Every year, the recognition of National Breastfeeding Awareness Month1 seeks to educate moms on the importance of breastfeeding, and empowering them to commit to breastfeeding their children – a practice the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says improves the health and wellbeing of both mother and baby. At ProgenyHealth, we recognize the critical role that proper breastfeeding education and support plays in the lives of our NICU families. Our case managers are dedicated to ensuring that our moms have the proper connections to resources, education, and supplies for breastfeeding and nutrition.
New NICU moms have a unique set of obstacles2 when it comes to breastfeeding that other mothers may not – a mother’s body having to adapt to lactation earlier than anticipated, and a tiny, vulnerable infant who may have eating and breathing difficulties. Even with NICU infants that are doing relatively well, mom may still need help initiating milk, and learning how to successfully breastfeed a NICU baby. For many reasons, mothers of preterm infants can struggle to successfully breastfeed their newborn and must rely on healthcare professionals and a breast pump to feed. At ProgenyHealth, we frequently help mothers acquire items like breast pumps to be sure mother and baby go home from the NICU equipped, educated, and prepared. According to Dr. Steven Richardson, ProgenyHealth CMO, “The breastfeeding experience improves mother-child bonding tremendously. Even if the newborn isn’t able to feed directly from the breast, providing mother’s milk improves the immunity status and overall health of the baby.”
It is unfortunate that, even though there is ample evidence to suggest the superiority of a mother’s natural breastmilk and breastfeeding in supporting healthy, natural growth for an infant, certain stigmas and well-sown cultural norms can create barriers to proper breastfeeding3. These include lack of knowledge of proper breastfeeding techniques, poor family and social support, barriers to health services, feelings of shame and embarrassment about public breastfeeding, and new mothers returning to work and struggling to maintain a feeding schedule. The CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics4 “recommends that infants be exclusively breastfed for about the first 6 months with continued breastfeeding along with introducing appropriate complementary foods for 1 year or longer.” The longer a mother breastfeeds her infant, the greater their immune responses to certain illnesses, infections, and diseases5, such as: diarrhea, ear infections, respiratory and urinary tract infections, diabetes, lymphoma, leukemia, and Hodgkin’s Disease. While the health benefits are clear, a new mother’s breastfeeding journey, particularly a NICU mother’s, can be challenging.
Breastfeeding is one of the most important and beneficial things a mother can do for her baby, and our ProgenyHealth case managers help support members in their breastfeeding journey. They also help members with questions they may have about breastfeeding, as well as connecting members to lactation services. For example, if a member needs assistance with getting a breast pump through their insurance, the ProgenyHealth case manager can walk the member through the process to make sure the delivery happens.
ProgenyHealth case managers understand that breastfeeding can be a wonderful, yet challenging experience. We are here to help you in any way we can.
Linda Watt, RN, MSN, CCM is the Director of Case Management at ProgenyHealth
Amy Philipson, RN is the Senior Manager, Quality Management at ProgenyHealth
- Salmon, Nadine, MSN, BSN, IBCLC (2014). Breastfeeding Awareness, Revisited https://www.rn.com/nursing-news/breastfeeding-awareness-revisited/
- Challenges with breastfeeding in the NICU https://www.medela.com/breastfeeding-professionals/nicu/feeding/challenges
- Office of the Surgeon General (US); (2011). The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK52688/#:~:text=When%20they%20have%20breastfed%20in,stop%20breastfeeding%20or%20to%20leave.&text=Such%20situations%20make%20women%20feel,around%20them%20when%20they%20breastfeed.&text=Embarrassment%20about%20breastfeeding%20is%20not%20limited%20to%20public%20settings%2C%20however.
- Centers for Disease Control (2020). https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/faq/index.htm#:~:text=The%20American%20Academy%20of%20Pediatrics%20recommends%20that%20infants%20be%20exclusively,for%201%20year%20or%20longer.
- Bernstein, Lenny (2014). Western moms lead the U.S. in breastfeeding, southeast lags. Washington Post https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2014/08/01/western-moms-lead-the-u-s-in-breastfeeding-southeast-lags/