turn.  Hospital or birthing center? Obstetrician or midwife? Breastmilk or Formula?  Home-based , center-based, or family and friend childcare?  For most, these questions aren’t simple either -or-decisions.  They are complicated and nuanced; based on one’s life experience, culture, capacity, resources and current situation.  Unfortunately, in our quest to provide the best for our children, these decisions often get framed as “right” or “wrong” choices.   And with this perspective, we can be quick to judge ourselves, and each other.
Years ago, in my first days at WithinReach (then Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies), we hosted a Seattle visit by T. Berry Brazelton, Professor Emeritus at Harvard Medical School and his Touchpoints team.  I will never forget the response one of his staff gave during a lunch panel at the event,  in response to two attendees who had both posed questions related to the type of childcare they had chosen for their children (In my mind, both hoping for confirmation that they had made the “right” choice).
She quickly defused the tension in the room by commending both parents for caring so deeply about their children’s health and development. She went on to say that she felt we could do so much more for kids and parents if we focused our energy on supporting one another, as opposed to judging each other in an attempt to confirm the value of our own decisions.
Even though it was basically a reminder that there is more than one road to healthy child development, it brought huge relief to me as a new, uncertain mom, who was constantly worried about making the “right” choices for her baby.   Clearly, even though there are many paths to health and wellness for kids, all roads are not equal.  We do know what fosters good health and development for babies and children.
Breastfeeding, in fact, is one of the things we know a great deal about.  The evidence is clear, moms and babies receive huge benefits from breastfeeding and the benefits are life-long.  Making the decision to breastfeed is not a one-time decision.  It occurs over and over in different venues as parents navigate the early days of childhood.
First, at the hospital, where a new Mom may be supported to initiate breastfeeding, or she may be given formula and the subtle message that it may be easier for her to use.  Next, during early visits to a new baby’s primary care provider, where the care and support a Mom receives will either encourage or discourage her decision to breastfeed exclusively for the recommended 6 months.  We also know that most moms return to work at some point, many early in their baby’s life.  Will a mom’s employer support her decision to continue breastfeeding by providing a comfortable place to pump breastmilk and a culture supportive of doing so?  Further, can a working mom find a quality childcare facility that supports her decision to breastfeed by willingly storing and providing her baby the breastmilk she has worked so hard to provide?
At every turn, a moms decision to breastfeed is made easier or harder depending on the support she does or does not receive.  That’s what our work on the new Washington Steps Up for Breastfeeding Success initiative is all about. Over the next 3 years, by working with hospitals, health clinics, employers and childcare facilities, our goal is to help 10 communities become fully supportive of breastfeeding.  Through the Washington Steps Up 5-star quality rating system, families will quickly and reliably be able to identify places that will support their decision to breastfeed. Watch for announcements about the launch of the Washington Steps Up website in late 2013.
In partnership with the Department of Health, this work will make the connections thousands of moms and babies need to be healthy.  But even more importantly, it will offer on-going support, as families navigate the never ending storm of parenting decisions that face them!

Tags: Breastfeeding   Breastfeeding support   Washington Department of Health   Washington Steps Up   

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