Release Date: 12/20/2011
Free post partum care visits for new moms
Darci and Matthew Garavaglia hold their daughter, Amelia. Darci brought Amelia to St. Anthony's Post Partum Care Center numerous times following her birth, to help with nursing problems and health concerns.
Twenty years ago, new mothers were released from the hospital 24 hours after giving birth, and pediatricians often scheduled the baby’s first office visit four weeks after discharge.
Pat Pashia, a nurse in St. Anthony’s Special Care Nursery and a co-founder of Nurses for Newborns, recognized that some babies experienced feeding difficulties and associated issues. She believed something had to be done to ensure that new moms and their babies received the support they needed. With the blessing of hospital administration in 1993, she launched the Post Partum Care Center, where new moms could come for free visits with a Nursery nurse any time between discharge and first doctor visit.
“During the visit, the nurse would examine the baby, assess the well-being of both mom and baby and answer any questions the new mom had, from feeding issues to overall care,” said Nancy Watson, R.N., an internationally board-certified lactation consultant who currently operates the program at St. Anthony’s.
In 2004, 543 new moms came back for at least one visit. Today, with longer hospital stays for the moms and earlier doctor checkups for the babies, the program mainly focuses on breastfeeding management and support.
“I even see some moms who didn’t deliver their babies here,” Watson said. “Their doctors recommend that they come to St. Anthony’s for help. It’s no longer just one session – some moms come several times because they appreciate the needed support.”
Darci Garavaglia, 32, a south St. Louis resident, came to the Post Partum Care Center for some 15 visits after her daughter, Amelia, was born Feb. 9, 2010. Garavaglia, an occupational therapist, became familiar with St. Anthony’s Perinatal Center when she began having contractions at only 28 weeks into her pregnancy. With medication and monitoring, she made it to just 10 days before her due date, when she had to be induced due to a reduced amount of amniotic fluid.
“Amelia’s newborn blood screening showed hypothyroidism, a condition that could cause physical and developmental delays if not treated,” Garavaglia said. “We were very lucky that it was discovered and brought under control with medication. But she just wasn’t growing, gaining weight at the rate she should have been.”
Garavaglia was determined to nurse her baby, because she wanted to provide her with the important nutrients and antibodies nursing provides.
“Breast milk is perfect for the baby’s GI tract – it keeps the bad bacteria from getting in,” Watson said. “We see more babies with upset stomachs who are on formula. Additionally, there are no antibodies in formula. Mom passes them to baby through breast milk and it helps the baby fight off infections. Breastfeeding also helps the baby’s eye and brain development and acuity.”
But nursing turned out to be a challenge for Garavaglia. “It was tough, being a new mom struggling with nursing a baby who wasn’t gaining weight like she should,” Garavaglia said. “Nancy helped me get through that stressful period. She would weigh and measure Amelia at each visit, and I’d report that information to my pediatrician. She helped me with my nursing problems, and by the third day it was smooth sailing. Amelia began to enjoy nursing, and it gave us that time to be close – ‘mommy and me’ time.”
Watson said the best part of her job is that moment when the nursing mom says, “I’ve got it!” “It feels good when a mom who came in with tears of sadness leaves with tears of joy,” Watson said. “It is so rewarding – very cool!”
Garavaglia and her husband, Matthew, believe the post partum visits made a big difference in both mom’s and baby’s health and their mutual satisfaction level with the nursing process.
“I wish all hospitals were as supportive of mothers who want to nurse,” Garavaglia said. “I tell all my friends who are going to deliver babies that I had the best experience at St. Anthony’s that anyone could have! The nurses there gave me support, reassurance and peace of mind.”
For information, please call our Health Access Line at 314-ANTHONY (268-4669) or 800-554-9550 or visit find a physician online.
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