A Strong Start for Mothers and Newborns

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 health.

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 nipples.

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.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information - What you need to knowLearn More
Skip to content