SANDWICH – Although she had been around her siblings’ babies, when it came to breastfeeding her own child, Jennifer McDonald of Sandwich was a little bit lost on what to do.
McDonald said that without visiting the Northwestern Medicine Valley West Hospital Breastfeeding Center, located in the diagnostic imaging department of the Sandwich hospital, she probably would not have breastfed her newborn daughter, Genevieve, born Oct. 4.
“There’s no way I would have known what to do, I would have chosen to bottle or formula feed,” McDonald said. “I’m really glad that the center’s here. ... I attended a bunch of classes at the hospital and I had a prenatal visit at the center. After giving birth, I wasn’t sent home from the hospital with a ‘good luck.’ I had information and knew what to expect. Along the way, I’ve help and support here when I need it, and it’s free.”
The breastfeeding center, which opened in February, offers one-on-one breastfeeding consultations with a lactation consultant who gives instruction, helps manage common breastfeeding problems and provides emotional support.
Appointments are available free for expectant moms and new moms, regardless of the baby’s age and where they were born. Appointments are offered from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, 5 to 10 p.m. Wednesdays and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Fridays. To schedule an appointment, call 815-786-3695.
New or soon-to-be moms and their babies also can attend the hospital’s Mom’s Breastfeeding Support Group, which meets from 10 to 11 a.m. the first Tuesday of every month.
Nurse and lactation consultant Terri Bogden said the center is just one more way the hospital is considered baby-friendly, a designation they received from Baby-Friendly USA Inc. The award is maintained by continuing to practice the World Health Organization and UNICEF’s 10 Steps to Successful Breastfeeding.
“It is important for us as a hospital to offer support and help to new parents,” Bogden said. “We want to support breastfeeding and lactation and to educate our staff, expecting and new mothers and their partners on how to properly breastfeed or bottlefeed.
“When it comes time to discharge moms after birth, we want to give them information and resources to keep them breastfeeding for six months to a year,” she said. “Our main goal is to support the mom and create an optimal environment for caring about that beautiful baby.”
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, breastfeeding protects infants against a variety of diseases and conditions such as bacteremia, diarrhea, respiratory tract and urinary tract infections, late-onset sepsis in preterm infants, type 1 and type 2 diabetes, lymphoma, leukemia and Hodgkins disease, and childhood obesity.
Maternal benefits of breastfeeding include decreased postpartum bleeding, more rapid uterine involution and decreased risk of breast and ovarian cancers.
McDonald said the reason she chose to breastfeed was because it is a free and natural way to feed and nourish her baby while bonding.
“You have to hold the baby to breastfeed, and it’s a great way for us to bond,” McDonald said. “I didn’t know how to work a breast pump, and I was worried because at first she didn’t latch on. Having the center here to help and answer questions has been great.
“I’d tell other moms not to be afraid to ask for help and don’t be discouraged,” she said. “It can be hard, it’s much more difficult than grabbing a bottle and mixing formula. But it’s worth it. Breastfeeding is important to me. It’s a personal choice, every mom and every baby is different.”
As a mom that breastfed both of her children, Bogden said that having help and support along the way is important for new mothers.
“We just want to educate and give support, teaching them that breastfeeding isn’t as difficult as you might think,” Bogden said. “I wasn’t a nurse or lactation consultant when I had my babies, and I didn’t breastfeed as long as I wanted to with my second child. I wish I had a center like this available back then.”