Intermountain Health Launches Telehealth Lactation Consultation Services in Utah and Idaho for New Moms with Breastfeeding Questions and Concerns
(PRUnderground) December 6th, 2023
Thanks to a new program launched by Intermountain Health, new moms in Utah and Idaho with questions or concerns about breastfeeding are now able to see an international board-certified lactation consultant over telehealth.
The program offers video visits through Intermountain’s well-known telehealth platform, Connect Care, and is offered as an option in addition to in-person lactation consultations available in Intermountain clinics after new moms go home from the hospital.
“It’s often day three or day four after childbirth when breastfeeding is the hardest,” said Maurine Cobabe, MD associate medical director for telehealth services at Intermountain Health, who leads the new program. “And that’s typically after moms have gone home from the hospital, when their milk transitions from colostrum to really coming to full volume, and they’re on their own to continue breastfeeding without the help of nurses or lactation consultants in the hospital.”
The idea for the Intermountain telehealth lactation program came out of the pandemic and gave lactation consultants the idea to address breastfeeding needs with outpatient video visits.
“It’s common to have challenges with breastfeeding. There can be a learning curve for first time moms, and even for moms who’ve breastfed before. Every baby’s anatomy is unique and their coordination and learning to latch on can vary,” said Dr. Cobabe.
With many moms doing short, 24-hour hospital stays, there is so much information for nurses and lactation consultants at the hospital to go over with moms about their own healing and how to care for a baby, that it can be difficult for a mom to retain all of that information.
It’s helpful for moms to learn all they can about breastfeeding before they deliver at the hospital. Breastfeeding is covered in Intermountain’s childbirth preparation class and there is also a separate breastfeeding class offered during pregnancy.
“I have three kids, ages three and under, so it’s a lot easier for me to stay home and have a virtual appointment rather than going in person and having to find a babysitter,” said Madeline Peterson, a patient who recently had a telehealth lactation consultation.
“I had a clogged milk duct and was able to get that resolved through a telehealth visit. I had this same problem with my second child also, but I never got help from a lactation consultant and it was painful and continued for a couple of months. I wish I’d reached out for help back then too,” she added.
“It’s important to get the most current and up to date information about breastfeeding. Friends and family may mean well, but they may not have the most up to date information. Some breastfeeding recommendations can change, even since a recent, previous birth,” said Dr. Cobabe.
An example of this is there are new science-based standards for treating plugged milk ducts and early mastitis, which is an inflammation or infection of the breast. The condition should be treated with cold compresses, rather than warm compresses, as indicated in the past.
“The research shows that breastfeeding moms have lower incidences of breast and ovarian cancer, Type 2 diabetes and postpartum depression,” said Sean Esplin, MD, an OB/GYN and maternal fetal medicine specialist and senior medical director of women’s health at Intermountain Health. “And long-term breastfeeding, up to two years, is associated with protections against diabetes, high blood pressure, and cancers of the breast and ovaries.”
“That’s why, at Intermountain Health we’re working to support pregnant and new moms who want to breastfeed at every point of care – from prenatal appointments to hospital stays to postpartum visits. Telehealth lactation consultations are an important way to bridge the care from the hospital to the home, at a critical time for new moms and their babies,” added Dr. Esplin.
“Research has found that breast milk is the best food for infants and breastfeeding is associated with decreased risk for infant morbidity and mortality,” said Peter Lindgren, MD, associate medical director for well newborn care at Intermountain Health.
“Under a new initiative at Intermountain Health and with the American Academy of Pediatrics recent support of the benefits of breastfeeding beyond one year, our pediatricians are helping to support breastfeeding moms and their babies not only at the first well check visit for their newborn, but at subsequent checkups during the baby’s first year and as long as a mom continues to breastfeed,” added Dr. Lindgren.
Telehealth lactation consultation visits can help with these breastfeeding challenges:
- Milk supply
- Breast and nipple soreness
- Feeding positioning of baby
- Pumping breastmilk
- Plugged milk ducts
- Supplementation and bottle feeding
- Transition back to work
- Induced lactation, chestfeeding
In-person lactation consultation visits work better for:
- Challenges with baby latching on properly
- Baby being tongue-tied, etc.
- Choosing the size of a breast pump flange
- Concerns about baby being underweight (pre and post weight from pediatrician’s office required).
In Utah, 92 percent of moms initiate breastfeeding according to state data from 2020. But at six months, only 64 percent of Utah moms are breastfeeding. Intermountain Health is focused on wellness and there are continued health benefits for moms and babies who breastfeed up to two years, which is the current recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Many moms leave the hospital breastfeeding, but many moms stop before they want to, and Intermountain’s Connect Care telehealth lactation consultation appointments are available to support moms in their breastfeeding goals.
Intermountain plans to launch similar telehealth lactation services in Colorado and Montana in January 2024. New moms will want to check with their insurance and ask if telehealth visits are covered. The Connect Care telehealth lactation visits are covered by SelectHealth insurance.
For more information about virtual or in-person lactation consultations, visit the Connect Care lactation support webpage at intermountain health.org. Intermountain also has a virtual breastfeeding class available for expectant parents. It’s a one session, two-hour class. Cost is $15.
About Intermountain Health
Headquartered in Utah with locations in seven states and additional operations across the western U.S., Intermountain Health is a nonprofit system of 33 hospitals, 385 clinics, medical groups with some 3,900 employed physicians and advanced care providers, a health plans division called Select Health with more than one million members, and other health services. Helping people live the healthiest lives possible, Intermountain is committed to improving community health and is widely recognized as a leader in transforming healthcare by using evidence-based best practices to consistently deliver high-quality outcomes at sustainable costs. For more information or updates, see https://intermountainhealthcare.org/news.
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Original Press Release.