Lactation clinic providing services to moms in Western Kansas

As the only hospital between Hays and Colby equipped to deliver babies, the Gove County Medical Center in Quinter, Kan., has long had a reputation for going above and beyond for newborns and their mothers.

In September 2015, this reputation received an even greater boost with the opening of the BESTT (Breastfeeding Essentials Support Thriving Together) Lactation Clinic, designed to provide encouragement, support and necessary follow-ups meant to help new mothers work through the challenges associated with breastfeeding.

“The health benefits of breastfeeding are well documented, and that really challenged us to figure out how we could provide the services needed to support the use and duration of breastfeeding for mothers in the counties we serve,” said Colleen Tummons, CEO at Gove County Medical Center.

According to the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, studies show breastfed babies have a lower risk of becoming obese, developing asthma, Type 1 diabetes and respiratory infections.

To deliver these needed services, though, the hospital needed to overcome challenges of space and costs. When it came to the cost of starting the clinic, Gove County Medical Center received funding help from a $15,198 grant through the Kansas Health Foundation Recognition Grant program.

“Thankfully, as we’ve become more and more aware of all the reasons breastfeeding is so important, we’ve also seen an increase in the availability of funding for these types of efforts,” said Wendy Schmidt, a registered nurse and lactation consultant at the BESTT Clinic. “It’s really helping us meet this need.”

Schmidt is one of three consultants who staff the clinic, which in its eight months since opening has served nearly every mother who has had her baby at Gove County Medical Center, and even some from the area who gave birth at facilities farther away.

This is particularly encouraging given that sustained breastfeeding rates in Kansas lag behind many other states. The most recent Breastfeeding Report Card, published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), shows the percentage of mothers in Kansas who are exclusively breastfeeding six months after their child is born to be well below the national average.

According to Schmidt, a high percentage of mothers start out breastfeeding, but as issues come up, they often don’t have anywhere to turn for help. The BESTT Clinic gives them that help, in addition to a healthy dose of encouragement.

“For our mothers, the greatest benefit from the clinic is the follow-up aspect,” Schmidt said. “Once the moms go home, it’s easy to become frustrated or panicked if everything isn’t going well. By making ourselves available to them when they’re struggling, it can really give moms that peace of mind to keep on trying.”

In addition to the moms, another group pleased with the development of the clinic is the physicians at Gove County Medical Center. Prior to having dedicated staff working at the clinic as lactation consultants, much of the work for nurturing and supporting breastfeeding for new moms fell to the physicians, who often didn’t have time to give proper instruction and advice during standard checkups.

“From the very beginning, our physicians have been leading voices on the need to expand our lactation consulting and new mother services,” Tummons said. “It truly enhances our overall obstetrics efforts. We want to be a great facility for having babies, but we also want to take care of our patients after the families take the babies home. It all goes hand-in-hand.”

It’s an effort and set of services that promise to have a long-lasting impact on the health and wellness of western Kansas mothers and babies for years to come.

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