WIN Nurse Care Manager Spotlight: Stephanie Brooks, RN, BSN, MPH, IBCLC

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August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month! Meet our Nurse Care Manager Stephanie B. and learn about tips and advice for breastfeeding.

Q. How long have you been working at WIN and how long have you been a nurse?

A. I have been at WIN just shy of 1 year and I have been a nurse for 9 years.

Q. With August being National Breastfeeding Month, what is the best piece of advice or support you would share with someone considering breastfeeding their child?

A. Be kind to yourself. If you choose to breastfeed it will be one of the most rewarding things you experience as a parent. It isn’t always easy, specially for those that struggle with their milk supply like I did. There will be times you will get frustrated, you will be tired, and you might even cry. That’s ok. Just always remember that any amount of breastmilk is a wonderful gift to your child. Don’t hold yourself to such a high standard where you are not able to stop and enjoy those breathtaking bonding moments with your little one.

Q. For one reason or another, it is not always possible for someone to breastfeed their child. Especially now during the current formula shortage crisis, do you have any tips for parents who rely exclusively on formula to feed their children?

A. If you are not able to find the formula you need, contact your pediatrician office to see if they are aware of local places where the formula may be available or if it might be possible to change to a comparable formula that is available. Also consider talking with you pediatrician about when you can begin introducing additional foods into your baby’s diet. If your baby is old enough to begin some solid foods (baby food/pureed foods) you can talk to your pediatrician about whether it is ok to reduce the amount of overall formula that is needed. But before making any kind of decision on introducing solid food or changing the amount of formula always talk to your pediatrician. Other things parents can do is check on social networking sites to see if anyone has seen your preferred formula available. If you decide to purchase formula online be sure it is only through a reputable vendor. Do not try to create infant formula at home or add extra water to try to stretch how long the formula will last. Both can lead to nutritional imbalances in your baby and potentially serious health implications. It is also not recommended to use formula that is past the use by or best by date as it could have decreased nutritional value and may no longer be safe for consumption. Your baby’s life is just too precious to risk.

Q. Could you share a common misconception about breastfeeding that you would like to de-bunk?

A. One common misconception is that in order to breastfeed, you have to have a baby. This isn’t actually the case. If you haven’t breastfed, or have stopped breastfeeding and want to start again, you can work with a Lactation Consultant to develop a pumping plan for breast stimulation that can lead to milk production. This means that families that adopt or are utilizing a gestation carrier/surrogate can still breastfeed, same sex female couples could both breastfeed their child, and individuals who self-identify as transmasculine or non-binary have the option to nurse. While it does take hard work and disciplined pumping schedules to initially establish a supply, parents who have been successful will tell you it is well worth the effort.

Q. Are there any benefits in breastfeeding your baby? How many months is it recommended that a baby be breastfed for?

A. Benefits for Parents: Breastfeeding helps to release oxytocin which promotes rest and relaxation and reduces the risk of several health conditions (such as breast/ovarian cancers, type 2 diabetes, and postpartum depression). Parents are encouraged to exclusively breastfeed for the first 6 months and then continue to breastfeed a child through at least their first year of life.

Benefits for Babies: Breastfeeding promotes bonding, reduces stress, is easier to digest than formula, and provides immunological protection (antibodies are past to the baby though breastmilk that and helps protect them from infections). Breastfeeding also lowers the risk of numerous health conditions (necrotizing enterocolitis (a potentially fatal gastrointestinal infection in infants), lower respiratory infections, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), and asthma just to name a few). It is well known that breastfeeding is nutritionally beneficial for babies, but not everyone knows that from day to day, even hour to hour, the composition of breastmilk is changing and adapting to the specific nutritional and developmental needs of your child.

Q. Does WINFertility offer any sort of support for patients regarding breastfeeding?

A. Patients can talk with one of WIN’s Nurse Care Managers to see if their employer or health plan offers a maternity program or other family building programs. One such program is WINFertility’s partnership with Ovia Health to provide support to patients throughout their journey to into parenthood. The Ovia Fertility app allows you to track your cycle, symptoms, ovulation, read articles relating to fertility and connect to others on their fertility journey. The Ovia Pregnancy app provides a maternity timeline, pregnancy symptom tracker, personalized pregnancy tips at each stage of your pregnancy and articles coving a barrage of maternity topics. Once baby arrives parents have all kinds of questions and concerns. The Ovia Parenting and Baby Tracker app hopefully will help alleviate some of those fears by helping parents to keep track of breastfeeding or bottle feeding, diaper changes, and baby’s sleep schedules. The app also provides information regarding developmental milestones and parenting articles. You can even invite family and friends to follow along for pictures and other updates.

Q. Can you share some potential factors that can contribute to why someone may not be able to breastfeed their child? Is there anything a parent can do to better their chances of successfully breastfeeding?

A. There are actually very few true contraindications to breastfeeding. An example is Galactosemia, a genetic metabolic disorder that inhibits the body’s ability to metabolize galactose which is a component of breastmilk. Recreational drug use is another contraindication as it is very easy for an infant to overdose on the drugs that are secreted into breastmilk. Certain infectious diseases are also considered contraindications such as HIV, human T-cell lymphotropic virus, or Ebola virus. If you are not sure if you fall under the categories for a contraindication to breastfeeding talk to your pediatrician or lactation consultant.

There are scenarios when parents should temporarily refrain from breastfeeding or maintain physical distance and provide their child with pumped milk, but if your doctor is aware you are breastfeeding then they will most likely let you know if one of those situations applies to you. Certain circumstances can make breastfeeding more difficult. Parents who have had breast surgery that affects the nerves of the breast or the amount of breast tissue can experience a reduction in breast stimulation, the letdown reflex and milk production. Certain types of endocrine disorders such as hypothyroidism can affect milk production. In many of these cases a parent is still able to breastfeed, but they may need to work with a lactation consultant on ways to build and maintain their supply or possibly supplement if they are not able to produce the amount of milk their infant needs. The biggest thing to remember is that each person is different; their health issues, life experiences, religious convictions, parenting styles are all different and these affect their breastfeeding journey in different ways. They say knowledge is power and that is definitely the case with breastfeeding. Attending breastfeeding classes or enlisting the help of a lactation consultant can help you have a better idea of challenges you personally may face and how to address problems as they arise. The better prepared you are, the more confident you will feel and the more likely you will be able to work through issues to be successful.