I have been the tearful mother, up alone in the dark, trying desperately to feed my newborn. I know the anxiety and frustration of a difficult breastfeeding experience. Nothing is more important in the first few weeks of your baby’s life than learning to feed. Supporting our newborns and older children, too, to thrive and grow is the basic task of parenting. Breastfeeding, while natural and sometimes easy, can be the most challenging piece of the newborn period.
Luckily, there is support for families with a new baby; however they are feeding their newborns. I’m the Maternal-Child Health (MCH) supervisor at Central Vermont Home Health & Hospice, and I and our team of nurses visit hundreds of families in central Vermont, supporting them in the first critical months at home.
In my role at CVHHH, I spend a lot of my time meeting with community partners — local pediatric practices, The Family Center of Washington County and representatives from the Department for Children and Families, among others — to talk about CVHHH’s services for mothers and children. So often, when I talk about the range of breastfeeding and the obstetrical and pediatric supports CVHHH offers, people are surprised to learn my team provides lactation support for mothers and babies at home seven days a week, including holidays.
The importance of early support in the home, where the mother and infant can rest, dramatically improves success later in life. While Vermont has a great rate of breastfeeding initiation, the rates drop dramatically in the first few weeks after mom and baby leave the hospital. There is still a lot of work to do to adequately support women who want to breastfeed.
August is Breastfeeding Awareness month. Earlier this month, members of the MCH team gathered on the State House lawn in Montpelier for the global “Big Latch On!” The Big Latch On! is an international event, locally organized by the Department of Health in Barre, which celebrates a cause — breastfeeding — that is near and dear to our hearts.
It doesn’t matter if you are a first-time mother, or if you have two children and are about to have your third, every breastfeeding experience — like every child — is unique. Of course, we recognize that many women choose not to breastfeed, and many choose to combine formula and breast milk. My goal is to ensure central Vermont women who want to breastfeed are armed with the tools and information — plus a few expert tips and tricks — to have a successful experience.
Each member of our MCH team is trained to provide one-on-one lactation support at home for women and their babies. In our years of experience serving this community, we have found women often experience the same handful of challenges when they try breastfeeding. These include trouble latching, soreness, exhaustion and under or over supply of breast milk. You can visit CVHHH’s website, at www.cvhhh.org/family, for more information and to reach me and my team with your questions.
We believe every mother and family deserves to have the best pregnancy, birth and infant feeding experience possible. While we recognize breastfeeding is not possible for every new mother, our lactation-trained nurses can meet each mother where they are with one-on-one attention and care.
Katy Leffel, RN, CLC, is manager of Central Vermont Home Health & Hospice’s Maternal-Child Health program.