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A Day in the Life of US Hospital Based IBCLC…

By Christine Staricka, IBCLC

I’d like to open a window for you to see what I experience during the 24-72 hours after birth as a hospital-based IBCLC in the United States.  It may or may not surprise you, but it will definitely broaden your perspective.

A typical day for me and my colleagues begins with accessing a current census report of mothers in the postpartum unit, the NICU, and the pediatrics unit.  Prioritizing patients is one of the most difficult tasks I face.  The reason is simple: every nurse correctly believes that her patient is the most important and needs to be seen immediately. In many cases, when I tell a nurse that her patient will be seen later rather than sooner, I listen to her case assessment and help her by making specific suggestions on how to help get through the next feeding or two.  Every day, I teach as many nurses as I do moms, reinforcing both clinical and assessment skills and reframing perspective in terms of infant health outcomes.

Collecting information on dyads is a time-consuming task.  I consult the charts; check the white board on which nurses write feeding status and significant outcomes for each dyad; talk to nurses and pediatricians; and most importantly, I talk to the mother while I observe her baby at her breast.

Often a postpartum mom is medicated, stressed from a difficult or long birth, and overwhelmed by the sheer number of hospital employees knocking on her door for various reasons. Talking to the new mother is an exercise in proper communication skills to overcome her reluctance to let another stranger into her world and to build credibility and a sense that I am there to advocate for her and her baby.

I ask for her opinion on breastfeeding progress, mentally comparing it with information I have already gathered.  Often she expresses a vastly different picture. She may feel it’s going terrible because the baby wanted to nurse all night and is clearly not getting enough milk, while the nurse has assessed the latch and notes that baby has had 5 stools and 2 wet diapers in the first 24 hours.  Or the mom may say it’s going fine even though it hurts a lot, and she knows that’s normal because all her friends told her that breastfeeding is supposed to hurt; however, the baby lost more than 7% of birth weight in 36 hours and has a high bilirubin level for his age.  Sometimes the answer is obvious but most times, it takes more detective work:  “Tell me about your birth…”

The more you talk, the more opportunity is created to educate, correct myths, and address misperceptions.  In the hospital, many times the moms I see are not yet aware they need help.  She may not even truly want help.  That puts an extra burden on me to discern how much I can assist, and I’ve learned through experience to sense from her responses when it is advisable for me to ask explicitly whether she would like me to work with her, what were her original feeding goals, and how she would like to proceed while still in hospital.

During my hours on the floor, I wear a pager so that patients and staff can find me in the building.  We maintain a lactation helpline where any mom in the community can leave a voicemail if she needs breastfeeding support and I also see moms on an outpatient basis as needed after they have been discharged home.

I do a LOT of paperwork. I am required to document every contact with a mother, short or long, phone or in-person, and also some with nurses where I give specific instructions on how to help.  I am required to document those contacts on my own daily activity log, as well as documenting them in legally-approved patient charting methods, all of which are handwritten in our facility and are subject to subpoena by the courts in case of litigation.  When I have contact with the mother of a baby in NICU, I document in the baby’s chart, plus I also make notes on the contact on an individual dyad tracking sheet to assist with continuity of care among lactation consultants because the physical charts for those babies are not easily accessible to us. I sign in multiple places in patients’ charts that I have provided required education on those topics, and I collect feeding statistics from mothers for hospital reporting requirements.  I compile multiple types of breastfeeding statistics for various purposes within the hospital; sometimes those reports influence policy and procedural changes, a very rewarding direct outcome of my efforts.

I facilitate a monthly breastfeeding support group sponsored by the facility. I assist in formal staff education events held annually for each individual unit within the Maternal Child Health Department.  Our lactation staff doubles as the Parent Education staff (and thus required to maintain current certification as Childbirth Educators) so we are responsible for teaching Childbirth Education Series, Prenatal Breastfeeding Classes, and hosting weekly maternity Orientation Tours of the facility for pregnant women and their partners, in addition to teaching a daily Discharge Class for patients discharging home that day. We create handouts for parents which meet Baby Friendly standards and IBCLC Standards of Care. I am sometimes called upon to assist hospital employees who themselves are facing breastfeeding and/or pumping challenges as they return to work and advocate for them as needed. I collaborate with the local Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) services to ensure individual mothers in need get breastpumps and basic breastfeeding support as needed.

I often wish I was able receive feedback and validation which comes from building a relationship with my patients.  Almost everyone I see disappears into the ether and I never know if I affected them.  Fortunately, there are those beautiful few who call with questions, who come back in for more help, who send lovely thank-you cards, who attend support group, and whose babies I am privileged to see as they grow up.  I feel comfortable speaking for all my hospital-based IBCLC peers in saying that the rewards we reap from just a tiny few of those we meet in our demanding professional setting are enough to make us happy to see the multitudes every day.

Christine Staricka became a Certified Lactation Educator through UCSD while facilitating local breastfeeding support groups. She studied independently while accumulating supervised clinical hours and passed the exam in 2009 to become an IBCLC. She holds a BA in Business Management from University of Phoenix. She has contributed to USLCA’s eNews and she moderates a community-based breastfeeding information and discussion page on Facebook at Facebook called BakersfieldBreastfeeds. She enjoys tweeting breastfeeding information as IBCLCinCA and maintains a blog by the same name. She is a wife and mother of 3 lovely and intelligent daughters and aunt to 4 nephews and 2 nieces, all of whom have been or still are breastfeeding. She is partial to alternative rock and grunge music, especially Pearl Jam, and attends as many concerts as financially possible with her husband of 18 years.

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IBCLCs Play a Critical Role in the US Best Fed Beginnings Program

By Debi Ferrarello, MSN, MS, IBCLC

The National Initiative for Children’s Healthcare Quality (NICHQ) launched it’s CDC-supported Best Fed Beginnings program with the ambitious goal of preparing 90 US hospitals for Baby-Friendly designation by September, 2014. The 90 hospitals were selected from 235 applicants and represent 29 states with dubious distinction of having the lowest breastfeeding rates and the highest rates of supplementation during the hospital stay. The 90 hospitals were further divided into three geographical cohorts of 30
hospitals each.

IBCLCs gathering at the recent NICHQ Region B conference in Baltimore.

Each hospital has a “core team” that includes a senior administrator, at least one physician, a nurse leader, a bedside nurse, a data manager, a team leader, a senior lactation consultant, and a mother who does not work for the hospital and has given recently given birth at the hospital. This model addresses administrative “buy-in” issues by requiring senior administrator participation. In fact, the senior administrators have their own track tailored especially for their needs. Since creating a community that supports breastfeeding is a goal of Baby-Friendly, involving a mother from the community makes so much sense!

Recently, hospital core teams from “Region B” gathered in Baltimore, MD for a two day learning session (and Baltimore’s famous crabcakes on our own!). National public health leaders such as CDC’s Laurence Grummer-Strawn and Charles Homer, MD, MPH, president of NICHQ and on faculty at Harvard University, kicked off the event and energized the crowd. Over the course of two days, participants learned more about why breastfeeding is so important, how hospital practices make a difference, and what teams can do to transform the culture. We heard specifics about Baby-Friendly designation directly from Trish Mac Enroe and Liz Westwater of Baby Friendly USA. ILCA members Lori Feldman-Winter, MD, MPH, IBCLC and Anne Merewood, PhD, IBCLC provided specific strategies for success. Pediatrician Sahira Long, MD, gave insights into providing culturally appropriate care. We learned Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) techniques that are essential to measure our baseline, develop strategies for change and chart our progress as we strive to support breastfeeding from the prenatal period, throughout childbirth and the hospital stay, and into the postpartum period. Finally, we heard from hospitals in our region who have already become Baby-Friendly as they shared trials and triumphs that we could all relate to.

Each participating hospital made a “story board” or video about their hospital, their goals, their successes, and challenges. Pennsylvania Hospital Core Team members enjoyed seeing what others have done and were proud to share our history of “rooming-in” dating back to 1765! Debi Ferrarello, Susan Meyers, Brittany Stofko, Kelly Wade, Pam Powers, and Karen Anastasia in front of their hospital story board.

So what do IBCLCs need to know about this initiative? IBCLCs need to know that after years of pushing that boulder up the mountain alone, there is suddenly an army of folks pushing right along with us…And we need to welcome the newcomers to the task. We need to be prepared to graciously play support roles as leaders who may never before have considered breastfeeding suddenly “discover” it. Many of the hospital team leaders are IBCLCs, meaning that we need to quickly become experts in CQI tools that were never part of The Exam and develop the essential skills to effectively lead an interdisciplinary team through a complex and multi-layered transformation. This is challenging work, but then again, IBCLCs have always be up for a challenge!

Best Fed Beginnings brings opportunities for IBCLCs. In order to become Baby-Friendly, hospitals need to make sure that all of their nurses have at least 20 hours of breastfeeding education, including five hours of competency-based demonstration. IBCLCs can teach classes and conduct skills labs for the competency education. While hospitals are not required to employ IBCLCs for Baby-Friendly designation, many do hire IBCLCs to care for their patients, as well as to provide education for other staff members. And finally, as hospitals invest resources into breastfeeding support, the visibility of those with expertise in lactation care rises. IBCLCs become far more valuable in the eyes of the hospital and the community. This is all good for IBCLCs, and ultimately for mothers and babies!

Debi Ferrarello, MSN, MS, IBCLC is honored to lead the NICHQ Core Team for the nation’s first hospital—Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia.  Over the years she has worked in private practice, co-founded the nonprofit communty-based Breastfeeding Resource Center with Colette Acker, IBCLC, and led hospital-based lactation programs.  She conducts breastfeeding-related research, writes and speaks about breastfeeding, and is passionate about breastfeeding as public health.  She currently serves on the board of the United States Lactation Consultant Association. 

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Welcome New IBCLCs!

We at Lactation Matters would like to congratulate all of the newest IBCLCs who found out that they passed the IBLCE exam last week!  What an amazing feat!  We would love to hear your story about your journey to become an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC.)

What inspired you to become an IBCLC?
What were the highlights during your journey?
What challenges did you face?
What are you most excited about now that you are an IBCLC?

We would love to collect your stories and share them with our colleagues and blog readers.

If you have a short story that would fit into the comment section of this article, please submit a comment.

If your story belongs as its own blog article, or you have photos and/or videos to share, please submit it/them to lactationmatters@gmail.com and we will contact you in the next few days.

Thank you so much for your connections and interactions on Lactation Matters, thus far.  We are ecstatic to hear from you!

Robin Kaplan, M.Ed., IBCLC, Co-Editor Lactation Matters
Owner, San Diego Breastfeeding Center

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