Busy doesn’t begin to describe Alysia Bledsoe’s work routine at Mercy. Day after day, the emergency room nurse keeps her focus on patients – and her mind on her toddler, Reagan, who was born at Mercy.
“I wanted the closest bond with her as possible, so I decided early on to breastfeed,” Bledsoe said, and that’s when Mercy stepped in. “Before I left for maternity leave, Mercy offered me a free lactation consult and a tour of the hospital’s dedicated lactation rooms.”
Bledsoe quickly got up to speed on the best practices and equipment to ensure a healthy relationship with her little girl. “It definitely made it a lot easier for me and all the other moms at Mercy,” she said. “And when you’re on your feet for several hours, a quick getaway is appreciated. In fact, I can get a couple pumps in each day, with full support from my managers.”
But breastfeeding isn’t as easy as you would think, said Sheila Peters, one of Mercy’s lead lactation consultants in Springfield, Missouri (check out her Facebook Live video below).
“At first, many moms wonder if they’re feeding enough or doing it properly. That’s why it’s so important that we’re there to guide them and support them from start to finish,” Peters said. “From free prenatal consults to prepare new moms for success, to a returning-to-work consult, our goal is to make their lives, and their babies’ lives, as healthy as possible.”
Several Mercy facilities – from Fort Smith and Rogers, Arkansas, to Oklahoma City and Ada, Oklahoma – have comfortable, private rooms so new moms can express milk during a workday. In Missouri, Mercy hospitals in St. Louis, Springfield, Washington and Crystal City received Breastfeeding Friendly Worksite Awards by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (MDHSS) and the Missouri Breastfeeding Coalition.
“Many of our co-workers tell me they would have given up without our help,” Peters said. “But they’re seeing tremendous benefits by sticking to it. Moms have a lower risk of breast, uterine and ovarian cancers, and the baby will see fewer ear infections, respiratory infections, allergies, as well as hospital admissions. The list goes on and on.”
That’s why more than 80 percent of new mothers in the United States now choose to breastfeed. In addition to a financial savings from avoiding costly formula, the MDHSS reports that breastfeeding reduces absenteeism because of fewer illnesses, lowers health care costs due to fewer doctor visits, and also improves productivity and retention.
“Simply put, if you’re pumping, it’s good for your baby,” Bledsoe added. “With Mercy’s help, I’m now focusing on Reagan’s next steps – literally. She’s crawling all over the place!”
August is National Breastfeeding Month, designated by the U.S. Breastfeeding Committee.
Mercy, named one of the top five large U.S. health systems in 2017 by Truven, an IBM Watson Health company, serves millions annually. Mercy includes 44 acute care and specialty (heart, children’s, orthopedic and rehab) hospitals, more than 700 physician practices and outpatient facilities, 40,000 co-workers and more than 2,000 Mercy Clinic physicians in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. Mercy also has outreach ministries in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.