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Swedish Covenant Hospital offers breastfeeding classes for women in their third trimester.

Breastfeeding education begins early, has lasting impact

New moms at Swedish Covenant Hospital receive coaching on breasfeeding before, during and after labor
Tracy Hernandez
Senior Staff Writer
Swedish Covenant Hospital offers breastfeeding classes for women in their third trimester.

Research has shown that breastfeeding provides important nutrients and antibodies that protect babies from illness, and it is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. But as many moms know, that does not mean it is easy. Breastfeeding takes work, practice and it can be hard to get started.

For this reason, at Swedish Covenant Hospital, in the precious moments immediately following their babies’ births, new moms are set up to succeed in breastfeeding.

As soon as a baby is born, a nurse, nurse-midwife or physician on-hand places the baby skin-to-skin on the mother’s chest, which immediately creates an emotional bond which stimulates the baby’s brain and other systems. It also makes the baby hungry, and encourages him or her to look to mom for food, according to Kathleen Gale, a certified lactation consultant and registered nurse at Swedish Covenant Hospital.

“Within 55 minutes after birth, if the right steps are taken, many babies will latch on their own and start breastfeeding,” Gale said. “If this happens, the success rate for breastfeeding throughout infancy goes way, way up.”

These delivery room steps — along with prenatal education, encouragement and one-on-one coaching — have proven very effective. Ninety-eight percent of new moms leave Swedish Covenant Hospital having successfully breastfed their babies, according the Illinois Hospital Report Card, published by the Illinois Department of Public Health.

WBEZ 91.5 FM radio (Chicago Public Media) recently completed an analysis of 49 hospitals in the Report Card data, and found that Swedish Covenant Hospital ranked highest for the percentage of newborns successfully breastfeeding prior to leaving the hospital.

So what is Swedish Covenant Hospital doing right?

“Our staff teaches women about breastfeeding in pre-natal classes; we encourage breastfeeding and a close bond between mom and baby immediately after delivery; and I try to meet with every first-time mom one-on-one while they are in the hospital. Those are some of our keys to success,” Gale said.

All staff members in Swedish Covenant Hospital’s Family Birthing Center are trained on what to do in the delivery room to encourage breast feeding. Once mom and baby are settled (often in the post-natal unit), Gale will visit them to talk about breastfeeding and give tips for success.

Gale tries to meet with every woman who delivers for at least a half hour before she leaves the hospital with her baby. This is a fairly unique system of care which Gale believes encourages moms not to give up on breastfeeding even when it gets difficult.