Guest Post by Ann Gibbon & Elaine Yong
When you’ve just had a baby, the fatigue and anxiety surrounding breastfeeding are heightened at the best of times.
When there’s a pandemic, that’s taken to a whole new level.
To ensure women continue to receive breastfeeding support despite COVID-19, St. Paul’s Hospital has developed a virtual breastfeeding workshop for prenatal women. It was developed to give them the skills and confidence to feed their hungry newborns before the wearying postpartum days ahead.
The sessions are designed to support the more than two-thirds of moms who struggle with nursing their newborns.
Andrea Firmani, clinical nurse educator at St. Paul’s maternity unit (and former labour and delivery nurse there), says while health experts continue to encourage moms to breastfeed exclusively up to six months of age, prenatal education spends very little time on this. She’d like to see expectant moms set themselves up for success before any problems arise, rather than what most women do now – seek help after they have a problem.
For that reason, the virtual breastfeeding sessions complement the virtual prenatal curriculum.
“We spend a long time talking about how to deal with contractions in prenatal classes. But if we add up the time we are actually going to be dealing with contractions versus feeding your baby, we should be focusing a lot more time on breastfeeding,” she says.
Firmani has personal experience around breastfeeding difficulties. The mother of three couldn’t get the hang of it when her third child was born five years ago. “I thought, ‘Who can I ask because I’m the person people ask!’ I just wanted someone to tell me what to do,” Firmani recalls. So she herself contacted one of the St. Paul’s lactation consultants and got the guidance she needed.
The classes prepare expectant women for what lies ahead to help normalize the ups and downs. One example is ‘night two.’ Firmani describes it as intense cluster feeding (a lot of short feeds over a few hours). It can be shocking for a first-time parent, but she emphasizes, “This is expected. It is biologically normal. It’s not going to be forever. We just have to move through it.”
There are two types of the breastfeeding sessions offered via Zoom. Expectant moms can sign up for two-hour private sessions with a nurse (Firmani is one of them) who specializes in lactation and breastfeeding. Or they can participate in group classes of up to three people.
Women across the country can sign up for either option. There is a nominal fee to cover costs (and it is less expensive for the groups), but Firmani says no woman will be denied access due to an inability to pay.
For more information on prenatal virtual support at St. Paul’s, please visit: prenatal virtual workshops.
For more related resources, check out our annual Baby Guide, available online now.