Hospital’s breastfeeding room is a welcome addition
It’s a tiny space. If you take two steps you’d be across it and if you took five, you would have moved the length of it, but for breastfeeding staffers of the Island’s hospitals, it suffices.
A room specifically for mothers to express milk was promised last year and finally opened this February. Nestled in the back of the children’s unit on the second floor of King Edward VII Memorial Hospital (KEMH), the small space features pictures of mothers and babies, a desk, some shelves, a small fridge, a chair and some literature from the breastfeeding support group, La Leche League.
And that’s all that’s needed according to mom and perioperative nurse educator at KEMH, Cilmaria Outerbridge.
Mrs Outerbridge said she was the first Bermuda Hospitals Board (BHB) staff member to use the room on February 1. “It was my first day back at work after maternity leave, and it was ready for use,” she said.
She said the room provides a more relaxing environment for her to express milk. She feels that she has been able to produce more milk because it is relaxing.
Mrs Outerbridge has two children. Her first was born before the hospital had the expressing room.
She was committed to breastfeeding but had challenges in finding time and a place to express her milk.
“I had to use any spot I could find,” she said. “Luckily I work in the surgical area so I was able to use the on-call rooms but they are for nursing staff and physicians who are needing rest. They are not the ideal place to use because they are not for breastfeeding mothers.”
Mrs Outerbridge said she often had to use her shared office space to express her milk.
“I used to have to lock the door and tell my colleagues: ‘Look I’m breastfeeding right now,” she said.
Although she grew comfortable with telling her colleagues that she needed to breastfeed, she would often feel anxious and rushed while she was expressing the milk.
“When I was in my office I was rushing, wondering who is going to come banging on my office door because they needed me,” she said. “A couple of times people walked in on me and I would have to shout ‘No, no!’”
Not having a dedicated expressing room caused Mrs Outerbridge a level of stress that resulted in a rapid decrease in her milk supply. This was a natural reaction because she often skipped expressing, as the demands of her day encroached on her ability to stop and find a place to do it.
Her second baby is five months old and she said the amount of milk she is producing now is significantly higher than what she was able to produce when her first child was the same age.
“I find it much more relaxing here [in the expressing room], looking at the pictures I found I have been able to breastfeed longer with this baby than with my first,” she said.
Having the room also enables Mrs Outerbridge to express her milk when she needs to, instead of when she can find the time.
“I do still use my office sometimes but I can come down to the second floor and relax, take my mind away from work and do it. I find it’s better to express here because I don’t have to rush,” she said.
Being in the children’s unit, sometimes the coos and cries of babies can be heard. It is a natural response in lactating mothers that their milk flows when they hear babies crying. Mrs Outerbridge agreed that these sounds could help her milk flow.
Her baby is currently on a breast milk only diet. She said she typically has to express two or three times a day for a period of ten to 15 minutes.
BHB deputy CEO, Venetta Symonds said a major reason the room was set up was to give staff the ability to balance their work with the feeding needs of their babies. It was also intended to help achieve a World Health Organisation standard of feeding babies exclusively on breast milk for the first six months of their lives.
Local breastfeeding advocate La Leche League applauded the creation of the expressing room by the hospital.
“An expressing room in the work place provides mothers with a safe, clean and private place to feel relaxed enough to pump. Moms who struggle at work trying to pump in the bathroom or without privacy may well be challenged with supply issues,” said La Leche League leader Melony Kendall.
The charity donated a fridge for the room at KEMH. If you would like information on setting up an expressing room at your workplace, contact La Leche League on 236-1120 or islandgirl[AT]northrock.bm.
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