“A year ago I really did not think we would be at this point. The obstacles we had to overcome were so seemingly insurmountable. But here we are!” says Michelle Tschida, CNM, IBCLC, CHAMPS Team Lead and Lactation & Infant Feeding Specialist at ANMC.
ANMC delivers approximately 1,600 babies a year, and about 50% of their patients travel from Alaska’s sparsely populated rural communities. All babies born at ANMC are of Alaska Native or American Indian heritage. The rural hospitals refer high-risk births to ANMC. If mothers are at risk for preterm birth, they fly to Anchorage 36 weeks into their pregnancies or 4 weeks before their previous delivery dates. Most women stay in hotels waiting for their baby’s birth. Some women are able to bring a family member, but many of them are not and may feel isolated and alone in an unfamiliar, big city. Mothers may have to leave their older children in their villages to stay at home with a relative while they are away. In the larger rural communities there are hospitals, but in the more remote areas families receive healthcare through village clinics. Women in these communities receive most of their care from Community Health Aides. These are individuals who reside in the community and obtain specialized training in healthcare. They work closely with doctors and midwives to coordinate prenatal care.
Michelle coordinates a committee at ANMC that is working on the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding, with sub-committees for each of the Ten Steps. ANMC has 21 midwives, and midwives have been delivering babies at ANMC for 30+ years. They routinely use skin-to-skin care and have breastfeeding initiation rates of around 90%. Longer-term, Michelle and her team are hoping to reduce ANMC’s formula supplementation rate through nurse and patient education.
Congratulations, ANMC, and best wishes on the Baby-Friendly journey!