Southwest Health applied for and received a Population Health Improvement Grant from the Wisconsin Office of Rural Health, designated for the obstetric (OB) department to combat the rising obesity epidemic in Grant County, Wisconsin. This grant was used to help the Southwest Wisconsin community and Southwest Health's patients understand the importance of exclusive breastfeeding, including a decrease in the likelihood of obesity and additional health benefits for both baby and mother. Receiving this grant allowed the OB department to upgrade its equipment, provide additional training for the staff, and educate the community on financial and developmental benefits. Southwest Health's OB department decided to focus on exclusive breastfeeding for quality improvement after scoring a low benchmark of 58% in the exclusive breastfeeding rate in the second quarter of 2019. The Office of Rural Health’s funding is provided through the federal Medicare Rural Hospital Flexibility Program.
While the OB at Southwest Health is enthusiastic about the care it provides, a disconnect existed between nurse education and breastfeeding training to the patients. A portion of the resources for the quality improvement initiative were spent on a universal, 16-hour Institute for the Advancement of Breastfeeding & Lactation Education (IABLE) training for staff. The IABLE training, created by a Wisconsin physician, helps bridge the gap between all educational institutions. The training educates staff about the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding, provides tangible educational materials and creates consistency in policy when encouraging mothers to breastfeed. To make this a sustainable change, Southwest Health hired an international board-certified lactation consultant (IBCLC) and a certified lactation consultant (CLC) as breastfeeding advocates at the hospital. After implementing changes from the quality improvement initiative, Southwest Health found additional aspects that help mothers, like encouraging skin-to-skin contact, having the first feeding in the operating room post-C-section, rooming-in with the baby 24/7, close follow-up and connection with the CLC.
“My goal as a CLC is to help new moms feel confident when feeding their child. Whatever proactive measures we can take like educating about different breastfeeding positions or hand expressing techniques, all help give moms peace of mind that they are providing for their child,” says Southwest Health’s CLC.
After a baby is born, OB staff encourage breastfeeding within the first hour of delivery. With trained staff present, breastfeeding may come a little easier. As the new moms go home, they may not have the same support or resources available, and breastfeeding may become a challenge. New equipment can help bridge the gap between hospital and home to help the transition. Equipment purchased through the collaborative for new moms included a pre- and post-feed baby scale, breastfeeding covers, loaned breast pumps (until moms receive their own from insurance), additional pump parts, halo cribs and donor milk. All this equipment is used to help ease moms into transitioning back to home life with a baby. This equipment can be the difference between a new mom having the comfort and accessibility to breastfeed and establishing a good supply or relying on formula.
After implementation, Southwest Health can proudly share that the exclusive breastfeeding rate as of September 2021 was 77%, well above Wisconsin's state average of 62%, as represented in the graph below. This outcome means mothers feel more comfortable breastfeeding their children while using the education and resources provided by the nurses and hospital post-birth.