Empowering parents, enabling breastfeeding

From left to right: Cathy Deacon, Nurse Clinician and Lactation Consultant; Karine Huppé, Nurse Clinician; Amanda Camacho, Nurse Clinician; Magda Arciszewska, Nurse Clinician and Lactation Consultant; (absent from photo: Mireille Béchard, Nurse Clinician and Lactation Consultant).

Ideally, breastfeeding should start immediately after birth with skin to skin care at birth. But this is not always possible. At the MUHC, a complex healthcare obstetrics centre, many babies are born early and require special support to receive their mother’s milk. That’s where the Lactation Support team comes in. At the Montreal Children’s Hospital (MCH) and the Royal Victoria Hospital (RVH), the team of five nurse clinicians not only covers the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit but also supports mothers throughout the MCH, including the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), inpatient units, Emergency Department and clinic areas.

“Our main role is to promote and preserve lactation and then help mom and baby come together while breastfeeding,” says Magda Arciszewska, Nurse Clinician and Lactation Consultant. “Skin to skin contact with baby plays a big part in helping moms produce milk; it also helps both of them get ready for breastfeeding.”

At the RVH, the team is often called upon to offer support to mothers and their term newborns in the Birthing Centre, postpartum unit or adult ICU. They support mothers in all different types of situations.

“It’s important to know that just because a baby is at the breast doesn’t mean they’re actually eating,” says Mireille Béchard, Nurse Clinician and Lactation Consultant. “If a child is born with a number of complications, they might take longer to learn to breastfeed or they might never completely develop that ability. In these instances, the child can receive breast milk through a variety of means.”

“We meet mothers wherever they’re at and help them reach their goals by providing support and information” adds Cathy Deacon, Nurse Clinician and Lactation Consultant.

Advice before the baby arrives

The MUHC also offers breastfeeding information sessions to patients and their families before delivery to give them information and practical advice on how to prepare for breastfeeding and what to expect in the first six weeks after birth. Parents can register by contacting [email protected].

“In this case, mothers are encouraged to bring someone who will be instrumental in their breastfeeding journey,” says Karine Huppé, Nurse Clinician. “It might be their partner, their mother, their sister: someone they can turn to for help, who also heard the same messages. How parents feed their baby will be one of the most important decisions they will make as a parent. This information can help them make an informed decision and be on their way to giving their baby a healthy start.”

The week of Oct 1-7, the team is celebrating Breastfeeding Week, organized by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA), an organization that helps raise awareness about the importance of breastfeeding as the norm for infant feeding around the globe. In Canada, this week is celebrated the first week of October, the 40th week of the year, symbolic of the length of a normal term gestation. In 2019, the #WBW slogan, “Empower Parents, Enable Breastfeeding”, was chosen to be inclusive of all types of parents in today’s world.

“Breastfeeding is in the mother’s domain, but when fathers, partners, families, workplaces and communities support her, breastfeeding improves,” says Amanda Camacho, Nurse Clinician. “That’s why it’s vital to foster an enabling environment and support both parents so they can realize their breastfeeding goals.”

To read more about breastfeeding, visit the following pages: