As part of a designated “Baby-Friendly Hospital”, nurses at the UAB Women & Infants Center use evidence-based methods to provide new moms the information, confidence, and skills needed to successfully initiate and continue breastfeeding their babies. The benefits of breastmilk, especially for premature babies, extend well-beyond nutrition and bonding. Breastmilk takes on qualities of a medicine, as it is individualized to each mom and baby and has been shown to reduce rates of asthma and obesity, among other conditions. In order to make the process of providing breastmilk to newborns safer and more efficient, nurses and lactation consultants worked closely with Health System Information Services over the past year to pilot and launch the Breast Milk Bridge initiative, by which milk is labeled when stored and scanned before it is administered. This ensures the correct milk is given to the right patient, just like all other medications and blood products.
The original process required two nurses to verify the correct milk and baby at every feeding. With sometimes three or four patients each and feedings as frequent as every two hours, nurses were frequently pulled away to assist with others. Nurses had been requesting a more efficient and safer way to manage breastmilk, and they are thrilled that this became a priority. Now when a mom pumps or brings in milk, she labels the vial with a sticker and puts it in the refrigerator. Her nurse scans the milk upon taking it out of the refrigerator to prepare it and again at the bedside. The process treats breastmilk exactly like other medications. We are able to standardize administration and close the loop on scanning without needing another nurse. It’s made staff more effective while providing the safest care for our tiniest patients.
For moms who deliver a baby who is premature or ill and in the RNICU, breastfeeding is a way for them to feel more actively involved in the outcome of their baby. Nurses, patient care technicians, and surgical techs throughout the WIC receive special training and education to help make the mother’s journey as easy as possible. Pumps are available in every room, extra steps are eliminated, and lactation consultants are stationed on every unit and throughout the hospital. This commitment helped UAB achieve the Baby-Friendly designation from Baby-Friendly USA, but it goes beyond that.
“Alabama struggles with infant mortality and low breastfeeding rates for many reasons. This is an issue our team has worked with leadership in Montgomery to address. We want to respect every mom’s wishes, but our ultimate hope is to promote healthier babies, which can make a difference in our state’s culture long-term. We have the potential to change our community.” – Laura Money, Interim Senior Director