One night each month, they gather to talk about the science of breast-feeding.
Their group is made up of lactation consultants, lactation counselors, dietitians, registered nurses, nurse midwives and soon a pediatrician.
The members of the Rapid City Lactation Journal Club meet to discuss the latest studies and evidence-based research about the topic they all know best: breast-feeding.
Nan Fitzgerald, a registered nurse and lactation consultant, organized the group about six months ago along with fellow registered nurse and consultant Molly Meehan-Rasby. The two lactation consultants wanted to connect with other health care providers in the community who work with mothers and their nursing babies. They hope that by sharing information and supporting one another as providers, they can improve the outcomes for women who choose breast-feeding.
Cindy Jackson is a registered nurse and childbirth educator. Helen Romeyn is a lactation consultant and family advocacy nurse at Ellsworth Air Force Base. Sarah Coulter Danner is a nurse midwife at Native Women’s Health, a lactation consultant and a member of the United States Breastfeeding Committee, as well as president of Baby Friendly U.S.A., a national organization that promotes breast-feeding.
All together, there are about a dozen health care providers who make up the club, but their reach extends beyond their group. They serve as a resource for other health care providers as well as countless mothers who need help nursing their babies.
Erin Fahrner is one of those mothers.
A registered nurse who works with babies and new mothers every day, Fahrner never expected to have any problems nursing after giving birth to Isabella 11 months ago.
But she did.
“I was pretty much on the phone with them every day asking questions,” she said of the consultants at her hospital. “I had the typical concerns.”
Members of the Lactation Journal Club believe that the attitudes about the benefits of breast-feeding are improving all the time, but there’s more work to be done.
They plan to do some of that work in the form of public education during the week of Aug. 1 to 7, which is World Breast-feeding Week. They hope to honor local businesses who are breast-feeding friendly to employees.
This year’s theme for World Breast-feeding Week is “Breast-feeding: Just 10 Steps,” based on the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative.
Club members say the research indicates that with 10 steps, hospitals and communities can increase the duration of breast-feeding and the rate of women who exclusively breast-feed. Those steps include training medical staff on the benefits of breast-feeding, allowing new mothers to hold babies skin to skin immediately after giving birth, avoiding supplements unless medically necessary, avoiding the use of bottle nipples and pacifiers in newborn babies, eliminating free distribution of formula and, perhaps most importantly, connecting women with a support network.
Club members say that in most cases, women who are unsuccessful in nursing their babies don’t get the support they need or want. They feel alone.
“Support is a major issue why people don’t continue,” Romeyn said.
The Lactation Journal Club hopes that by educating people that there is support out there, they can change that.
Fahrner thinks attitudes are already changing for the better. In her work as a nurse, she sees a lot more second-time mothers opting to breast-feed, even after bottle-feeding their first baby. She sees herself as a perfect example of someone who was able to nurse mainly because she had support, she said.
“I think those first few days, you feel like you’re failing,” she said. “But then you get on the phone with them (consultants) and you realize … we’re OK.”
Contact Lynn Taylor Rick at 394-8414 or email@example.com