“BREASTFEEDING is a skill that can take time and patience and practice to establish,” say Susan O’Driscoll and Veronica Daly.
The duo work as part of the breastfeeding support team in Cork University Maternity Hospital. They are both qualified nurses, midwives and lactation consultants with many years’ experience.
This week is National Breastfeeding week and Susan and Veronica are keen to promote the support services offered to breastfeeding mothers at the CUMH.
“We believe passionately that breastfeeding is the most natural way to feed your baby.
“We work very hard each day to support mothers in achieving their goals, whatever they are, on their breastfeeding journeys.”
Before pregnant women give birth, they advise women to attend the ante-natal breastfeeding class that is held at the CUMH. The three-hour class gives mums to be and their partners information about how to start breastfeeding, safe sleep practises, safe skin-to-skin contact, correct latching and any other aspect of breastfeeding that pregnant women might be worried about.
“We also discuss what supports are available in the community for mothers and we encourage mothers to attend their local breastfeeding group while pregnant. This is a great opportunity to meet other breastfeeding mothers,” they said.
“Our working week consists of facilitating breastfeeding support groups on the wards, as well as a walk-in support group in the Wilton Parish Centre for mothers, post discharge home.
“We provide a phone-in service daily for mothers and healthcare staff in the community.”
Once baby is born, staff in the CUMH birthing suite help mothers who wish to breastfeed do so in the correct and safe way.
‘Rooming in’ is encouraged on the post-natal ward so that a mother is able to recognise her baby giving her feeding cues. ‘Rooming in’ means that mum and baby stay together 24 hours a day. Susan and Veronica agree that rooming in is “a wonderful way of having time in the early stages [of a baby’s life], to get to know your baby with the supports [from midwifery staff] in the background. We help a mother recognise their baby’s cues for feeding, closeness and comfort. These skills also apply to mums who formula feed.”
No restrictions are placed on the frequency or duration of breastfeeds. Mothers are encouraged to breastfeed their babies as many as eight to 12 times in 24 hours.
Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended by the World Health Organisation up to six months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with solids up to two years and beyond. A number of benefits are associated with breastfeeding, including reducing a baby’s risk of suffering respiratory tract infections and gastroenteritis.
Susan and Veronica explain that “the immunological components in breastmilk are multifunctional. “The first milk, known as colostrum, is often described as an infant’s first natural vaccine,” they said.
Breastfeeding reduces the risk of obesity and diabetes in later life. There are also benefits to a mum who breastfeeds. It lowers the risk of ovarian and breast cancer and can help build a strong emotional bond between mother and baby.
Supporting a mum who wants to breastfeed is critical. While a lot of mothers encounter few problems breastfeeding, some women can have issues like sore nipples if her baby isn’t latching properly to her breasts.
Susan and Veronica work to help mothers resolve their breastfeeding issues and give them practical and emotional support. The support that they offer to new breastfeeding mothers is vital.
A recent Cochrane healthcare report “highlighted that women breastfeed longer and exclusively if supports are offered by trained personnel during the antenatal and postnatal period.”
Both experts agree that “the secret to successful breastfeeding is a correct attachment.”
Susan and Veronica’s advice to new and expectant mums who wish to breastfeed is to attend a breastfeeding class in order to receive good, quality information on feeding your baby.
“Avail of all the help that is offered after the birth. Look after yourself. Try to get as much rest as you can by taking power naps.”
As well as availing of the supports offered at CUMH, Susan and Veronica encourage mothers to attend their local voluntary support groups like La Leche League, Cuidiu and the Friends of Breastfeeding.
The public health nurse is also a useful resource to mothers once they have been discharged from the maternity ward with baby.
Both Susan and Veronica love their roles as lactation consultants and midwives.
“Working with new parents and their babies in CUMH is busy but very rewarding. Every day is different, and we get a great buzz from the energy and interest that new parents show.
“The early days of becoming a new parent are challenging but, with the right support, obstacles can be overcome.”
To contact the Breastfeeding helpline at CUMH ring: 021 492 0752 or 087 662 3874, Veronica Daly / Susan O’Driscoll Monday to Friday.
They also provide a free, point of access support group run by lactation consultants every Tuesday in the Main Hall of the SMA Parish Centre, Wilton, from 2pm to 4pm.