Start Strong breastfeeding initiative part of the Live Better! Live Longer! project
Focus to increase support for breastfeeding among employers, community
Start Strong is the initiative sponsored by HCC in partnership with Morrison County Public Health and Women, Infants and Children (WIC).
It was in response to the 2010 health rankings in Morrison County that the Live Better! Live Longer! project was begun.
“We determined that there were three main pillars to health — Eat: healthy eating, Move: encouraging people to move more and Belong: connecting socially face-to-face,” said HCC Executive Director Kate Bjorge. “It was through discussing preventing obesity in children that the Start Strong program was developed.”
Although Start Strong falls under healthy eating, there are overlapping physical and social benefits.
“Breastfeeding benefits the mother in recovering from the pregnancy, and helps the baby acquire increased immunity,” said Bjorge. “Mothers can connect socially with other mothers and with lactation consultants.”
Nationwide studies show that babies who are exclusively breastfed at one month of age have half the risk of dying of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, (SIDS).
“This is a three-year project,” Bjorge said. “We were awarded a Mission and Ministry grant of $114,526 through Catholic Health Initiatives to achieve some of our goals,” Bjorge said. “They’re a good partner for us.”
The project is focusing on five objectives. Breastfeeding-friendly policies and practices will be incorporated at St. Gabriel’s Hospital, the Family Medical Center in Little Falls and Pierz and the Randall Lakes Area Clinic. Breastfeeding training will be provided to all doctors, nurses, home visit providers and educators.
The project will encourage the increase of work sites in Morrison County that support breastfeeding employees. Another component of the project is a social media marketing campaign promoting the benefits of breastfeeding.
Methods of collecting information about the numbers of breastfeeding moms and the length of time they breastfeed will be established through the project.
“We know we need to work with employers in determining how to help make those environments friendly for breastfeeding moms,” said Bjorge.
In fall 2012, an obstetrical nurse and a clinic triage nurse were sent to a one-week certified lactation counselor training in Rochester, presented by the Center for Breastfeeding.
Through the Start Strong initiative, two physicians and three clinic/hospital personnel were sent to a one-day lactation workshop held in Wadena. A childbirth educator was sent to a two-day training in Wadena.
“Tri-County Community Action is a coalition to share resources in Todd, Wadena and Morrison counties,” said Bjorge. “They have come alongside HCC so we can work together. In a rural area, we need to do that. A lactation consultant at the St. Cloud Hospital who is an expert in the field has made herself available to us to advise and answer questions.”
The American Pediatric Association recommends six months of exclusive breastfeeding, according to Bjorge. Statistics show that more than 70 percent of new moms return to work full time within three months.
“The hospital has purchased a breast pump using funds from the Mission and Ministry grant with matching funds from the hospital auxiliary,” Bjorge said. “Its primary use is for new moms in the maternity ward, but it is available for any Unity Family Healthcare employee to use at any time when it is not already in use.”
Every family receiving medical assistance is offered a breast pump free of charge to take home with the new baby.
Patients can be shown how to use the breast pump and how to store milk before they go home.
“Some insurance companies will cover the cost of a pump,” said Childbirth Educator Richael Weinand. “It’s best to check into that before the birth.”
Weinand teaches the New Life Birthing series classes at St. Gabriel’s. “The class goes for seven weeks, with the seventh class being the breastfeeding class.”
Statistics show that the least likely mothers to breastfeed are the younger population. “Our culture has formed some warped attitudes about what breasts were made for,” Bjorge said. “Breastfeeding is normal; it is the purpose breasts were made for. We are trying to help people understand how perfect this food is for babies; it has lifelong benefits.”
Breastfeeding benefits babies with stronger immune systems and decreased risk of ear infections, respiratory tract infections, dermatitis and asthma. They also have a decreased risk of diabetes and obesity for the rest of their lives.
Studies show that breastfeeding mothers have decreased incidence of breast and ovarian cancer, decreased incidence of Type 2 diabetes and decreased risk of stroke, coronary artery disease, postpartum bleeding and postpartum depression.
“‘Breastfeeding-friendly’ baby bag kits have been assembled at the hospital to send home with new parents,” Bjorge said. “They contain a water bottle with information on hydration, a healthy snack, local phone numbers to call for support, ‘hooter-hiders’ to use when breastfeeding in public, and a door hanger for privacy both in the maternity ward and after going home.”
The same door-hanger can be used in the workplace while a mom is pumping to take milk home for the baby.
Carla Mindeman, obstetrics staff nurse at St. Gabriel’s, is now a certified lactation counselor.
“We can provided support and counseling to patients during their postpartum stay,” said Mindeman. “We are there to help them start nursing immediately after the birth.”
“Our nurses are already very experienced in providing support to breastfeeding mothers,” Mindeman added. “One thing from the training that I look forward to sharing with my coworkers is additional information on the benefits of skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby immediately after birth.”
Weinand has monitored a lactation call line for St. Gabriel’s for a number of years.
“It’s not used as much as it should be; it’s not well-publicized,” said Weinand. “But it’s exciting to think about how this project can impact breastfeeding in our communities.”
Weinand helped a mother of twins get established with breastfeeding. The same mom called back recently with some issues, and Weinand was able to hear how the eight-month-old babies are doing.
Social media has impacted the way mothers bond with their babies during labor and after the birth.
“We are seeing more Facebook kind of communication tools being used all during labor,” Weinand said. “That interferes with the emotional experience. We have begun a no-visitor policy for 90 minutes after the birth, which allows for family time and bonding.”
Well-mom and baby visits are offered to every family, and conducted by Public Health. WIC is also a good place to go with breastfeeding questions.
“There’s a lot of work to do, and it’s not going to happen overnight,” Bjorge said.
“As the initiative team works together in our community, it is my hope that breastfeeding becomes recognized as the norm, and that mothers will have support from their friends, families, employers, community agencies and health care providers,” said Mindeman. “As this occurs, we will have healthier mothers, infants and children, which will result in healthier communities.”
“If people really understood the profound impact of breastfeeding, I believe they would choose to breastfeed,” Bjorge said.
For more information, call Healthy Communities Collaborative at (320) 631-5675.
The Lactation Resource Line is (320) 631-5372. Voice messages are checked Monday through Friday.