In 2019, Anna Sullivan and her husband Adam were overjoyed to learn they were expecting their
first child. Living in west Knoxville, Parkwest Medical Center is their hospital of choice. However, despite ample planning and preparation, childbirth always brings surprises. At 34 1/2 weeks pregnant, Sullivan was unexpectedly diagnosed with preeclampsia and high blood pressure. Preeclampsia is a condition that causes high blood pressure, high protein levels and swelling due to fluid retention. She was admitted to Parkwest for observation and closely monitored by her doctors and nurses for several days until she could safely deliver her daughter, Addie Mae, at 35 gestational weeks.
The Sullivans welcomed Addie Mae into the world on July 30, 2020. Because of her gestational age, the newborn was small, only 4 pounds, 7 ounces, but healthy.
During her stay, Sullivan recalls each Parkwest staff member that she encountered as having a professional and personable demeanor. “The nursing staff made me feel safe, and I knew I was in great hands,” Sullivan recalls. “My vitals were constantly monitored in a calm, professional way. I
felt at ease the entire time I was under their care.
The newborn was so small that she had trouble latching on to her mother to feed during the first few days. The new mom, who had intended to breastfeed, was visited by two of the five lactation consultants who are part of the Childbirth Center team at Parkwest. Certified lactation consultants, Mary Alice Wagner, RN, IBCLC, and LeAnn Thomasson, RN, IBCLC, provided guidance and reassurance while the new mother learned to feed her daughter. They coached Sullivan and helped her each step of the way during the first few days of motherhood. They showed her how to use a breast pump to encourage her milk supply, and explained that formula supplementation could be substituted until her milk supply was established. “Feeding Addie Mae was a challenge at first,” recalls Sullivan. “The lactation consultants helped me learn how to breastfeed my baby. They did a great job making sure I understood all the options and supported what I wanted.”
A few days after coming home from the hospital, Sullivan decided to attend the weekly lactation
support group. “I am so glad I did,” she says. “Without their support, I would quickly have resorted to bottle-feeding either pumped milk or formula. My hope was to breastfeed my baby, and they helped me achieve that dream.” Sullivan and her husband have now been home for more than six months with their bundle of joy. Thanks to the staff at Parkwest helping them have a smooth experience, the couple arrived home from the hospital with a great attitude and confidence they could care for and feed their baby.
If this new mom has any advice for other first-time mothers, it is to take a birthing class
and a breastfeeding class, even if it’s virtual. “There’s always something to learn!” she encourages. “At your appointments leading up to birth, when they hand you the brochures, look at the resources for new and expectant moms.” Sullivan describes The Lactation Club (TLC) as a sense of emotional relief to be surrounded by other women who are in a similar phase of life, and who are “also getting up several times in the middle of the night,” she laughs. “I am thankful to share my story with other new moms when I can. Especially during the difficult year caused by COVID-19, TLC has been a refuge of safe fellowship and common focus.” Sullivan still attends the weekly lactation support group and plans to continue as long as she is breastfeeding.
What is a Lactation Consultant?
Lactation consultants are health professionals who help new moms in their efforts to
breastfeed, and also provide prenatal education and preparation for expecting couples. They
specialize in the clinical management of breastfeeding, including providing education to
promote an abundant milk supply, helping position the baby to latch, assessing for optimal
transfer of milk and emotional support and comfort for the mother. The International Board
of Lactation Consultant certification (IBCLC) means a consultant has met the required criteria
and passed an internationally administered board examination. IBCLC-certified consultants
maintain their certification by continuing education in addition to hands-on job experience to ensure they are providing the most up-to-date and proficient healthcare to their patients.
The lactation consultants at Parkwest Childbirth Center are Mary Alice Wagner, BSN, RN, IBCLC;
LeAnn Thomasson, RN, BSN, IBCLC; Terri Butcher- Chapman RN, BSN, IBCLC; Michelle French, RN, IBCLC, and Charlotte Hollingsworth, RN, BSN, IBCLC.
The consultants encourage expectant mothers to seek education opportunities before the baby is born. “Take full advantage of what’s offered in the community,” advises Wagner. “ We have a n amazing team of professionals at the childbirth center who are passionate about delivering babies and helping families in this stage of life. There are childbirth classes, breastfeeding classes and CPR, all with wonderful instructors,” she says. “It helps to enjoy what’s coming when the baby enters your life. I encourage people to take advantage.” In addition to education and support, a consultant visits each new mother to see how they can assist with breastfeeding. Butcher-Chapman adds, “We help with an individual feeding plan and we watch for risk factors. I just love being a part of this life-changing event for them and helping make it a positive experience for the families.”
For assistance or questions about lactation support and other services for families of
newborns, call the Call Center at (865) 374-PARK.
Find Support at The Lactation Club
The Lactation Club at Parkwest is a support group for mothers and babies to have community with each other, with consultants available to answer questions. Breast- feeding mothers or mothers using breast pumps can bring their babies and learn how to handle challenges they may be facing.
Mothers can gain continued instruction and support regarding different positions to hold the
baby, helping the baby latch and achieving balance between bottle feeding and breastfeeding.
Education also covers the nutritional needs of the baby and helps moms pay attention to the baby’s weight gain each week. Groups meet weekly at Parkwest Medical Center. Please register in
advance by calling (865) 374-PARK.