Breastfeeding is very natural, but it can be challenging. A new mom and first baby are both trying to learn a new skill that neither has done. Many times a mom has never seen another woman nursing a baby. Other times, an experienced breastfeeding mom may have difficulty with a new baby when there has been a difficult labor or delivery, premature delivery earlier than 37 weeks, admission to a NICU (neonatal intensive care unit), presence of an oral or facial anomaly, breast surgery, or other medical issue that complicates the breastfeeding experience.
When these situations arise, who does the mother call for assistance to make her personal breastfeeding goal attainable? Knoxville is a supportive breastfeeding community. At the top of the tier of support is the International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.
These experts are the only internationally certified healthcare professionals and hold the highest level of lactation training and credentials. Their certifying board requires extensive study in human lactation, anatomy and physiology, infant and child development, breastfeeding, and general health sciences, as well as 500-1000 hours of clinical experience prior to taking a rigorous international test. An IBCLC is also required to be knowledgeable about current evidence-based practices, must re-certify every five years and must re-test every 10 years. IBCLCs are trained to work in a wide variety of settings and encounter many complex breastfeeding situations. Because they are trained to work independently, they must adhere to a code of ethics and abide by certain standards within their scope of practice.
In addition to IBCLCs, Knoxville has other specialists who offer breastfeeding support. The Certified Lactation Specialist is a healthcare provider who has a minimum of 45 hours of breastfeeding education. This level is a stepping-stone for becoming an IBCLC. The next tier is the Certified Lactation Counselor, who is trained to address common breastfeeding concerns through education, support and best breastfeeding practices. Often they serve as peer counselors.
The last tier is the Certified Lactation Educator, who provides support and education for breastfeeding. They may teach breastfeeding classes or lead support groups. Parkwest Medical Center is proud to have five IBCLCs on staff to assist moms with their breastfeeding challenges. Two of the five IBCLCs, Terri Butcher-Chapman, RN, and Mary Alice Wagner, RN, have over 22 years of experience each. Other IBCLCs include Michelle French, RN (13 years), Leann
Thomasson RN, (5 years), and our newest addition, Charlotte Hollingsworth, RN (newly certified).
In addition to working in the Childbirth Center, their TLC support group for new mothers meets every Wednesday from 2:30-4:30 p.m. to help moms after they leave the hospital. To register for classes or to learn more about the TLC support group, call (865) 374-PARK.
Nursing mothers can get information and support 24/7 from the Tennessee Breastfeeding Hotline, a service of the Tennessee Department of Health. The hotline is also open to expectant mothers, partners, families, and healthcare providers. Call
Nursing the Newborn
Mothers who want to breastfeed their babies get the support they need at Parkwest Medical Center. Parkwest offers prenatal classes to help families prepare for birth, and
lactation consultants are available after the baby arrives.
Specially trained lactation consultants make rounds to see mothers in the hospital who are breastfeeding babies or who want to learn how. Their expert advice is delivered with an extra
measure of compassion and unwavering support. If a mother and baby are still having problems initiating breastfeeding after they leave the hospital, a lactation consultant can offer a special feeding plan for baby, which covers everything from alternative feeding methods to the use of an electric breast pump.
Parkwest also offers a support group for the nursing mothers and their newborns. The Lactation Club (TLC) meets weekly, and is a place where moms can get their questions answered in a comfortable environment with other mothers who are on the
same journey. Breastfeeding can be challenging at first, but it’s also a wonderful way to give a baby a great start in life both physically and emotionally. For more information and a link to an online breastfeeding guide, visit TreatedWell.com/childbirth.
Tips for Breastfeeding Mothers
• Learn everything you can about breastfeeding. Take a class if possible.
• Choose a pediatrician who supports breastfeeding.
• Gather your “tribe of support” with family and friends.
• Take advantage of professional expertise during your breastfeeding journey.
• Take as much time from work and other responsibilities as you can.
• Explore your options to facilitate pumping at work or school.
• Learn about your insurance coverage for the cost of a breast pump and other breastfeeding services. Some insurance plans will cover the cost of a breast pump for expectant mothers as
early as the 20th week of pregnancy.
• Set a goal. Breastfeeding takes time to learn, and a goal
can help you. Give yourself the gift of time.
• Breastfeed frequently, which helps you make more milk later.
• After the first 24 hours, your baby may want to breastfeed more frequently for a night or two. This may be a good time to have a supportive person stay with you.
• Get comfortable! Milk flows more easily from a relaxed mother.
• Help your baby find the position that works best for both of you.
• Take good care of yourself. Rest when your baby naps, eat when you are hungry, and drink fluids when you are thirsty.