Learning how to feed baby naturally CARROLL COUNTY HEALTH

August 17, 1993|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Staff Writer

When Jenny Irons was pregnant, friends asked, "Why are you taking a class in breast-feeding? It's the most natural thing in the world."

Yes, replied the Hampstead resident, "It's natural, but you can have problems." She was eager to nurse her baby, but felt that she needed instruction and support.

By the time Ayla Lee was born July 3 at Carroll County General Hospital, Mrs. Irons and her husband, Rodney, had completed a breast-feeding class, two sessions, each of 2 1/2 hours, at the hospital.

Mrs. Irons took her daughter home with the promise of on-call help and advice from Barbara Baldwin, the hospital's new lactation consultant. Mrs. Baldwin, a staff nurse in the obstetrics department and childbirth education coordinator, added the part-time consultant's job to her duties July 1. She had been teaching breast-feeding classes since November 1992.

Three key factors make a successful breast-feeding experience, Mrs. Baldwin said. They are motivation, education and the mother's support system, which can include the baby's father or other close relatives and the physician.

The most common things that can go wrong are sore nipples and breast engorgement, Mrs. Baldwin said. If the baby isn't latched on properly, the mother's nipples get sore. At that point, a lot of women abandon breast-feeding, she said. Or they decide to give an occasional bottle, "and it's a spiral downhill" into bottle feeding.

When a mother's milk comes in, "the body doesn't know how much will be needed, and so it kind of surges," Mrs. Baldwin said. The answer is to let the baby nurse often. But by the time the problem occurs, mother and baby have usually left the hospital, which is why the consultant remains on call for mothers who have taken the classes.

Mrs. Irons decided to nurse her baby because she had learned that mother's milk is better for babies, and to save money. She plans to return to her federal job only part-time, which will leave the family with reduced income.

She said her husband supported the idea. In class, "we talked a lot about how the fathers felt, because we need their support," she said.

Men whose wives are pregnant come to the sessions, "not knowing why they're there," Mrs. Baldwin said. She suggests that fathers build closeness by holding the babies at other times, since they won't be able to feed them.

She also tries to get fathers to encourage mothers to keep trying rather than saying, "Why don't you just give him a bottle?" when the baby gets fussy.

Nearly 60 percent of women who give birth at Carroll County General nurse their babies in the hospital, but many stop after they go home, Mrs. Baldwin said. She said it appears that the local women who are determined to breast-feed generally continue for about one year.

Mrs. Baldwin has been an obstetrics nurse for 22 years. She said she got interested in breast-feeding because of difficult experiences in nursing her children, both of whom were born prematurely.

Two years ago, Mrs. Baldwin took courses in lactation at Georgetown University Hospital and won certification as a consultant from the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners. Certification allows her to teach other health care workers about breast-feeding.

The hospital's decision to create the lactation-consultant job was prompted by insurance companies limiting coverage to 24 hours for uncomplicated births, said Joan M. Spear, director of maternal-child health services.

"It takes several times [nursing] and sometimes a week or more before a new mother becomes comfortable with it," she said. The hospital's answer was to provide training before the birth and make additional advice and help available afterward if needed.

Mrs. Irons said Ayla was fussy for the first few days, until her milk came in. Since then, no problems. She said the experience has changed the way she thinks about herself.

"I look at my breasts now as nurturing, not a sexual thing," she said.

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