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News | April 17, 2023

BACH Mom & Me provides specialized support to military families

By Maria C. Yager

There was a party recently during Blanchfield Army Community Hospital’s breastfeeding support group, Mom & Me.
BACH outpatient certified lactation consultant Audrey Sundbye and Women’s Health Clinic nurse Gimmena Doolittle had a framed certificate and a graduation cap for one young member. Group moms and babies gathered round in support and a dinosaur birthday cake was nearby. Group participant U.S. Army Spc. Jacqueline Kerchner’s son turned 1-year old and reached the 12-month milestone for breast feeding.
According to the CDC’s National Immunization Survey 2020-2021, fewer than 40% of infants are still breastfed by 12 months, although U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that infants be exclusively breastfed for about the first 6 months, and then continue breastfeeding while introducing appropriate complementary foods until they are 12 months old or older.
“The Mom & Me group was truly a blessing for our breastfeeding journey,” said Kerchner. “I was able to ask questions as they came up instead of waiting for an appointment or turning to the internet. Every mother’s journey is different, and it was great hearing other moms’ stories and all the advice they had to give.”
Mom & Me provides breastfeeding mothers of infants, age newborn to 12 months, walk-in access to the hospital’s lactation consultants. The group meets from 1-3 p.m. Mondays, except federal holidays, for breastfeeding moms to meet and discuss any concerns they have about feeding, track their baby’s growth, and meet other moms and babies.There was a party recently during Blanchfield Army Community Hospital’s breastfeeding support group, Mom & Me.
 
BACH outpatient certified lactation consultant Audrey Sundbye and Women’s Health Clinic nurse Gimmena Doolittle had a framed certificate and a graduation cap for one young member. Group moms and babies gathered round in support and a dinosaur birthday cake was nearby. Group participant U.S. Army Spc. Jacqueline Kerchner’s son turned 1-year old and reached the 12-month milestone for breast feeding.
 
According to the CDC’s National Immunization Survey 2020-2021, fewer than 40% of infants are still breastfed by 12 months, although U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that infants be exclusively breastfed for about the first 6 months, and then continue breastfeeding while introducing appropriate complementary foods until they are 12 months old or older.
 
“The Mom & Me group was truly a blessing for our breastfeeding journey,” said Kerchner. “I was able to ask questions as they came up instead of waiting for an appointment or turning to the internet. Every mother’s journey is different, and it was great hearing other moms’ stories and all the advice they had to give.”
 
Mom & Me provides breastfeeding mothers of infants, age newborn to 12 months, walk-in access to the hospital’s lactation consultants. The group meets from 1-3 p.m. Mondays, except federal holidays, for breastfeeding moms to meet and discuss any concerns they have about feeding, track their baby’s growth, and meet other moms and babies.
 
“Mom & Me allows mothers to follow weight gain and how much their baby takes at a feeding. This also allows Audrey and I to identify a potential problem, making it easier to intervene early and get them scheduled for a one-on-one appointment to get them back on track,” said Mom & Me co-facilitator Lesli Eiland, a registered nurse and certified lactation consultant who works on BACH’s Mother-Baby Unit.
 
Kerchner had concerns about her son’s weight when she joined the group eight months earlier. Unlike bottle-feeding where parents can see how much or how little their baby consumes at each feeding, breastfeeding moms may never really know how many ounces their little one takes. While there is a method of counting wet diapers to help judge if breastfed babies are eating enough, at Mom & Me, the lactation consultants have a special routine that may offer moms some additional insight and peace of mind in their breastfeeding journey.”
 
Upon arrival at Mom & Me, each week, participants check their infant’s weight on a medical-grade infant scale prior to feeding and again post feeding, which can give moms an idea of how much breast milk their infant is taking.
 
“They can see that their baby has gained weight, which is reassuring. They can also see how much milk the baby took during that particular feeding by the change in weight, which can boost their confidence in their choice to breastfeed their baby,” said Eiland. “It is also an opportunity for moms to meet other lactating or breastfeeding moms, which enables them to develop peer-to-peer relationships for mutual support.”
 
Sundbye agreed.
 
“It is really fun as a facilitator to see the friendships and bonding that takes place over time. The moms and the babies get really social,” said Sundbye, who breaks out padded playmats and baby-friendly toys each meeting for group members to gather around.
 
Moms share their experiences and chat while babies play and explore between feedings.
 
“A lot of friendships continue after the moms leave here through playdates as their babies continue to grow,” Sundbye said.
 
The CDC’s survey data also indicates 60% of mothers do not breastfeed for as long as they intend to. Issues with lactating and latching; concern about nutrition and weight gain; and unsupportive work policies are among the top reasons given for the change in feeding methods. At Mom & Me, the team is committed to helping moms address those concerns.
 
“Mothers in the hospital start with baby at the breast, but many offer some supplement while in the hospital because of frustration with latch and perceived decreased volume present. Once mother gets through the initial period establishing supply, things sort of even out and things go well. Returning to work causes a change in their normal routine which can affect supply. Soldiers definitely benefit from the parental leave available to them. Having 12 weeks of leave makes a big difference to establish supply,” explained Eiland.
 
And when Soldiers return to duty after parental leave, Army Regulation 600-20, offers breast feeding and lactation support policy that commanders can use to guide unit policy.
 
“My unit has been very supportive,” added Kerchner, also thanking the Mom & Me team for their support.
 
“We’re here to help. Our job is to give the tools to empower moms to be as successful as they can be on their breastfeeding journey,” Eiland said.
 
“Breastfeeding is good for moms. It reduces their chances of ovarian cancer, reduces the chances of breast cancer and it also helps them recover quicker after they deliver. For babies, they have decreased allergies, decreased childhood obesity later on, and decreased infections and decreased chances of asthma later on in life,” Eiland explained.
 
The group’s attendance is currently limited to moms and their infants, age 12 months and under and is unable to accommodate siblings and guests at this time. This allows maximum participation for breastfeeding moms seeking assistance.
 
Both the Armed Services YMCA and Fort Campbell Child and Youth Services on post provide free or fee-based, short-term hourly care for up to three hours at a time for parents who may need childcare for siblings.
 
Lactation support personnel at military treatment facilities or through TRICARE are available to help service members and other TRICARE Prime and TRICARE Select beneficiaries reach their breastfeeding or lactation goals. Beneficiaries may also meet one-on-one with a lactation consultant through a scheduled appointment.
 
Mom & Me meets each Monday, except federal holidays, from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Women’s Health Clinic.
 
For the latest information from Blanchfield Army Community Hospital, please visit our website at https://blanchfield.tricare.mil
 
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