Re-thinking Patient Education

What if we rethink patient education and make it more like a mom-friend writing down her own helpful hints? Except this mom-friend is a baby expert or breastfeeding expert right in your community, at the hospital where you delivered your baby.

Before we print 3,000 copies of our patient education idea, I’d love to get your feedback.  Below is an excerpt. Whether you’re a mom, doctor, nurse or grandma, tell us what you think. Thanks!

Several years of running a postpartum breastfeeding support group have taught me that women are not always realistically prepared to breastfeed their babies. I know I wasn’t.  Here’s what I wish I’d known the day I took my first baby home.

 #1 Breastfeeding can be difficult for 2 weeks.  If you can hang in there for 2 weeks, you’ll probably be OK. Babies eat all the time when they are newborns. Breastfeeding is all consuming for two weeks, then magically and almost universally, it gets better.

 #2 Your body may make enough milk for an entire island of little babies! My body didn’t know I only had one baby. I could feel the milk pumping in (really, that’s how it felt) the day I left the hospital. By that evening my breasts were so full of milk they were rock hard, and my baby couldn’t latch on. If only I’d known to:

  • Wear a bra when the milk is coming in (2-5 days after delivery).
  • Nurse frequently to prevent engorgement (i.e. – making enough milk for a small island of babies!)
  • It’s not just milk in there, you also have swollen tissue. Ask your practitioner about taking a pain reliever to help the discomfort.
  • Icing engorged breasts feels oh so good. Bags of frozen peas work well!
  • Pump or hand express just enough to soften breasts so baby can latch. 
  • Stand in a warm shower, letting the water run over your breasts. Or put warm washcloths over your breasts.
  • Sometimes it helps to cry too! It’s OK if you need to as a new mother.

 #3 You will make enough milk.  I know now as a lactation consultant that there are cases of low milk supply. But I also know that the incidence of true milk supply issues is teensy weensy compared with the number of women who think they don’t have enough.  Let me say it again, you will make enough milk!

 #4 Tender nipples can be normal.  You’ll hear it over and over again, “If your baby is latched on correctly, you shouldn’t have sore nipples.”  Well it’s true that if your baby is latched on correctly you shouldn’t have cracked, bleeding nipples. But tender nipples are another thing. Unless you’ve had someone sucking on your breasts every 1-3 hours recently, expect to have some tenderness. Also, you can expect to start feeling better in just a few days.

 #5 You will get conflicting advice/information.  I wish this one wasn’t true.  But whether it’s the lady standing behind you in line at Martin’s, your mother, your BFF, doctor or nurse, you will hear conflicting, confusing information about breastfeeding.  What to do?

  • Perfect the art of nodding and smiling. It works great in all kinds of life situations!
  • Pretend people are saying, “What worked well for me was … ” even though what you feel like you are hearing is, “You are doing it all wrong! You have to do it this way.”
  • Take the good, ignore the bad.
  • There really are different ways to do it right.
  • Pick a resource you trust and stick with it. This might be a friend who successfully breastfed, a lactation consultant or a website. 

#6 Most breastfeeding difficulties are common and can be overcome. You can do it! Get support. Hang in there. After you go home, come back to see us. We would love to help you succeed in your breastfeeding goals. That’s why we offer a FREE support group twice each week. Come talk to a lactation consultant and other new mothers. We can even weigh your baby for added assurance that she is getting all the nutrition she needs. 

Memorial Childbirth Center’s FREE Breastfeeding Support Group
Every Monday and Thursday afternoon from noon to 1:30 p.m.
Located at BrainWorks 534 N. Michigan St.
between Skyway and Mar-Main Pharmacy

When you are home, you can also call
Breastfeeding Support Services at 574-647-3475.

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About blogtobabyfriendly

blogtobabyfriendly is written by Amy Murray, a Childbirth Unit nurse with a touch of earth muffin crunch. A childbirth educator and IBCLC, she's been a breastfeeding advocate all her adult life, believing that if our bodies make milk, it just makes good sense to feed it to our babies. blogtobabyfriendly is her hospital's journey to Baby-Friendly designation. Click to get email updates on new blog posts. Our desire is to learn, share, and learn more.
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13 Responses to Re-thinking Patient Education

  1. Lisa Strong says:

    I think it is a wonderful article. It was very educational and easy for patients to understand. Well written!!

  2. Cheryl Adams says:

    Amy, I like it! Especially the relaxed style; it’s as if you said “let’s have tea and talk”! The problem is getting new moms to read. They are so tired and inundated with visitors that it’s often hard for them to focus. Would/Do you give this out prenatally as well? We are just beginning our “official” journey to Baby-Friendly through the Best Fed Baby Collaborative. Your blog has been really helpful, thanks! Cheryl Adams, Auburn, AL

    • Congratulations on being chosen for Best Fed Beginnings! I am honored if the blog has been of any help to you! Please share what you learn with all of us too! This information is shared almost verbatim in my prenatal breastfeeding class. However, you’re right! We should share it more broadly to women during their pregnancy!

  3. Claire says:

    These are good! Very readable. What do studies say about who, among conflicting voices, women tend to listen to? Are they very likely to listen to the smart girlfriend style most? How much do they want to see reference to authorities/research? Sometimes when I have a mom who expects a lot of out of date or misinformed input, from relatives, for example, I try to help her practice (in addition to the smile and nod) stating the up to date reasons for her choices, like the statements of the AAP. Claire

  4. Dr Mommy says:

    Amy, excellent advice. I fail to understand how with the mountains of baby books, breastfeeding books, websites and other information out there no one ever told me (and a lot of other moms) the above.

  5. Marie says:

    I like this style, much easier to relate to.

  6. Sarah McK says:

    I like the style. In my case, my milk didn’t come in for like 6 days, so very very different. I wish that I had been encouraged to hold my sleeping brand new baby — I was kind of petrified and I wonder if the scent and closeness might’ve helped my milk come in. At night, I felt bad about “bothering” the nurses to come and get him for me, as I couldn’t get up after an unwanted yet apparently necessary epidural. But that’s another story. I do think the basic stuff about letting the baby nurse whenever s/he wants to to build your supply etc — you know, all that stuff — is very very important. Um, for me, also, it was about 6 weeks of very very painful nipples — not bleeding, not cracked — while nursing. I came in and you checked out my latch a jilliion times and finally said he had a “barracuda latch”! So 2 weeks may be normal but it may last longer. Maybe say 2 weeks (and in rarer cases, a few weeks longer)… because if you feel like a total outlier, it’s alienating, but knowing that you’re in the realm of known experience makes you think, OK, well, then, I’ll hang on. I had to be pretty determined, but seeing that my son gained 2 ounces a day (!) once my milk got going was a huge incentive. I really felt “muy fuerte” that I grew that little child!!!

    • Ahh that’s the comment we were waiting for! The debate is do you tell moms a finite amount of time so they will hang in there, knowing their pain won’t last forever OR do you be upfront and let them know the full range of normal? My thought is that if a mom still having problems at 2 weeks, she will likely be in our care, and we can share the full range of normal with her personally. I like your point that being an outlier is alienating.

  7. Olivia says:

    I think this would be a wonderful handout!

  8. Melissa Glaser BSN, RNC says:

    A couple of thoughts….

    1. I feel at the end of the 3rd week a light switch goes off with breastfeeding and you finally feel like wow, maybe I can do this after all!!

    2. It’s a normal feeling to think that breastfeeding is challenging in the first few weeks, that it is a normal response to being a new mother. I have a vivid memory when I had my 4th baby, calling my best friend who is an IBCLC, crying “I can’t do this” when he was two weeks old…. I have nursed 4 children, as an RNC worked all facets of maternity care and teach prenatal & breastfeeding classes, Really. This example is often reassuring that even the “experts” need help sometimes!!

    3. It’s ok to ask for help!! Please do!!! You are not on an island alone and you are not a failure as a mother. Yes, breastfeeding is natural, but it is learned. Your baby has never done this before and you have never nursed this baby before.

    4. To realize your only job for the first 2-3 weeks is to hold and nurse your baby, nothing else! Except, of course sleep and shower when you can! We put so many demands on ourselves as new mothers.

    5. Babies do not nurse like newborns forever!! Thank goodness or no one would last past the 4th week.

    6. You are the expert in the end when it comes to your baby, you will figure out what works for you and your baby after all the advice and instruction you receive. My most important piece to success is – A Good Latch.

  9. Melissa Glaser BSN, RNC says:

    Oh, one final thought… Surround yourself with the support of women who are currently breastfeeding!!

  10. Jenna Fischer says:

    I love this! I would add that #2 isn’t always obvious though. I have breastfeed 2 babies (one still going strong at 14 months) and I never felt like I had lots of milk. In the beginning I rarely feel a let-down and was never engorged and that was ok because I still produced enough milk.

  11. I much prefer this to the handouts that my hospital endorsed. The official line was above my mothers’ educational level and not targeted to her immediate needs, The volume of material was excessive and they tended not to know how to use the table of contents to find what they needed..

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