The Rush Mothers’ Milk Club is the name of the breastfeeding, lactation and human milk feeding program in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Rush University Medical Center. The clinical program is based on the most up-to-date research about lactation and human milk for premature and other NICU infants. The neonatologists, nurses, dietitians and breastfeeding peer counselors work to share this research with families so that they can work with the NICU staff members to collect, store and feed each mother’s milk using techniques and procedures that most benefit the individual baby.
The Rush Mothers’ Milk Club also conducts translational research that is focused on:
- The use of human milk to optimize infant health.
- Making breast pumping more effective, efficient, comfortable and convenient.
- Using lactation technologies, such as the creamatocrit and test-weighing, to strengthen the scientific foundation for clinical lactation care.
- Collaborative research addressing gut microflora and immunoregulatory components in mothers’ milk.
- The economics of human milk feedings for NICU infants.
A unique feature of the Rush Mothers’ Milk Club is the practice of certified breastfeeding peer counselors. These employees are mothers of former NICU infants, all of whom received care in the Rush NICU. After getting settled at home, these women became certified breastfeeding peer counselors, and completed an intensive orientation program to provide lactation care to other mothers in the Rush NICU. In a recent study, mothers feel that lactation care by the breastfeeding peer counselors is so effective because the mothers feel the breastfeeding peer counselors have “walked in my shoes”.
Dr. Paula Meier surrounded by the Rush Breastfeeding Peer Counselors
Another special feature of the Rush Mothers’ Milk Club is the Friday luncheon meetings, where families learn the science about human milk and lactation, and meet other NICU families. These lively and entertaining meetings provide an opportunity for families to ask questions, share their “tips” on pumping, or just share stories about their babies’ progress. These meetings take place EVERY Friday in English (1PM) and Spanish (11:30 AM), and are attended by the employed and volunteer breastfeeding peer counselors. Educational topics include:
- “DHA in human milk: What does it mean for your baby, and how can you make sure your milk has an adequate amount?”
- “How colostrum protects your premature baby from complications of prematurity.”
- “Stem cells have been found in human milk: What does this mean for your baby’s health?”
- “Contraceptive methodologies that are suitable for mothers who are providing milk for NICU infants.”
If families do not have transportation to attend the weekly Mothers’ Milk Club luncheons, the program offers a group-ride complimentary taxi service, which is supported by the Rush Women’s Board. The service picks up families in their homes, takes them to Rush, and returns them to their homes later in the afternoon.
The Rush Mothers’ Milk Club provides other important services for mothers who are breast pump-dependent and the families who support them:
- “Welcome to the Rush Mothers’ Milk Club” packets that include the “My Mom Pumps for Me!” milk volume record and bilingual tear sheets on a variety of NICU-specific issues, such as medications in human milk and mothers’ diet while providing milk for an NICU infant.
- Providing families with original scientific articles about human milk topics that are relevant to their infants’ conditions, such as the differences in colostrum that is produced by mothers of very immature infants, and why these differences are important to infant outcome.
- Sliding-scale in-hospital breast pump rental program, to insure that all mothers have access to state-of-the art milk expression equipment.
- Routine skin-to-skin (Kangaroo) care, pumping at the bedside, “tasting” milk at the emptied breast, and other nonpharmacologic interventions to protect maternal milk volume.
- Letters to insurance companies for breast pump and BabyWeigh® Scale rental fee reimbursement.
- Letters to employers so that breast pump-dependent mothers of NICU infants can express milk in the work place.
- State-of-the-art industrial freezers to store all human milk at Rush during an infant’s NICU stay, with one additional freezer dedicated to storing milk after an infant’s NICU discharge (courtesy of Anne and Ken Griffin).
- Implementation of all evidence-based lactation technology to ensure that NICU infants receive as much human milk as possible for the longest time. This includes: breast pump technology, the creamatocrit technique, nipple shield use, and measuring milk intake (test-weighing) during and after the NICU stay.
- Post NICU-discharge home visits by breastfeeding peer counselors to help families make the final transition to full at-breastfeeding.
- The invitation to return to Mothers’ Milk Club luncheons for as long as a family desires after an infant’s NICU discharge.