“It feels like I just gave birth,” shares Kathy, Lactation Counselor/Educator and CHAMPS Team Lead. “It’s a big relief because it was a long time coming. We’re excited about it. We’re still going to have to do improvements every year, so we will carry on as usual.”
Chickasaw’s Baby-Friendly journey began about 5 years ago when Lisa and Kathy attended a “Becoming Baby-Friendly in Oklahoma” conference and signed up to become Baby-Friendly. From there, the changes began. For example, instead of having separate nurses care for babies and mothers, they began practicing couplet care. And instead of separating babies from their mothers for up to 2 hours for the admission process, the nurses started coming to the delivery rooms to admit babies.
“That was a big challenge—” Kathy says, “getting people out of their comfort zone, changing the way they do things.”
In addition to coordinating the Baby-Friendly committee, Kathy developed education for the Women’s Clinic and a Baby-Friendly template for their electronic charting system. Kathy has also created a Baby-Friendly skills lab, a mandatory 2- or 3-day training held every year.
Kathy, who has worked at Chickasaw for 18 years and became a lactation consultant in 2015, feels like it would be “withholding medical care” to not promote breastfeeding with her patients. She says it is especially important for communities such as Chickasaw Nation since it decreases the risk of certain diseases prevalent among American Indians such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
Chickasaw Nation Medical Center is now the 3rd American Indian Baby-Friendly hospital in Oklahoma. Claremore IHS, a federally operated site, was the 1st Baby-Friendly hospital in Oklahoma, and now there are 2 tribal sites—Cherokee Nation and Chickasaw Nation. All 13 federal IHS hospitals were designated between 2012 and 2014, and now, 4 out of 5 tribally operated hospitals in the lower 48 are designated as well. This is an incredible record!
Kathy says, “I could not have done any of it without the help of everyone on the Baby-Friendly Committee, especially Lisa Eddings, OB Educator and Assistant Manager. Lisa’s been here the whole time, originally started it, and always supported me. Without her I couldn’t have gotten anywhere. Carey Terrell has been the OB Unit Manager for the last year and she has been a great help. And our CHAMPS helper Kristen Krane—she helped tremendously by keeping me on track always checking to make sure everything was in order. Our OB Unit really experienced a change in culture. There have been adjustments and we continue to adapt and implement best practice in our patient care. As a whole, all of our staff and Women’s Clinic have placed focus on providing family-centered care because we recognize this is the best way to get life started.”