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Upstate increases number of certified lactation counselors to provide new moms with breastfeeding support

SYRACUSE, N.Y.-- In recognition of the growing importance hospitals can play in a mother’s success at breastfeeding, more than a dozen nurses at Upstate University Hospital have become certified lactation counselors in the last five months.

With this special training, these nurses are now certified to provide specialized breast feeding support, including assessing the latching and feeding process, providing corrective interventions and counseling mothers.

Certified Lactation Counselor Cathy Narcavage-Bradley, MSN, RN, who is also the in-service educator for Upstate Best Beginnings Childbirth & New Family Class, said certified lactation counselors at Upstate will connect with mothers shortly after the birth to provide increased breastfeeding support to new families.

“This can be a stressful time for new mothers and families who are experiencing a major life change, shifts in sleep patterns due to frequent infant feedings, 24/7 newborn care and postpartum emotional adjustment,” she said. “ Early support is crucial in helping mothers overcome some breastfeeding challenges, while assisting new mothers in meeting their own personal breastfeeding and infant feeding goals.”

Narcavage-Bradley said certified lactation counselors are present not just in the inpatient setting, but in clinic sites, too.

“Certified lactation counselors may interact a little differently with patients depending on their practice setting at Upstate, but overall, the counselors are able to assist breastfeeding patients and provide improved lactation support to patients,” she said. “They can interact with and support breastfeeding patients in a variety of ways including by educating on lactation, assessing the infant latching and feeding process directly, assisting with corrective interventions, counseling breastfeeding mothers having difficulties, and assisting with special circumstances when needed.”

The Certified Lactation Counselor program is the premier National Certification in Lactation Management for the United States and is offered through Healthy Children’s Center for Breastfeeding, which is accredited by the American National Standards Institute. To be certified, one must complete a 45-hour training course and pass the certification examination.

Nurses receiving certification this spring who work at the Downtown Campus include Michelle Jeski, Jennifer Sobotka, Jolene Putney, Cynthia Serviss, Sweety Lennington, Valerie Coglitore, Melanie Dunham and Roxanne Krause.

Community Campus-based nurses who were awarded certification in March are Melissa Cosser, Llamara Padro-Milano, Ashley Adams, Kylie Visser, Margaret Malone, Cathy Narcavage-Bradley and Mandi Dixon.

The increase in nurses certified as lactation counselors reflects the progress the Community Campus Family Birth Center has made as part of the New York State Breastfeeding Quality Improvement in Hospitals Collaborative. At the Community Campus, statistics show that mothers feeding their children exclusively through breastfeeding increased from 40 percent in December 2016 to 68 percent in June 2017, while moms doing some breastfeeding jumped from 75 percent in January 2017 to 91 percent in June 2017.

Research shows that breastfeeding offers significant benefits for babies, from lowering the risk of asthma, allergies and SIDS to providing important antibodies that prevent illness and infections. For mothers, breastfeeding releases the hormone oxytocin, which is beneficial in uterine health and lowers the risk of some diseases including breast cancer, ovarian cancer and type 2 diabetes. Breastfeeding is strongly recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

“With this full complement of specially certified nurses as lactation counselors, we can better assist our moms in being successful in breastfeeding and nurturing healthy newborns,” Narcavage-Bradley said.

Narcavage-Bradley credits Cathy Patrick, MSN, RNC, who is certified as lactation consultant by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners, with leading the push for more certified lactation counselors at Upstate.

Funding for the nurses to participate in the special training was provided by the Upstate Foundation, the Advocates for Upstate Medical University through its Mystery, Malt and Merlot event, and other sources.