Mothers whose babies have been diagnosed prenatally with congenital anomalies face challenges when it comes to prenatal care and initiation of lactation in order to reach their personal breastfeeding goals. In order to provide emotional support, obstetric care and assessment, and education to these mothers, the Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) launched the Mama Care program in 2013, based on the Centering Pregnancy Model of group prenatal care. A first-of-its-kind study in Breastfeeding Medicine shows the Mama Care program not only provides a sense of community to mothers who participate but also educates them on the science of human milk and helps them meet their lactation goals.
The Mama Care series of group meetings are facilitated by a certified nurse midwife and a registered nurse from the Garbose Family Special Delivery Unit (SDU). Located within CHOP’s Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment, the SDU allows moms to stay close, and babies are treated immediately. Having this comprehensive care in one location is critically important to the well-being of babies born with complex congenital conditions. The SDU at CHOP is the world’s first birth facility in a pediatric hospital specifically designed for healthy mothers carrying babies with known birth defects.
As part of the Mama Care program, a PhD nurse scientist in lactation meets with the families to help them make an informed feeding decision and discuss their personal goals for the provision of human milk and breastfeeding. Although Mama Care lactation sessions are tailored to the needs of families in the group, all families learn about the science of human milk as a medical intervention for infants with congenital anomalies, the physiology of lactation, how to effectively achieve a robust milk supply, and the role of the mothers’ support network in starting and maintaining lactation. Families also receive an individual prenatal consultation with a member of CHOP’s lactation program.
In assessing the outcomes of 92 mother-infant pairs, the researchers found that 100% of the mothers-initiated pumping/breastfeeding for their critically ill children, with 92% starting on delivery day and the remaining on day one post-delivery. At discharge of the infants from their initial intensive care unit stay, 87% of surviving infants were receiving maternal human milk.
“This research is the first to specifically examine the role of group prenatal care, prenatal lactation interventions, and lactation outcomes of women with pregnancies complicated by the presence of known congenital anomalies,” said Diane L. Spatz, PhD RN-BC, FAAN, a nurse scientist at CHOP, Professor at Penn Nursing, and senior author of the paper. “We know peer-to-peer support is very important for all pregnant women, and with Mama Care, we have replicated and tailored that support for women whose babies are diagnosed with congenital anomalies before birth.” You can read more about the study here.