A Strong Start for Mothers
By Sue Brower, RN
The Office of Disease
Prevention and Health Promotion of the U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services promotes a national program called “Healthy People 2010.” Among the
program’s many goals is that by 2010, 75 percent of the nation’s new mothers
will be breastfeeding their babies. Breastfeeding is important for many reasons
relating to newborn health and immunity, mother-baby bonding, and long-term
In 2007, the percentage of
new mothers at Cayuga Medical Center who were successfully breastfeeding their
newborns was 86.7 percent. For many years, the New York State Department of
Health Regional Perinatal Data System has ranked us at or near the top for
breastfeeding. This data, which compares us to all hospitals in the central New
York region, is very important because a high breastfeeding rate is a clinical
indicator for excellent perinatal care.
How is breastfeeding
encouraged during the hospital stay?
Babies are typically very
alert and interested in nursing in the first two hours following birth.
Therefore, one of our top priorities in the Maternal-Child Health Unit is to
help the baby and mother establish the beginning of their relationship during
this critical window of time.
As nurses who specialize
in newborn care, we focus our attention on providing mothers and newborns with
as much skin-to-skin contact as possible, especially in the first hour or two.
We minimize interruptions and provide routine care with the baby lying on the
mother’s chest. This close, uninterrupted contact helps the newborn to settle
and is more likely to result in a successful first breastfeeding.
If breastfeeding is so
natural, what’s to learn?
Breastfeeding is the most
natural thing in the world; however, moms and newborns don’t always know
exactly what to do and can really benefit from one-on-one assistance. We teach
mothers to watch their babies for cues indicating they are interested in
nursing, rather than waiting until the infant is crying. We show moms how to
position the baby during breastfeeding to make it easier to latch on. Our goal
is for mothers and babies to have at least one good nursing experience within
12 to 18 hours of birth.
Are there ongoing
discoveries about breastfeeding?
Yes, we continue to learn
about new breastfeeding techniques as they evolve. We have a different focus
now regarding the position of the baby during breastfeeding. The image that the
media portrays of a mother breastfeeding her baby typically shows the mother cradling
a tightly swaddled baby in the crook of her arm. However, we have learned that
this is neither the best nor easiest way for the baby to learn to nurse.
Instead, we usually teach
mothers what we call “the football hold,” with the baby lying on its back
looking into the mother’s face. The baby is unwrapped (wearing only a diaper)
to promote skin-to-skin contact and is positioned beneath the breast, which
helps the mom see and guide the breast to the baby’s mouth. This helps the baby
get a very wide latch and prevents the mother from getting sore or damaged
Obstetric nurses and
lactation consultants at Cayuga Medical Center are all trained and experienced
in educating and coaching new mothers on breastfeeding. Additionally, both
Northeast Pediatrics and Buttermilk Falls Pediatrics have lactation consultants
on staff. They are eager to see mothers and newborns soon after they are
discharged from the hospital to help them establish a successful breastfeeding
routine and to deal with any breastfeeding issues.
Sue Brower, RN, is the
clinical instructor in the Maternal-Child Health Unit at Cayuga Medical Center.