Good Samaritan Hospital in Puyallup recently redesigned its lactation support system to emphasize around-the-clock support for breastfeeding mothers.
The new system will now train existing nurses to provide lactation services, instead of employing staff members with a specified role as a lactation nurse.
The former lactation support system “didn’t allow for us to have around the clock lactation support, so we redesigned how we’re going to do that,” said Marce Edwards, communications director for the MultiCare Health System. “We’re training existing nurses in breastfeeding support — and nurses are there 24/7.”
We’re training existing nurses in breastfeeding support—and nurses are there 24/7.
Marce Edwards, communcations director at MultiCare
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The change impacted the jobs of four part-time lactation nurses at Good Sam, whose roles were to help mothers with breastfeeding. While let go from their lactation consultant duties, three of the four individuals were registered nurses and also hold other positions with MultiCare that were not affected.
“Those people were offered other positions in the birth center and they chose not to do that,” Edwards said.
The action has caused some concern among community members, who worry that there will be an added burden on nurses and difficulties accessing certified lactation consultants for help.
Angela Carnahan, an accredited Breastfeeding USA Peer Counselor and a member of the Pierce County Breastfeeding Alliance, was concerned when she heard about the loss of the lactation nurses, who were International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs). IBCLCs have specialized skills in breastfeeding care and management.
Delores Baccus, a local IBCLC and RN, felt the same.
IBCLCs have a scope of practice that supports moms beyond the normal nursing challenges. RN IBCLCs that work in hospitals usually have the extra time to spend with nursing patient’s that non-RN IBCLC nurses do not.
Delores Baccus, local RN and IBCLC
“IBCLCs have a scope of practice that supports moms beyond the normal nursing challenges,” she said. “RN IBCLCs that work in hospitals usually have the extra time to spend with nursing patients that non-RN IBCLC nurses do not.”
Carnahan’s son was born prematurely, and had to be tube-fed milk because he was too young to be able to coordinate a sucking motion.
“It was because an IBCLC empowered, educated, supported and developed a specialized plan for me that we were able to be successful breastfeeding,” she said.
Carnahan reached out to Good Samaritan Hospital through Facebook, igniting concern from other community members. Good Sam replied, “While we have had designated lactation consultants in the past, over the past two years all of our family birth center nursing staff have gone through extensive training on breastfeeding so each of them can provide the support moms need, when they need it.”
Edwards encourages mothers not to worry, and that Good Sam will continue to train nurses for specialized care. Good Sam created a perinatal coach position at the hospital to lead a program to train staff and nurses about breastfeeding.
“Many staff have already completed their IBCLC certifications, and more will be completed,” she said.
For mothers leaving the hospital, Good Sam also provides the option of virtual consultations with a lactation consultant.
Other hospitals in the area also provide certified lactation consultants. But Carnahan said locating an IBCLC is sometimes difficult.
There are not many private practice—so to speak—IBCLCs. Good Sam hospital was one of the only real place Puyallup families could go locally.
Angela Carnahan, member of Pierce County Breastfeeding Alliance
“There are not many private practice — so to speak — IBCLCs,” Carnahan said. “Good Sam hospital was one of the only real place Puyallup families could go locally.”