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Boise State Joins Community Partnership to Assist Mothers of Preterm Infants

Jane Grassley
Jane Grassley

Jane Grassley, professor and Jody DeMeyer Endowed Chair for Nursing at Boise State University has partnered with Cindi Bennett, St. Luke’s lead lactation consultant, and Cindy Galloway, breastfeeding coordinator for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program at the Central District Health Department (CDHD), to create a system for mothers of preterm infants to gain support in breastfeeding after labor. This partnership allowed for Boise State, WIC, and St. Luke’s to come together with the help of these three professionals in addressing a major problem seen within the connection between mothers of preterm infants and lactation consultants.

Bennett, a graduate of Boise State University, who worked with Grassley in the lab for Nursing Leadership and Management for the School of Nursing at Boise State, was able to further recognize an issue within her current position for mothers with preterm infants in the struggles of breastfeeding. Women who are eligible have the opportunity of gaining breastfeeding counseling from WIC, a federally funded nutrition program that strives to help mothers in the struggles of breastfeeding and other nutritional needs their infant may require. WIC creates the opportunity for women to receive breastfeeding peer counseling after giving birth to create a positive breastfeeding experience for the mothers and infants. Preterm infants however, those who are born up to 3 weeks early (34 to 36 weeks), must receive more immediate care and attention in the process of breastfeeding. Although this issue was recognized many years earlier, Grassley, Bennett, and Galloway were able to further acknowledge the need of further assistance for preterm infants and implemented a system to allow immediate counseling for mothers after labor.

With the help of this partnership, these professionals were able to normalize a way for immediate counseling from lactation consultants within WIC to mothers of preterm infants. After receiving permission from the mother, hospitals may now notify WIC of the labor to ensure the instantaneous counseling and success of the breastfeeding process provided within the hospital setting before mothers are discharged. The implementation of this program created a deeper connection between hospitals and WIC in what is now called the “Communication Bridge” for lactation consultants and women in labor. Creating this pathway for contact between mothers and WIC has helped reduce the complications and risks mothers may experience while breastfeeding preterm infants.

The project has seen nothing but success for Grassley, Bennett, and Galloway as the practice has been established in all eight St. Luke’s hospitals in Idaho. Bennett and Grassley have also had the opportunity to present their project to the Association of Women’s Obstetrical and Neonatal Nursing (AWHONN) Annual Conference. In addition to the conference, the project was also recognized by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners and the International Lactation Consultant Association which later lead to St. Luke’s receiving the International Board Certified Lactation Consultant Care Award. The success continues to grow as Bennett has been invited to present about this program at the Idaho Perinatal Conference.

“The College of Health Sciences and the School of Nursing are proud to be a part of such partnerships, said Tim Dunnagan, dean of the College of Health Sciences. “This is an example of our mission to unify people and align resources within our schools and our community to problem solve with progressive research and teaching to empower people to optimize resources and advance lifelong health.”

To learn more about the project itself, an article is available on the AWHONN website.