St. Mary’s enhances breastfeeding support for mothers and newborns

August 1, 2017

The Family Birth Center at St. Mary’s Hospital is enhancing care for newborns and their mothers by implementing 10 steps to successful breastfeeding, including skin-to-skin contact after delivery and early initiation of breastfeeding.


“The evidence is powerful that measures such as skin-to-skin contact and establishing breastfeeding while in the hospital have tremendous benefits for both the newborn and the mother,” says Laura Crowe, one of three internationally certified lactation consultants at St. Mary’s.


“Breastfeeding provides babies with the right mix of nutrients for growth and development,” adds Mallory King, another of St. Mary’s lactation consultants. “In addition, breastfeeding provides antibodies from the mother that help the baby’s young immune system fight off infections.”


The changes come as St. Mary’s joins in celebrating World Breastfeeding Week Aug. 1-7.


“World Breastfeeding Week is a wonderful way to educate everyone about the benefits of breastfeeding,” says St. Mary’s third lactation consultant, Donna Jenkins. “It also helps make breastfeeding more acceptable and normal.”


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2016 Breastfeeding Report Card, only 69.2 percent of Georgia’s babies are breastfed at least once. The national average is 81.1 percent. Improving that percentage would enhance the health of Georgia’s newborns and their mothers.


The 10 steps St. Mary’s is taking include: enhancing training for all Family Birth Center staff, updating policies, providing prenatal education to parents, initiating skin-to-skin contact and support for early initiation soon after delivery, providing skilled lactation consultants, encouraging rooming-in and baby-led feeding, encouraging no routine supplementation or artificial nipples, and providing breastfeeding support after discharge.


As part of its effort to continually improve care for moms, babies and families, St. Mary’s is working with the Georgia 5-Star Hospital program. Here are key steps St. Mary’s takes to promote breastfeeding and support breastfeeding mothers:


  • Sacred Hour: At St. Mary’s, healthy newborns are immediately placed in skin-to-skin contact for at least an hour regardless of their feeding method.  We call this crucial period the “Sacred Hour.” Studies show the Sacred Hour soothes both mother and baby, lowers blood pressure, stabilizes the baby’s temperature and vital signs, and helps the mother’s milk come in to promote a calm and loving transition to breastfeeding. St. Mary’s starts the Sacred Hour with caesarean section patients as well once they are stable during the recovery period.
  • Breastfeeding education: St. Mary’s Family Birth Center’s trained nurses and internationally certified lactation consultants educate mothers about breastfeeding and provide one-on-one emotional support while in the hospital. They also implement evidence-based practices that are shown to be the best for breastfeeding families.
  • Cue-based feeding: The early signs that babies are hungry can be subtle. But if the cues are overlooked, babies become irritable and may have a hard time feeding. The Family Birth Center encourages rooming-in with guidance from staff to teach the family to recognize the early cues of hunger so that everyone can rest easier.
  • Lactation consultants: St. Mary’s three International Board Certified Lactation Consultants – Jenkins, Crowe and King – bring state-of-the-art knowledge, compassion, and expertise to assist moms with all aspects of breastfeeding, including latching-on, pumping and storage, and problem-solving.
  • Classes: Before delivery, St. Mary’s helps families prepare for their new baby, including breastfeeding, with several classes.
    • Baby Nutrition. An introduction to breastfeeding basics that covers getting started, preventing problems, maintaining breastfeeding when mom returns to work or school, and the role other family members can play. Saturdays, 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. $25 per couple.
    • Childbirth Education. Two-day class on consecutive Sundays that covers all aspects of preparing for delivery. In addition to helping parents be active participants in their baby’s birth, the class touches on the Sacred Hour and establishing the breastfeeding relationship. $60 per couple.
    • Baby Basics. Provides information on the general characteristics of a newborn, specifics of baby care, making the transition from hospital to home, and more. $15 per couple.
  • Support groups: St. Mary’s offers two community support groups where breastfeeding moms can receive professional guidance, weigh their babies before and after breastfeeding, develop friendships, and exchange information with their peers. Both groups meet at St. Mary’s Hospital and are free.
    • Bundles of Joy, designed especially for first-time moms. Mondays, 1 p.m.
    • Toddle Time, designed for moms who have toddlers, too. Thursdays, 10:30 a.m.
  • One-on-one support: After discharge, moms who delivered at St. Mary’s can consult with St. Mary’s lactation consultants at no charge. Consultations over the phone can help with resolving an immediate problem. In-person consultations can address issues to help maintain the breastfeeding relationship.


For more information, visit or call St. Mary’s Family Birth Center Lactation Office at 706.389.3310.