Feeding a Lifetime of Health Benefits
Marvelous Mothers’ Milk Feeds a Lifetime of Health Benefits
Gently caressing her newborn son, Savanna Gauze of Holden Beach leaned-in to kiss him, the love in her heart just radiating, and felt deeply by everyone in her hospital room. The last thing on her mind before delivering little Baylor at Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center was breastfeeding, but one of the things most on her mind post-birth is how she is giving Baylor everything he needs to grow strong and healthy, through her mother’s touch, and her milk. “When they put Baylor on my chest right after being born, he instantly stopped crying,” Gauze said. “I was the one who cried. I was mesmerized by the bond that I already had with him. He knew I was his mom. This was the best thing in the world.
“I had never breastfed. But when he latched on to me, I felt I was doing something so great in giving him what he needs. My body has what he needs, and I get butterflies in my belly when I am about to give it to him,” she said.
Gauze couldn’t be a better advocate for a new initiative at Brunswick Medical Center, which is getting the word out to as many men and women as it can. The message is, the bonding that takes place from immediate skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby after birth has calming benefits for both of them, which fosters healthful breastfeeding, and hormones that reduce post-partum bleeding for mom. Babies who drink their mother’s milk are generally healthier throughout their entire lives, and are much less likely to suffer childhood diseases than babies who start off drinking baby formula.
There’s so much more than that, including links to lower risk for type 2 diabetes, and certain types of breast and ovarian cancer for mothers, and even lowered chances for asthma, ear infections, sudden infant death syndrome, childhood leukemia and other major health concerns for children. It’s all proven by “a mound of research that is piling up,” according to Brunswick Medical Center’s very own lactation consultant, Belinda Phillips, who was instrumental in the center recently receiving international recognition as a “Baby-Friendly Designated Birth Facility.”
Phillips said this information is so important to the health of all people in Brunswick County, that Brunswick Medical Center applied two years ago to embrace the “baby-friendly” initiative founded by the World Health Organization and The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF). The hospital joins seven other Novant facilities which paved the way with the designation, adding to the wealth of proof that this is a good thing for the hospital here.
“Breastfeeding has been shown to be one of the most highly effective preventive measures a mother can take to protect the health of her infant and herself,” Phillips said. “There are Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding, and those steps form the broad framework that guide us in the baby-friendly hospital initiative.”
Phillips’ overarching goal is to educate doctors, hospital staff and prospective mothers of the initiative’s incredible benefits, and to inspire action on the part of all of them to make breastfeeding an integral part of a child’s life. Specifically, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends infants receive breast milk exclusively for the first six months after birth, and that mothers continue breastfeeding while gradually introducing solid foods after that period, up to one year. The World Health Organization concurs that exclusive feedings for the first six months enable children to achieve optimal growth, development and health.
In implementing the ten steps toward those objectives, Brunswick Medical Center through Phillips routinely communicates the policies to all health care staff, trains staff, informs all pregnant women about the benefits and how to breastfeed, and helps new mothers initiate breastfeeding within one hour of birth. In addition, mothers are taught to give their newborns no food or drink other than breastmilk, and feed whenever they want. They learn how to maintain lactation even if they are separated from their infants. The infants receive no pacifiers or artificial nipples, and they and their mothers remain together 24 hours a day right after birth, in a practice called “rooming in.” Finally, Phillips encourages mothers to join breastfeeding support groups upon their discharge from the hospital.
With feeding from the breast the normal and natural way, how is it that baby formula became the norm in the U.S.? Phillips said World War II was when the norm changed. With the creation of formula, and with women going to work while their husbands went off to war, formula-feeding became normalized. She said many mothers still unfortunately teach their daughters that formula is the way to go when feeding their infants, and the benefits of skin-to-skin contact are reduced by that kind of feeding, as well as the enormous health benefits of mother’s milk. So now, medical professionals have to re-educate women worldwide, to normalize nature’s original ways.
The goal locally is to have 100 percent of new mothers try it, and to date they have been successful with 90 percent. Phillips said Brunswick Medical Center supports the new mothers, no matter which direction they select to feed after the birth. The hospital provides formula for babies, if that is the mother’s choice. And if they choose formula, the staff provides education on that process.
Skin-to-skin contact is Brunswick Medical Center’s standard, however, no matter which way a mother decides to feed her child. As soon as a baby is born, it goes to the mother’s chest. “Skin-to-skin stabilizes the baby’s temperature, blood pressure, breathing and blood sugar levels. When baby hears mom’s heartbeat, and her smell, they calm down and the suck instinct kicks in, encouraging breastfeeding,” Phillips said. “This is what I tell mothers. Skin-to-skin care makes it easier and less stressful for the baby to adjust to our world. It’s warm and soothing, and helps create that initial bond.”
The “rooming in” procedure has virtually replaced the hospital nursery concept, she said. While there is still a nursery at the hospital, it is only used if medically necessary for the survival of the infant.
Also, mothers no longer need to change rooms at Brunswick Medical Center. Labor, delivery, recovery and “rooming in” all take place in the same room. All of this reduces stress on the mothers and the babies, which is a good thing.
The “baby-friendly” education for mothers begins with their first visit to their obstetrician when they are pregnant, Phillips said, and Phillips meets with them along their journey to giving birth. Savanna Gauze said Belinda Phillips is like a mother to her. “She showed me how to get my milk circulating, and I did it. She taught me very well, and told me she was proud of me. I learned so fast and couldn’t have done it without her. I’m so thankful for her.
“As soon as I knew I could get milk, and when he latched on to me, I knew I just wanted to help other mothers know about it. You can do it,” Gauze encouraged other moms.
Phillips also encouraged women in the community to come to Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center and Novant Health OB/GYN for their obstetrics and maternity care, “so we can provide that remarkable experience for them, their baby and their family.”
She said Brunswick Medical Center delivered more than 500 babies last year. “We’ve added ob/gyn physicians and I believe the community is recognizing they can stay local and get amazing care at Novant Health. We are expecting 70 babies in January.”
“I love it,” Gauze said. It’s the best thing in the world to give him what he needs. He drinks like a champ.”