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UHS lactation consultants, program honored for excellence

June 25, 2019

Two registered nurses at UHS Hospitals have been recognized by the Southern Tier Breastfeeding Coalition for their work as international board-certified lactation consultants and for the success of the lactation program at UHS Hospitals. Elizabeth McBride, RN, IBCLC, and Allison Smigiel, RN, IBCLC, were honored for excellence by the Coalition at its most recent meeting, said Erin Raskin, RN, BSN, nurse manager of the Maternity/Newborn Nursery at UHS Wilson Medical Center. The nurses were presented with a plaque and lauded by Patricia Davies, chairperson of the Coalition, “in recognition of the difference you have made in the lives of so many mothers, babies and families.”

Erin said: “This recognition is exciting, and shows growth in our family-centered nursing practices. Since the introduction of our lactation program, our consultants have developed wonderful, ongoing relationships with their patients.”

In 2017, New York State amended its perinatal services regulations, requiring that a qualified staff person be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to provide lactation support as part of routine care. UHS Hospitals first fulfilled this requirement with a maternity staff nurse certified as a lactation consultant. Then, in February 2018, the organization was able to launch the Lactation Education Program Sponsored by Dr. Bai Lee, Distinguished Advisor for Perinatal Nursing Education, thanks to the generosity of Bai Lee, MD, who underwrote the program’s first-year salaries.

“We were already moving toward adding lactation consultants when the requirements changed,” Erin said. “It’s the right thing to do for our community: Evidence-based practice shows that early and ongoing breastfeeding support is the best thing for moms and babies.”

Adding lactation consultants was part of a larger move to make UHS Hospitals’ labor, delivery and maternity care more family-centered. Sandy Skorupa, RN, director of Nursing at UHS Wilson, was instrumental in developing the concept of the education program and advancing the proposal for it. Infant baths are now delayed, which has been shown to enhance early latch in newborns, and staff now take newborns to the nursery only if parents ask. The rooming-in option increases the mother-and-baby connection, which enhances breastfeeding success.

The path to certification as a lactation consultant by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners is rigorous: To sit for the exam, a nurse must have health sciences education, 90 hours in lactation-specific education and lactation-specific breastfeeding experience. The two-part exam consists of 175 multiple-choice questions.

Elizabeth and Allison have been UHS nurses for more than five years, and have more than a decade each of bedside experience in labor and delivery and maternity/post-partum nursing. Allison earned her IBCLC certification in 2014 and Elizabeth hers in 2017, and they joined the Southern Tier Breastfeeding Coalition in 2018. The Coalition’s mission is to promote, protect and support breastfeeding by providing education, information and resources to healthcare professionals, families and the community. The two nurses attend Coalition meetings on their own time. Membership enhances their clinical skills; the information they bring back makes a real difference for UHS practices.

On a typical day, the consultants review the current inpatient roster and prioritize visits with moms having breastfeeding difficulties and babies coming up on the 24-hour mark struggling with a good latch. The consultants also arrange for medical-grade pumps for moms with babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in hopes of establishing a breastfeeding relationship that can be continued after discharge. During the Maternity Unit’s afternoon “quiet hour,” the consultants connect with moms who need extra help – facilitating skin-to-skin contact between mom and baby, or making themselves available for questions or support.

In addition to inpatient consults – a new mom usually interacts with a lactation consultant a minimum of one to three times during her postpartum stay – the consultants also offer outpatient services, whether or not the birth took place at UHS Wilson. “We realized quickly that patients wanted to maintain a connection with the consultant who provided such valuable information and support during their immediate post-partum care, so we added outpatient visits and phone consults,” Erin noted. (Information for patients: To make an outpatient appointment with a lactation consultant, call the UHS Wilson Maternity Unit at 763-5306.)

The addition of lactation consultants to the UHS Wilson Maternity staff has been applauded by patients. “The moms I talk with are so unbelievably grateful for lactation support, which in many cases is offered in multiple sessions over many hours during the postpartum inpatient stay,” Erin said. “It’s important to facilitate breastfeeding for as many families as possible. In just a year and a half, we have developed such a positive reputation in the community. We’re so pleased to provide this important service to our patients.”

For more information, visit www.nyuhs.org, www.southerntierbreastfeeds.org or iblce.org.

UHS is a locally owned, not-for-profit hospital and healthcare system serving Greater Binghamton and surrounding counties. Founded in 1981, UHS provides a full range of medical, surgical, rehabilitative and long-term care services throughout New York’s Southern Tier.

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