Breastfeeding is one aspect of newborn care that causes a lot of anxiety and frustration for all moms – whether it’s their first baby or their fourth. Questions race through a mom’s mind: What if my baby can’t latch on? How do I know if he or she is eating enough?
Fortunately, Lowell General has four lactation consultants to help alleviate these fears: Doreen Gallant, BSN, RN, IBCLC, CCE; Kathleen McCarthy, RN, IBCLC, CCE; Laurie Perras, RN, IBCLC, CCE, and Susan Santos, RN, IBCLC, CCE.
In addition to decades of experience in maternal child health nursing, all are credentialed as International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs) and certified childbirth educators (CCE). They serve as a community resource for every mother – regardless of where they delivered or where they live.
The team runs breastfeeding preparation classes for moms before delivery, visit new moms at the Birthplace during their stay, and then provide additional support as needed at our outpatient lactation clinic located at the hospital’s main campus.
“Even before delivery, we offer free breastfeeding classes for pregnant moms so they know what to expect beforehand,” says Santos. “We have women that come to us from all over because of the extensive services we offer.”
Perras adds that it usually takes 2-3 weeks for a baby to breastfeed well, so it’s important for moms to know it’s a process – there are two learners in the equation. “Even if a mom has successfully breastfed before, every baby is different. We are here to give them the tools they need, reassure them, and boost their confidence.”
Many have heard the saying “breast is best,” but why? According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, breastfeeding has many benefits, including a reduced risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), as well as a reduction in respiratory and gastrointestinal illnesses and ear infections. For moms, nursing can bring an earlier return to pre-pregnancy weight, and decrease the risk of both breast and ovarian cancers.
“The unique quality of breast milk is that it is specifically formulated every day by mom to meet baby’s needs,” says Kathleen McCarthy. “It really helps babies build their immune systems. Babies can’t be vaccinated until two months, so it gives them that extra leg up right after birth.”
The hospital also has a donor milk program that helps bridge the gap for moms who are unable to breastfeed right away due to medical issues or a delay in milk production. Similar in process and protocol to a blood bank, donors are rigorously screened and the milk pasteurized so it’s completely safe. Since human milk protein is easily digested, this bridge with donor milk can be especially valuable for premature babies or those with gastrointestinal issues.
All our lactation consultants stress that the choice to nurse a baby is a very personal one, and they all meet moms where they are to be supportive of their choice. Colleen Hicks of Chelmsford knows firsthand how challenging it can be. She would have given up breastfeeding if she hadn’t seen lactation consultant Doreen Gallant when her baby Mila was two weeks old.
“Doctors want your baby to regain their birth weight within two weeks, and Mila didn’t. I thought I needed to transition to formula,” said Hicks. “I was able to see Doreen right away at the outpatient clinic. It was so helpful — we made a breastfeeding plan and she educated me on pumping. Mila and I just needed some additional support to make it work.”
Hicks also attends the New Moms Support Group at Lowell General, held on Tuesdays at the main campus.
“Mila is now 6 months old and transitioning to solid food, but I still come to bond with other moms, I’ve made great friends here.”