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Support for the Journey: St. Luke’s helps new moms by offering free lactation support at the AfterCare Clinic

Category: Health Stories
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Published in the Moms & Dads Today magazine, May-June 2019 Issue

Becoming a parent is exciting and terrifying. “Everything is so new and you want to do things right,” said first-time mom Paige Wilhelmy. “But you don’t always know what is right.” To help moms adjust to their new role, St. Luke’s Birthing Center offers the AfterCare Clinic at no extra cost to patients for ongoing support from delivery forward.Paige and Sawyer Wilhelmy with Jen Nylund, RN, at St. Luke’s Birthing Center just outside the AfterCare Clinic

New parent, new challenges

After 23 long hours of labor at St. Luke’s Birthing Center, the Wilhelmys met their son, Sawyer. “He’s doing great now, but the initial delivery was actually pretty scary for us,” said Paige. “When Sawyer was born, he wasn’t able to breathe on his own for about 12 minutes.” The delivery team worked to help safely stabilize him, and he transitioned normally after that.

Paige and her husband were able to breathe a sigh of relief and start enjoying their new son. Soon, the Wilhelmys brought Sawyer home for the first time.

A day after their discharge, Sawyer was having trouble staying awake. “We didn’t know what to do,” Paige said. “We couldn’t wake him up to feed. He was just so incredibly tired.” Paige called the AfterCare Clinic for guidance, and she was able to come in that day to make sure everything was alright.

Help from the AfterCare Clinic

The AfterCare Clinic is located in St. Luke’s Birthing Center, right down the hall from where Sawyer was delivered. It’s a quiet, inviting space with a few comfortable chairs, a scale and a changing area. There’s even a small play area for parents who also have toddlers coming in with them.

“We do a complete head-to-toe assessment when a mom and baby come into AfterCare,” said Selina Layman, RN, CLC, at St. Luke’s Birthing Center. “We talk to mom to see how she’s doing.” The assessment includes checking mom and baby’s vital signs, taking baby’s weight, testing bilirubin levels (the yellow compound that causes jaundice) and helping mom through a feeding.

Sawyer’s bilirubin levels were elevated. Having high bilirubin levels is a very common problem that can occur during the newborn period, and can cause an infant to become overly sleepy. Typically, an excess of this compound will leave the system through urine and stool. However, if baby is too tired to eat, the compound will continue to build up.

“It’s a tricky cycle some newborns can get stuck in,” said Selina. “A lot of the babies that come into AfterCare have an increase in their bilirubin.” For most of these newborns, frequent feedings will help flush the bilirubin out of their systems. In some cases, the baby will be admitted to the hospital and undergo phototherapy (exposure to special blue lights) until their bilirubin levels decrease.

Breastfeeding support

Another common struggle among new moms is breastfeeding. “A lot of women don’t know how much milk their babies are getting,” said Selina. “That’s probably the number one concern we address.”

Paige found this to be true in her own experience. “Breastfeeding was a lot harder than I ever thought it would be,” she said.

A nurse sat with Paige through a feeding and helped her make sure Sawyer was in the best position for a good latch. He was also weighed before and after to measure his intake. “We could see how much food he was actually getting, which was really comforting,” Paige said.

Each nurse in the AfterCare Clinic has received extra training in lactation and is either a Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC), Certified Lactation Specialist (CLS) or Certified Lactation Educator (CLE). There are also staff members who have obtained International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) designation.

The AfterCare Clinic can also help moms who have chosen not to breastfeed as well. “What’s most important is for babies to eat, no matter how they’re getting the nutrition,” said Selina. “For mom’s who are choosing not to breastfeed, or who are not able to, we can talk about how to safely prepare formula and properly bottle-feed.”

Paige and Sawyer came into AfterCare again the next day for a follow up, and have been back a few times since. “It has been so amazing to have the support,” said Paige. “We’ve visited AfterCare four times already.” Sawyer’s bilirubin levels have decreased, and feedings have been going well.

Grateful for St. Luke’s

Paige is thankful for the care she has received from St. Luke’s. “I had the most amazing experience that I think I could have,” she said. “During the whole process: pregnancy, delivery and the care we’ve received after. I would definitely encourage moms to deliver at St. Luke’s.”

The AfterCare Clinic is completely free to St. Luke’s patients, and is available as often as needed. For more information about St. Luke’s Birthing Center visit slhduluth.com/baby. To schedule a tour of St. Luke’s Birthing Center call 218.249.5605.

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