Breastfeeding Support: From Groups to Milk Banks

Breastfeeding

In honor of World Breastfeeding Week in August, we’re talking about support services for breastfeeding mothers, or those who want to utilize breast milk. Support can come from peer groups (like our Breastfeeding Support Groups), lactation professionals (accessible through the lactation program at Brookwood Baptist Medical Center) or from innovative discussions taking place in the Birmingham community surrounding a Milk Bank, which would provide mothers another option for securing breast milk in lieu of formula.

Many mothers find they need additional tips, tricks and support to successfully enjoy their breastfeeding experience. Brookwood Baptist offers regular breastfeeding support groups around Birmingham to give moms the best start and any mother is welcome to attend. The sessions are informal, providing a welcome respite for mothers to share information, offer ideas for solving problems and celebrate successes. A Brookwood Baptist lactation consultant is present at every meeting to answer questions and facilitate the group, plus they provide digital scales for weighing babies before and after feeds.

Our lactation consultants are valuable resources as well. Accessible through the lactation program at Brookwood Baptist, these are registered nurses with special training, extensive experience, and certification in counseling and assisting breastfeeding mothers. They wear a number of hats, including providing consultations before, during and after your hospital stay, they run a breastfeeding helpline for assistance with common problems, and they offer a whole host of educational materials to further your knowledge on breastfeeding success. The lactation program recently received the IBCLC Care Award in recognition of staffing professionals who hold the prestigious International Board Certified Lactation Consultant® certification (IBCLC®), as well as for providing a lactation program a 5-7 days a week for breastfeeding families, and breastfeeding training for medical staff that care for new families.

Brookwood Baptist Neonatologist, Dr. Martha Strange, touts breast milk as the best food source for a newborn, particularly those she spends her days with in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) who are premature, or sick. “My job,” Strange says, “is to help NICU mothers understand the importance of breast milk.” Unfortunately, mothers are not always able to provide their own milk for their babies. When a mother’s own milk is not available, donor human milk that has been processed through a milk bank is another option.

Mary Michael Kelly, Executive Director of the Community Food Bank of Central Alabama, which is leading the charge for a Birmingham-area Milk Bank, and would be associated with the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA), explains the excitement over the milk bank project currently in discussion. “Not only will it be the first milk bank of its kind operated by a more traditional food bank, but it’s uniting organizations, nonprofits, hospitals, mothers, and communities across this area in one common goal: feeding our most vulnerable, and in turn, helping our community grow, flourish, and make a really big difference together. The great thing about the mother’s milk bank is that it provides food to our neediest and sickest infants from women in the community who have more than enough to provide. In addition, it serves as an invaluable avenue for those mothers who have lost a child to see their overwhelming love and hard work be put to such good use amid the most trying time of their lives,” Kelly notes.

Dr. Strange explains, “There are plenty of pediatric studies looking at the benefits of mother’s breast milk. There are fewer studies that have looked at the benefits of donor human breast milk. But I take a practical approach and focus on the decreased risk for infection, the better feeding tolerance, the improved morbidities for premature babies, and the long-term benefits of decreasing the incidence of obesity and hence the long term morbidities associated with obesity.”

This week is all about supporting mothers. And supporting one another is half the battle. Get started on arming yourself with as much information as possible, so you can make the best decision for you and your family. For more information on the lactation program at Brookwood Baptist, visit our website or call (205) 877-1978.

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