Nursing News

How Nurses Can Help with Breastfeeding Success

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By Megan M. Krischke, contributor

Most experts agree that the benefits of breastfeeding far surpass what formula offers a baby in terms of nutrition, long term health and bonding with its mother. Many new mothers plan to breastfeed, and assume that it will come easily and naturally, yet breastfeeding often proves more challenging than they ever anticipated.

Joy Kanevski, RN, RM, ND
International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, Joy Kanevski, RN, RM, ND, believes maternity nursing staff can play a key role in breastfeeding success.

The problems can leave a mother and her baby frustrated, unhappy and considering switching to bottle-feeding for the solution.

Maternity nursing staff, along with lactation consultants, can play a key role in ensuring that mothers and babies succeed at breastfeeding so they can enjoy the many benefits it provides to both of them. 

Joy Kanevski, ND, RM, RN, IBCLC, loves working with mother-baby pairs.  Doctor Joy, as she is known to her clients, is a woman of many passions and talents.  She is an RN who is in private practice as a doctor of naturopathic family medicine in Durango, Colorado. She is also a registered midwife, but there is clearly a special place in her heart for the work she does as a lactation consultant.

“Lactation consulting is one of my favorite things to do,” she explained. “I love to be able to educate and guide women through what is usually a simple issue, but one that few nurses seem to have the time to help them with. It is an honor to be able to listen to and assist them.”

“It means so much to women to be able to breastfeed but it can be such a challenging time. Often, I don’t think our culture or the health care system does a good job of helping new moms. I feel blessed that I received incredible training,” said Kanevski, who became an international board certified lactation consultant while working at Evergreen Hospital in Seattle.  Evergreen achieved a 95 percent breastfeeding rate among mother-baby pairs leaving the hospital during her tenure.

“A good lactation consultant can get almost any newborn to nurse—including babies who are premature, coming out of a rough labor or C-section, or who are just tight jawed or ‘tongue thrusting,’” Kanevski continued.  “I see clients between one and three times and that is all most women need to get on track. There is something about being with a woman in a supportive way that really encourages her.”

“While there is definitely an art to lactation consulting, there are also a lot of tips and tools that I wish more people knew, but don’t,” she added.

Kanevski offers the following advice to nurses on how to encourage and enable breastfeeding for new moms and babies:

1. Become educated in breastfeeding.  You do not have to be a certified lactation consultant, but all maternity, post-partum and mother-baby nurses should have some training in breastfeeding techniques for newborns.

2. Do all you can not to interrupt the mother-baby connection. Allow mom and baby skin-to-skin contact from the first moment to the end of the first hour after birth.  Try to work required procedures around breastfeeding.  Keep the mindset that breastfeeding is the number one best thing for the mother and for the health of the baby and respect it as such.

“This can be a bit challenging depending on a hospital’s policy, but babies are more aware and awake and ready to learn for the first four hours than they are for the rest of the first month of their life,” Kanevski explained. “Generally, nursing will be initiated by the baby within the first hour.  If mom and baby don’t get this time it doesn’t mean they won’t achieve successful breastfeeding, it will just be more difficult.”

3. Encourage women to breastfeed six to eight times in the first 24 hours and offer them hands-on assistance for each feeding. This will establish a pattern of good breastfeeding and will help prevent day-three complications, when a mom can melt down because her milk isn’t coming in and the baby is acting frantically hungry.

“This can sound like a lot of work, but not every mom is going to need this assistance, especially those who have a natural childbirth or who are second time moms—they are just going to do it,” Kanevski remarked. “But for those who need the help, this assistance is invaluable to that mother baby pair.”

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