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Aug 26 2014

New Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Training Program

The Rush Mothers’ Milk Club has successfully trained 40 breastfeeding peer counselors in our breastfeeding peer counselor (BPC) training course. Many of the new BPCs are former parents of infants hospitalized in the RUSH NICU.  The ladies (and one gentleman), who came from a variety of backgrounds, all shared a common goal: the desire to become prepared in order to support and assist new mothers who are breastfeeding and/or pumping milk for their babies in the hospital. 

 BPC Training Class

The students spent five days together during this 30-hour evidence-based course.  Unlike community based BPC training programs, the Rush Mothers' Milk Club training program prepares graduates for a role as a BPC within a hospital setting. Course content includes the latest evidence about basic topics such as lactation physiology and management,  as well as the more technical topics of hind milk collection, performing crematocrit and test weight procedures, proper sizing for breast shields.  We also feature content to prepare for first time work in a hospital setting with HIPPA, professionalism, and strategies for effective communication with the health care team.

Each class day includes scenarios for the participants to acquire information and then practice using the new information with accompanying "talking points" and techniques in real life situations they are likely to encounter as BPCs in hospital settings such as the NICU, PICU, pediatrics, L&D, ante-partum and post-partum hospital units. When held at Rush, our course includes special guest speakers  and current Rush Mothers' Milk Club BPCs.  We had one course which was “on the road”. Each guest presenter shares a specific area of research and practice, followed by a special discussion of the BPC role with respect to each topic.  Students who successfully complete all required course work and homework, a final oral presentation and pass a final exam  receive the Breastfeeding Peer Counselor course completion certificate.  The graduation is attended by Rush staff, and the families of the new BPCs.  Each new BPC uses this certificate in a different way.  Most hope to use it as a springboard for a role using her/his skills and knowledge to provide lactation care in a hospital setting.   

In May, Rush’s Katie McGee, RN, BSN, IBCLC,  and Esmeralda Covarrubias, held a condensed version of our training over a long weekend in East Lansing, MI. The weekend training was coordinated and hosted by Dr. Padmani Karna, M. D., Professor of Pediatrics, Sparrow Hospital, Lansing, Michigan.   Dr. Karna is part of a statewide NICU collaborative effort to increase the dose and exposure of mothers’ own milk to Michigan’s premature infants. The collaboration plans to utilize the newly trained BPCs as both volunteered and paid employees in MI NICUs to provide the necessary support and information to mothers to achieve this goal.  Below are some personal stories sent to Dr. Karna from the participants.  

Special thanks to Anne and Ken Griffin Foundation for their generous support of this program. 

Rush Mothers’ Milk Club is actively enrolling participants in upcoming BPC training courses.   For questions or additional information, please contact Katie McGee, 312-947-8835,


Marcy Illingworth:

Here is our story that brought us to St Joseph Mercy Hospital NICU in Ann Arbor...

Our story begins like most women's as a normal pregnancy. I started noticing swelling in my left ankle at about 21-22 weeks...I mentioned it to my doctor and she just said some women will have swelling, it wasn't horrible just a little bigger then my right ankle...I got permission to go to Scotland as long as I was able to wear compression stockings and got up and walked every couple hours since it was an 8 hour flight....we enjoyed our trip visiting London and a large amount of Scotland and my husband's family that still lives there...when we came back I forgot to wear my compression stockings back on the plane but I did get up and walk...I would mention to my doctor at every visit that now both of my ankles were swollen and again had the same reply some women will have swelling...between 26-28 weeks I found out that I had gestational diabetes, I was able to control it with diet and exercise, at 31 weeks I started having contractions and I went to the hospital and got a dose of terbutamine (sp)  to  stop the contractions, it worked and they sent me home the next am... after that I was seen every 2 weeks or so and every time I'd have my BP checked it would be elevated and by the time I left it would be normal, they chalked it up to white coat syndrome because I wanted to be off work so bad because I was miserable...finally on December 4th my doctor took me off of work, I now had about a month to prepare for baby and relax with my feet elevated...that weekend I started having really bad abdominal pain and more contractions, I called the doctor and he said to drink plenty of water and keep my feet up...I did as I was told, I also took some Tylenol to relieve the pain in my abdomen, my husband told me to go lay down and rest for a bit so I did, we were without kids at this point... so on Sunday I woke up and I usually felt the baby move more in the am and I had been up a while and really didn't feel her move, my husband and I went and got lunch, I knew white bean chili made her move...and it worked...later that day I started getting that severe pain back in my husband wanted me to take some more Tylenol and go lay down but I didn't want to mask anything so I didn't and early that evening I ended up calling the doctor for the 2nd time that day and he's said he wanted me to be I called home my husband from work and we went to Ann took 5 pokes to get an IV started because I was so dehydrated because I really hadn't had anything to eat or drink since lunch and it was now @ 6 or so...I felt nauseous and my stomach just hurt...they finally got an IV and said they were going to pump me full of fluids and send me home, I started crying because the pain was awful and I didn't want to experience that again...they drew blood work and tested everything, I was on my way back from the bathroom and the RN caught me in the hall and said they had a room for us...I was confused...she said that I was staying until I had the baby...4 weeks?? No 24 hours she said...I definitely knew that there was something wrong....and there was I had pre-eclampcia and HELPP Syndrome and I was having the baby platelets dropped for 100000 to 52000 in 6 hrs so they had to do a c section, so not in my birth plan was any of they did my c section and Olivia Joan Illingworth was born at 7lbs 2oz and 19 inches long...(big baby for 36 weeks)... I saw her for 2 seconds and they took her to the NICU...and I went to recovery...on the way to recovery we swung by the NICU to see Olivia, she was already vented, it was horrible what was supposed to be one of the happiest days of our lives was turning into a nightmare! I was transferred to my room the next morning to what was I guess the mother baby floor....I immediately started pumping I think after recovery, that 1st day is very much a blur...I still hadn't really seen Olivia just that few minutes on my way to I pumped and got my first few drops of colostrum and was so excited and took it to my RN and she threw it away because it was literally just drops...Im more upset now because even those few drops were I pumped, got colostrum and then my milk came in I think around day 4 or so...I was discharged, Olivia stayed...I spent every waking moment in that NICU when I was still in the hospital, after discharge, I spent every waking moment there as well...I finally got to hold her I think it was day 2 maybe day 3...she was vented 24 hours and got a dose of surfactant....then extubated and onto a nasal cannula...she had to have suppositories for the first several days as her bowels had slowed down from the magnesium sulfate that they gave me for my BP....after a couple of days of that she finally started pooping!!! YAY!!! We were moved at some point to the less critical side of the NICU...I tried nursing but she wouldn't latch and I had a RN literally shove her into my breast...I will never forget that...then she puked up all her feeds...She had a NG for little bit to feed her as well, she pulled that out a couple times...Then she decided to drop her heart rate and O2 saturation which bought her another 5-7 days in the NICU...on the 6th day she did it this time we were already to be at home, she was doing great, I had breastfed her a couple times with her getting a little each time.. I used a shield to help her latch...we walked into the NICU on the 5th day and they said we could take her home...the threat of them having to pay for her college education paid off... :) I was very hesitant to take her home since she dropped her heart rate and saturation on the 6th day but they said she was good to we bundled her up and loaded her up and we went home 22 days later...on DECEMBER 30th we became a real family... when we got home we tossed the shield to the side and I nursed her without it for the rest of the time...She is now a feisty almost 5 1/2 year old going into Kindergarten in the fall....

We got pregnant again around Olivia's 1st birthday...again had a great pregnancy but developed gestational diabetes again. I was insulin dependent this time, couldn't look at a carb without my sugar spiking ...we scheduled a c section for the 26th of August and on the 21st my water broke...we had another c section, Nathan Edward Illingworth was born at 7lbs 9 oz and 18 inches long, we actually got to take him to recovery with us!! All was good, we thought "YAY" no NICU stay, then it happened he was breathing fast and they called the Pediatrician on call and they whisked him away for our 2nd stay in the NICU ....this isn't happening again!!! Yes it is!!! So again I went to my room without a baby in my arms...I started pumping right away again and this time I took my colostrum down to the NICU...Nathan was on a nasal cannula and then on CPAP....they said if his breathing didn't slow down they would have to intubate him...being down this road before and wanting to go home because now I have a child at home I told them to tube him...they did and when they did his breathing slowed down to normal...he received 2 doses of surfactant...he was also vented for 24 hours...I was there every waking moment as husband would drop me off in the am and take Olivia home and I'd stay with Nate...I felt bad that my husband wasn't able to spend time with him because he was taking care of Olivia but he needed me he needed his mamas milk...They ended up moving eventually to the step down side...were almost home...the only reason he was still in the NICU was because he wasn't feeding like they wanted him soon as they changed him over to infant driven protocol where he can eat when he wanted and as much as he wanted he went home the next day...he is now 3 1/2 year old daddy's boy and is all boy!!!

We got pregnant again in November of 2011, again I had gestational diabetes this time at 8 weeks... I was on insulin by 10...I begged my doctors for the steroid shot to help mature her lungs...they were reluctant to give it at first because it was going to spike my sugar for at least 72 hours.. I told them that I was fine with that and that I would prefer for my last pregnancy to be a normal c section delivery and allow me to go home with a baby instead of leaving her in the NICU again....On June 28 2012 Paige Elizabeth was born at 7lbs 9oz and 19 inches long!! SHE WAS PERFECT!!! She bypassed the NICU and came home with us after a 3 day stay in the hospital...I nursed right from the beginning...her sugar dropped a bit and they wanted her to get formula and once she had that she was fine...She will turn 2 next month and she is AMAZING!!!


Sandra Folino:

I would like to first start by thanking yourself and the Michigan Collaborative for bringing the RUSH Mother’s Milk Club to Lansing to provide the BPC training this weekend.  It was an incredible honor to be a part of such a momentous experience that is really such a necessity for families dealing with all the stressors of a NICU experience.  As a group of women who were brought together on a common experience, there was such a cohesive bond of support and encouragement that was able to be built alongside being trained to effectively counsel future NICU Moms/families.  This bond and support will easily transfer over into the hospital setting as we all move into our roles as counselors!  The ability to network with other NICU Mom’s and hearing all the different stories of NICU experiences, breastfeeding/pumping and successes/challenges helped me to realize how much more important and crucial that peer to peer connection can be in supporting other families in the NICU/PICU. Some of the actual procedural/scenario based training aided in bringing more of an idealized structural component to the information that I will use during my peer counseling experiences, I really can’t wait to get started in being an added support system to Mother’s who are dealing with in my experience, one of the most terrifying, emotional, and isolating times (I hope) a parent will ever have ever had to go through relating to their children.  I feel that it's just so totally indescribable when you can take something that you feel so passionately about and is so near and dear to your heart and put it to work to help the lives of others!

It was an absolute pleasure to meet everyone and spend the time together that we did during the weekend. The training by Katie & Esmerelda was absolutely amazing and I know I said it a million times already, but I'll be happy to say it one million more times as well, I am so honored to have be part of such an amazing initiative being supported by such a strong and dedicated group of women working together to further an amazing cause!!  We have created our own Facebook group where the members of our training will be able to share stories, questions and exchange ideas in the supportive environment that was created during our training. I can't wait to start to hear stories of how we are implementing programs and furthering breastfeeding support in the respective hospitals/NICUS! 

As far as my (and my daughter’s) NICU, I have included the following:

Lilliana was born at 28 weeks on 1-30-13, weighing 1 lb. 12 oz. (800g) due to a very quick onset of HELLP Syndrome and also suffered IUGR.  Until just a few days prior to Lilliana’s birth, I was having a healthy and unremarkable pregnancy.  One Sunday, I started having back/abdominal pains and after repeated contact/visits to my OB/Gyn I was admitted to Crittenton Hospital for observation on Tuesday evening.  The medical team was having a difficult time diagnosing the pain and symptoms I was experience for quite some time.  Once they realized what was happening, I had to be transferred to St. Joe’s Mercy Oakland (SJMH) as the Crittenton NICU was not able to care for Lilliana if delivered.  I was transferred and shortly after arriving, delivered via emergency C-section that Wednesday morning at 6:44a.m. at St. Joe's Pontiac. The NICU there found a bowel perforation on day two of life and notified me that Lilliana had to be transferred to Children’s Hospital of Michigan (CHM) for a surgical procedure to repair her intestines (Penrose drains).  The plan was to send Lilliana to CHM for the surgical procedure and return her to SJMH after approximately the two week procedure.  We spent a total of 87 days in the CHM NICU as we continued to battle one obstacle after another and never did actually return to the birth hospital but were discharged directly from CHM.  Lilliana encountered respiratory distress, anemia (6+ blood transfusions), chronic/obstructive apnea, sepsis, gastroesophogeal reflux disease (GERD), retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), necrotizing entercolitis (NEC) and Bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD). The doctors were very concerned about Lilliana, making it through her first month of life and were 99% sure that she would have to have surgery as a result of the NEC. Once we starred feeds at one month old, she slowly but surely went up the food volume scale and although had some problems mastering the suck/swallow/breathe reflexes and would Brady/desatdid NOT have to have any of her intestines removed. The doctors firmly believe that my providing breastmilk helped to heal the intestines and we would not have had such a positive outcome if formula fed. I pumped for 6 months and was able to provide additional (stored) milk for pproximately 2 more months. So about 8 months total. We did have one readmisiion shortly after initial discharge which was attributed to her BPD/viral bug. We were discharged with the BPD, anemia, chronic/obstructive apnea, ROP, GERD being maintained through outpatient clinics in May '13 on home O2 caffeine 24/7, then just at night beginning in November...finally off Oxygen and monitors for good this January 30th!!!  Lilliana is still being (16 months actual, 13 months adjusted) by her Pulmonologist, Gastroenterologist and physical therapist for left side muscle hypertonia as well as the Developmental Assessment Clinic (CHM) and the Early On Program though the Macomb Intermediate School District. 

Lilliana has been a blessing in my life and is my amazing little miracle!  I can’t wait to support other families through this type of life changing experience!

Thank you again for the work that you do!


Sara Doyon: 

I was 29 weeks when I went into preterm labor, I went to the hospital received steroid shot and stayed for 3 days.  I went home on very strict bed rest, bed and Dr. appointments only. At 34 weeks my water broke and I went to the hospital and less than 3 hours later I delivered twin boys via c section. Baby A (John) 5lb 1oz and Baby B (Adam)5lb 2oz they were taken to the NICU to be closely watched. A week later we were at home when John nursed for the first time. It took 14 weeks of long nights, struggles,  and many tears before Adam took to nursing.


Kristi Cymes:

My name is Kristi Cymes, I am in my 26th year at St. Joes (St Joseph's) Mercy Hospital in Ann Arbor.  I have worked as a women/children division float RN for nearly 15 years then joined just the NICU about 2 and a half years ago.  I have taken and passed all my courses for IBCLC and plan to take the exam next July (2015).  I have 3 children. All full term. 2 out of the 3 were NICU " drive-through's".  One for antibiotics, the other because she wouldn't cry after a very tight nuchal cord.  I did not BF my first child because I did not have the support and I also received free formula because I worked at the hospital.  I felt horribly guilty and thought if I ever got the chance to do it again that I would BF no matter what support I got (or lack of it).  After fertility injections, we were blessed with number 2.  BF was not going well, sore nipples, he always seemed hungry, started supplementing, ect. I dug through many BF books and lactation websites to learn as much as I could about why this wasn't going as well as it should be for me.  I continued to pump for over 3 months straight while attempting to BF each time. We finally figured it out and he BF until 10 1/2 months of age.  When my surprise third baby came along she was exclusively BF and wouldn't even take a bottle of EBM!  So I have experienced one end to the other with feedings!  I hope to use my new BPC title as a crutch to try and get more BF help in our  NICU at St Joes!


Christina Roll:

Our story begins in 2008, when after 3 ½ years of infertility, we were blessed with our first daughter, Zenedra.  My pregnancy with Zen (her very appropriate nickname) was quite “normal” given the fact that I suffered 3 miscarriages before that.  I wasn’t considered high risk, and didn’t have special or very frequent doctor visits.  And then, when I was only 33 weeks pregnant, my water broke.  We got to the hospital and the decision was made to stop my labor so I could receive medication to help with her lung development.  18 hours later my body went back into labor, and our first miracle was born at 34 weeks, weighing 5 lbs 0.1 oz and measuring 17 in. long.  Zenedra spent the first 10 days of her life in the NICU.  She was very jaundiced, and spent those first 3-5 days in an isolette. She also had apnea episodes in those first few days.  She never needed oxygen or ventilation support. After 10 days, the doctors said she could go home, and our life as a family finally felt like it was beginning.  We had her first pediatrician appointment and while she was very small, she was healthy.  So healthy, in fact, that after 6 months she had “caught up” to her adjusted age on the growth charts and was no longer looked at or considered a preemie.  At her 1st year well check appointment, there were a few things she hadn’t done yet developmentally, like crawl on all 4s.  But the doctor wasn’t worried and she was very healthy.  Zen always did things a little later…we’ve said she just needed to be sure she could do them, because when she finally did, there was no looking back.  By age 2 she was meeting and even exceeding all those developmental milestones they look for, and nothing was ever mentioned about her premature birth.

At 3 ½ years old, our preschool teachers approached us and said they were seeing some behavioral signs that Zen may need some help with her development, especially since she was a preemie.  The signs were not so much on the physical side but on the sensorial side.  Being first-time parents we didn’t know what we didn’t know, and we listened with an open mind.  We had seen the same signs the teachers did, but didn’t realize their significance….just thought it was her being “Zen”.  Especially since her pediatrician wasn’t concerned.  But we took their recommendation and had her evaluated by a pediatric occupational therapist.  It was quite shocking and somewhat life changing when the report came back showing Zen was at an 18-20 month old developmental level on a number of things when she was actually 44 months old.  We started working with the therapist and noticed changes right away.  We continued her therapy that entire summer, and by Sept. 2012 she was released from therapy.  She went through another round of therapy after our 2nd daughter was born, and was again released after 5 months in Feb. 2014.

Our second miracle, Zoë, came as quite a surprise.  But instead of joy and excitement, it was anxiety and fear.  There had been 3 more miscarriages after Zenedra was born, and when the last one took place, doctors had given the warning that additional pregnancies could have very serious consequences and it was strongly recommended we not try for another baby again.  But here we were….October 2012, living in a new state, with only a few friends for support, both in new jobs, and now with a very high-risk pregnancy.  We walked into that first appointment expecting the worst (since that unfortunately was our “normal”), and were shocked when there was a tiny, little, normal heartbeat on the screen.  After about 6 weeks of walking on egg shells we had another scare – I started bleeding.  We walked in to the doctor once again expecting the worst, and once again had another shock when the little heartbeat and normally developing baby were still on the screen.  We were told a piece of the placenta had torn away, which is what caused the short-term bleeding, but everything was still looking normal.  The relief we felt simply cannot be described.

Fast forward 2 months, and we’re at our big 20 week ultrasound.  We learned that another girl would be joining our family, and everything looked perfect.  We walked out breathing a little easier that day, thinking that this pregnancy may really be “real”.  We were all feeling a little more confident and a little less-scared every day…..until my 23-week doctor visit.  The doctor wasn’t going to do a sonogram that day, but something told me we should.  And as soon as I saw the picture I knew something was wrong.  I was already dilated 2 cm., and my water membranes had dropped, meaning I could have my water break at any time.  I had an amniocentesis done in the office and was sent to the hospital for admission that night, with the plan for a procedure the next morning that would close up my cervix and allow me to remain pregnant but on total bed rest for the remaining 18 weeks of my pregnancy.  All that changed when I received the scariest news of my life at the hospital…there was an infection, and my water broke overnight.

The next morning we met with the doctor.  After some very serious discussions, a plan was put in place that was unorthodox but agreed upon by everyone.  Instead of an emergency delivery, which is normal protocol when an infection exists in the fluid around the baby, I was started on a high level, broad range antibiotic and monitored 24/7 at the hospital.  My body went into labor later that day, and the only thing that stopped it was the medication I was given to help with the baby’s brain and lung development.  We made it through the first night, and then the second, and the next thing we knew we made it to 24 weeks.  Each day we celebrated that I was still pregnant. 

At 25 weeks and 2 days of being pregnant, contractions started, first just small and inconsistent, and then stronger and more often.  After a few hours I knew something was wrong, and the nurses called the doctors to confirm.  I was in full labor, and 8 cm. dilated.  I was wheeled in for emergency delivery, and at 8:31pm on Feb. 11, 2013, our second miracle, Zoë entered this world…much too early.  That first week was like a blur.  It was 2 days before we could even touch her tiny body.  Her skin was so thin, and her body so sensitive to touch, that it would cause her pain.  When she was 6 days old, she developed pneumonia, and was struggling to survive.  We sat there helpless, knowing there was absolutely nothing we could do.  Over the next few days we saw signs of improvement, and we knew then our girl was a fighter.  The next 3 months were the longest of our lives.  There were days of joy when we celebrated the little things, like having both of her eyes be open, or increasing the amount of milk she took from 1ml to 2ml, or her weight increasing just a few ounces.  And there were days of sorrow and tears, times when I would just sit at her isolette and silently cry and pray to God that he give her the strength to keep fighting, for her little body to not simply give up and stop.  The list of things that she had to endure, and medical conditions she was able to overcome, is mind-boggling when you consider her size.  Anemia, 4 blood transfusions, multiple infections, a small brain bleed, chronic lung disease, bradycardia episodes, and eye development are just a few of the things to mention.  But overcome them she did, in her own feisty little way.  We left the hospital on May 8, 2013, and Zoë weighed 4lbs 2oz.   

Summer 2013 was, what I have been calling, one big “adjustment” period.  Over the weeks and months we started to get more comfortable as a family, and slowly found our groove.  Zoë progressed beautifully through the fall and winter in all aspects of her health, and the doctors and therapists we were following up with had nothing but praise for how well she was doing.  On her 1st birthday, Zoë weighed 15lbs 6oz and was 28in. long, and at her 15-month well check at the beginning of May, she weighted 17lbs 1oz and was 29 ½ in. long.  She is firmly on a growth curve for both her actual AND adjusted age.  She can sit up on her own, crawl on hands and knees, and loves to pull herself up on everything.  She’s eating like a champ, growing like a weed, and continuing to show just how strong she is.  Our baby girl is a fighter.  She’s an example of how fragile life can be, and how amazing the human body and spirit are to be able to endure so much and come out on top.  We are so proud of Zoë, and of Zenedra, for what they’ve come through and how they continue to shine and thrive.  We can’t wait to see what their lives hold, for we know they will be game-changers in whatever they decide to do.  And we hope that their story will inspire and encourage others to live each day to the fullest.  Your life is a blessing and a miracle.  Never take it for granted.


Heather Klintworth:

I  had a very easy and uncomplicated twin pregnancy up until my son Ronan's amniotic sac ruptured. At that point in time our lives were thrown into turmoil. I was 23 weeks and 5 days pregnant when the rupture was confirmed although there is a strong suspicion that the rupture occurred earlier and wasn't caught. At 23 weeks, the  consultation with the RNICU is devastating. I was told that the odds of my boys surviving without major morbidities was around 5%. I was also told about various situations in which I might have to choose between the life of one of my sons for the other. At the time, I was told that most women deliver within three days of their water breaking and was admitted to the hospital on bed rest with the hopes of getting the full course of steroids on board. I stayed pregnant for four weeks! I spent four weeks on hospital bed rest in OBSC waiting for the other shoe to drop. Both babies started showing some signs of distress on the monitors at 27 weeks and 5 days. I had an amniocentesis done to look for infection, but before the results even came in my boys were delivered by c-section. When I heard each of them cry, I thought that they would be okay. Ronan's condition deteriorated very rapidly in the RNICU with multiple pneumos and out of control blood pressure. He passed away in my arms 18 hours after my sons were born. In spite of losing Ronan, I still wanted to provide my milk for my son Corbin. Between the grief, having a c-section delivery, and having been on bed rest for 4 weeks, my milk didn't come in until the 5th day. I pumped for the entirety of my son's 8 week NICU stay and in spite of the delay at  the beginning, I was able to establish and maintain a very good supply during this time. Corbin went to breast for non-nutritive sucking the first time at 32 weeks and it was a truly magical moment for us. It took us weeks of frustration to get full feedings at breast. I really think that I would have given up if our primary nurse and the NICU lactation consultant didn't push me to keep trying. In our last week there, things just "clicked" for Corbin and we started getting full feeds at breast and by bottle. I still thought that we would go home bottle feeding part of the time, but I roomed in at the hospital a couple days before discharge and we successfully nursed for all 8 of his feedings. That's when I knew that we would go home exclusively breastfeeding. Corbin has never had a bottle of formula and we are still nursing today just 9 days shy of his first birthday. Breastfeeding Corbin was absolutely the best choice I could have made for both of us. He had an amazingly uncomplicated NICU stay. We never had to stop feeds due to digestive issues and he went home taking only a multivitamin. We made it through the first year without ever having to go to our pediatrician for a sick visit! He is meeting his adjusted age milestones and working on catching up quickly! Pumping is what got me through the darkest days, it gave me a purpose when I was directionless. Actually nursing Corbin at breast has helped me to heal emotionally and overcome a lot of guilt that I felt. I really feel called to work with other NICU moms, to help them through their own darkest days, to remind them that they still have a purpose and a job to do, and to hopefully show them the healing (both physical and emotional) powers of breast milk.


Lisa Lee:

Twenty six and half years ago my story began at 32 weeks. I was sick with what I thought was the flu. After missing work three days I was required to bring in a doctor’s report so I went into the doctor’s office at 10 a.m. Tuesday morning. While I was there they wanted to check my blood pressure. A nurse took a reading and thought the cuff was broken so she tried again with another cuff. She had two other nurses come in to take my blood pressure. After a short time of waiting, I was told that my doctor wanted me to be admitted to the hospital because there was a concern. They stressed that I was not to go home (the hospital was across the street from the office,) I was not to delay and they would call my husband. I wanted to know what the problem was but they didn’t want to say ~ they didn’t want it to worry me ~ just go to the hospital. Once admitted, my husband came about noon and while in the hallway he overheard my doctor consulting with another doctor . They were discussing my emergency transport to Butterworth. My doctor informed us that I was in pre~term labor and because of my health would be delivering this baby within 24 hours.

I was taken by ambulance to Butterworth (now DeVos)  and induced. I had the HELP syndrome~ my kidneys and liver were shutting down and along with the elevated blood pressure my life was in danger. By 9 p.m. that evening we delivered James, a 4 lb 9 oz baby boy. He was healthy and strong ~ and whisked away after what seemed like only seconds of being able to see him. He was given oxygen and IV’s. I was placed in isolation (dark room, no sounds or stimulation) for 36 hours. My nervous system was compromised and they didn’t want me to begin having seizures. I didn’t see James until 4 days later when they brought his isolette to me. I could only see him but not hold him. I didn’t hold him until after seven days. 

The first few days are a blur ~ I was asked if I wanted to breast feed and of course I did. But the nurse was concerned that it would be difficult for me because of the delay and not to get my hopes up. I began to pump on the fourth or fifth day and was able to pump milk for the next 16 days. Beginning on day seven each time I would put James to the breast but he would just lay there and couldn’t figure out what to do. On day fifteen James finally latched on. He was released on day sixteen and I nursed him until he was thirteen months old. I did not return to work so I did not pump after he learned to breast feed.

We have five more children, four were late pre-terms (three at 36 weeks, one at 35 weeks, and one full-term) All except my full-term had jaundice and needed to go back to the hospital for treatment. I was able to nurse all of my children for 13 months. I never bought baby food for any of them and each of them went from breastfeeding to table food (I used a portable food grinder.) Today our children are 26, 24, 22, 20, 17, 14. We also have a wonderful son-in-law.


Najda Robinson-Mayer: 

My baby was born at 29 weeks weighing 2 pounds and 8 oz.  When I was 26 weeks into my pregnancy I started having high blood pressure and swelling.  My doctor started monitoring this and I returned to see my doctor a week later and my blood pressure continued to be high.  At 28 weeks into my pregnancy I had a stress test for the baby, which was normal.  At the time I worked in a nursing home and I had a nurse take my blood pressure at the end of the day, to reassure myself.  When she took it my blood pressure was 190/100 and I called my doctor who told me to go to the hospital.  At the hospital they continued to monitor me and my blood pressure was not going down.  I was admitted into the hospital initially for 24-hour observation and during that time was diagnosed with severe preeclampsia.  The doctors then told me that I if my preeclampsia was mild or moderate they could send me home on bed rest, but since it was severe I needed to stay at the hospital until I delivered by baby.  The doctors continued to monitor my baby and I and started me on blood pressure medication. The doctors said they would monitor my pregnancy but when there was a change in my baby’s health or in my health I would need to deliver.  The second day into my hospital stay I started having contractions and the doctor’s were able to stop the contractions with IV fluids.  On the 6th day of my hospital stay I woke up in the middle of the night and was bleeding.  I delivered my son by C-section a few hours later.  For the first 24 hours after my delivery I was on an IV with magnesium and fluids and was not allowed to eat.  When my son was born the discharged paperwork said that he was blue and floppy.  His doctors needed to resuscitate him and he was on vent, he had IV and a feeding tube.  After the first 24 hours he was taken off the vent and had oxygen through a nasal cannula.  He spent 6 weeks in the NICU and 2 weeks on the pediatric floor.  His only complication is a high frequency hearing loss in both ears.


Nancy Kuemin: 

I have 2 children. My first, Sabine, is 10 years old and was born early, but still considered full term. Three years later, when I was pregnant with Nathan, I learned that I have a bicornuate uterus. My pregnancy was labelled high risk, but my OB was encouraged that my first pregnancy had resulted in a full term, healthy birth. At 33 weeks, my water broke - in court, as the judge banged the gavel and adjourned our session for the morning (I am an attorney). Nathan was born several hours later by emergency c-section, as he was breech, and in distress. He spent 12 days in the NICU, learning to eat; his suck/swallow/breathe reflex hadn't yet developed. I was determined to breastfeed him as I had my daughter. It was especially important to me, since I felt it was the only way I could bond with him while he was otherwise cared for by others. He nursed at my breast the day he was born, but for all later feeds for the next couple of months, he would tire while nursing. I then would supplement with a bottle of my pumped milk. Then I pumped. It was about an hour and a half process, done every three hours. I was pretty tired. But, my boy was growing! He ended up being the fattest baby I've ever seen - and I couldn't have been more proud. Nathan breastfeed for 13 months. Right now, he is a healthy first grader, interested in Legos and Pokemon and soccer.

Here are some pics. There is one of Nathan in the NICU, one of him at about 3 months old (with sister and a tired mama), and a couple recent ones.

Thank you for the opportunity to share my story. The first day of training was very  informative and I'm looking forward to the next two days. 


Linda Kriger:

My name is Linda Kisner. I am a mom to seven children. I have two daughters who have earned their wings, one at 19 weeks gestation due to Trisomy 18 and the other at about 15 weeks gestation for unknown reasons. I have two stepsons who are 18 and 22, a son who is 14, and two daughters who are 4 and 8.

In March 2006, my husband and I out that we were expecting a little girl. At 23 weeks, I was spotting and the doctor had me come in. I was dilated to a 3 and the membranes were bulging. This resulted in a trip to Grand Rapids via ambulance with lights and sirens. When I got to the hospital, I was having contractions and was put on Mag. Sulfate (horrid stuff!), which stopped my labor. I was on bed rest in the OBSC Unit for 9 days and I went into labor again. Unfortunately, the Mag. Sulfate didn’t work this time and on April 2, 2006 at 2:20pm, our daughter came into this world (without the NICU present) at 24 weeks and weighed in at 1 pound 7 ounces and was 11 inches long. Our daughter’s 128 day rollercoaster ride in the NICU at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital (HDVCH) resulted in IVH (Grade III), a severe GI bleed that resulted in 3 consecutive blood transfusions, laser surgery for ROP (Stage III), a stridor due to prolonged ventilation that resulted in a bronchoscopy and was thisclose to getting a trach, being put on Heliox (Yes, our girl had a helium tank right at her bedside!) and she “never did anything by the preemie book,” as we were often told. During the NICU stay, I tried breastfeeding a couple of times to no avail and bottle feeds weren’t any better, so I diligently pumped every 3 hours and had quite the stockpile of milk. Two months after our daughter came home, she had surgery for a g-tube placement and Nissen due to GERD and FTT. Even with everything going on, I was fortunate enough to pump for 10 months, when my supply dwindled out. Since I was a good producer, I was able to provide breast milk to my daughter until a week after her first Birthday.

Three years later, I became pregnant again and was followed even closer by my high risk doctor. At 24 weeks, I was dilating and that resulted in another trip to the hospital in Grand Rapids. This time, I was able to have my husband drive me there. After 4 weeks of bed rest in the OBSC Unit, I was allowed to go home on strict bed rest and was fortunate to make it until I was 33 weeks pregnant, our other daughter came into this world weighing 5 pounds 4 ounces and was 17 ½ inches long. While she required CPAP for about 10 hours, she didn’t need to go to HDVCH and spend 3 weeks at Holland Hospital. By the time our daughter was discharged, she was partially breastfeeding (with a nipple shield) and bottle feeding and I was pumping. About a month after her due date, she caught on and never looked back…she was totally breastfeeding! I was fortunate to breastfeed my daughter until she was 10 months, when she lost interest.

I am a Parent-to-Parent Volunteer at HDVCH and I round the unit visiting parents as well as go to our high risk unit to provide moms with information on breast milk and its importance for NICU babies. I also did my undergrad internship at the NICU as a Parent Advocate Intern.


Victoria Webb:

I went into pre-term labor at 24 weeks due to excruciating pain from a degenerating fibroid.  The labor was stopped using magnesium sulfate, but I had dilated to 1.5 and my membranes were bulging.  I went on strict bedrest on the Maternal Fetal wing of Hutzel Hospital, receiving betamethazone and, over the course of the next 2 1/2 weeks, THREE more active labors with multiple rounds of mag sulfate while dilating a little bit more each time.  Finally, at 26 weeks, 4 days, on Sunday, March 25th, 2012 my miracle girl could not wait any longer and was delivered via c-section.  Gianna Grace weighed 1 lb, 15 oz, was 13.5 inches long and came out screaming.  After a 63 day stay at Hutzel (53 in the NICU, 10 in the SCN), she came home to Mommy and Daddy.  Today, she is a healthy, happy blue-eyed princess who loves Daniel Tiger, Mickey Mouse and cheeseburgers! Also, please feel free to share my e-mail address with the group.

Thank you very much for bringing this program to Michigan and for your commitment to helping babies!


Aimee R. Datsko, RN, BSN, BPC  for the Datsko Family:

My name is Aimee Datsko and I am married with 3 children.  My second child, Luke, was born extremely premature at 24 weeks gestation at Royal Oak Beaumont Hospital.  He weighed 1pound 9 ounces and spent 109 days in the NICU.  He spent 8 weeks on the ventilator and had several surgeries including a PDA ligation, hernia repairs, and ROP surgery.  I provided my breast milk to him by pumping for 20 months.  He was able to receive my milk until he was 2 years old.  Unfortunately, I was never successful at getting him to latch because he came home with oxygen, a monitor and had major reflux which made feedings difficult.  Today Luke is an extremely bright 9 year old boy in 3rd grade.  He is excellent at math and is the best reader in his class.  He does have minor cerebral palsy and moderate hearing loss but he does extremely well and is an amazing guitar player.  After my NICU experience, I chose to change careers from a chemist to a NICU nurse and now work as a NICU nurse at Hurley Medical Center and I love my work.  With this BPC course, I hope I can help Mom's be more successful with pumping, latching, and provide better support on an everyday basis.  

Nancy Kuemin:

When my son was in the NICU, what I really wanted and needed most was hope. It was so encouraging to see some of the babies "graduate" and realize there was life after the NICU. It is an overwhelming time and I think most of the parents we met who had babies in the NICU at that time felt the same helplessness that my husband and I did. Providing my milk for my son was something I knew I could do to help. 

After our training this weekend, I learned that providing this milk benefitted him in ways I didn't realize at the time. It is my hope that I can support other mothers in giving this gift to their babies. Pumping every few hours is exhausting, and moms need someone to support and encourage them. I am looking forward to doing that.

Thank you so much for bringing this program to Michigan. I am really excited to see how it is implemented into Michigan's NICU's and know that this is going to mean healthier babies across the state.



I was a teen mother when I found out I was pregnant with my first son. Perfectly healthy until 31 weeks when I went into labor and delivered Rayne at 31 weeks. He had NG tube and caffeine for his only intervention and went home after 3 week nicu stay. Sucsessfully nursing at breast a month after leaving the nicu until he was 10 months old. 

I was perfectly healthy while pregnant with my second son until spontaneous labor with rupture at 23 weeks. He was on every medical intervention possible, ventilator, osolator, Cpap, oxygen, blood pressure meds, pic line, caffeine, fortifier while having grade 4 bleed on one side of his brain and grade 2 bleed on the other. He was 20th baby to be on experimental drug and made a complete turn around after our three month stay he's in perfect health. Breastfeed for 10 months of complications and perfections.

Elian born 1 pound 14 ounces with grade 4 and grade 2 brain bleed. Perfectly healthy 3 yr. old :)  Rayne born at 31 weeks, 4 pounds 3 ounces.  Now perfectly healthy almost 5 years old.  :)

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  • 08/26/14 - 
    Current record

Griffin Breastfeeding Conference Press Release

August 4, 2009

Rush University Medical Center Hosts Conference Examining

Chicago Breastfeeding Rates and Ways to Reduce the Disparities

Experts from Illinois Department of Human Services, Chicago Department of Public Health and Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association to Speak

(CHICAGO) –Over 100 certified breastfeeding peer counselors, lactation consultants, nurses, physicians, dietitians and community health workers are expected to gather at Rush University Medical Center on Thursday, August 6 from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. in Room 500 at 1725 W. Harrison Street, Chicago, to attend the Griffin Inaugural Conference on Breastfeeding:  The Primary Foundation for Health. 

At the conference, experts from Rush, Illinois Department of Human Services, Chicago Department of Public Health and Black Mothers’ Breast Feeding Association will discuss strategies for organizing Chicago communities to reduce breast feeding disparities.

¨      Dr.  Myrtis Sullivan, associate director of the Office of Family Health, Illinois Department of Human Services, will be discussing Chicago’s current breastfeeding rates and where there are gaps within the neighborhoods and communities of Chicago

¨      Dr. Terry Mason, commissioner, Chicago Department of Public Health, is scheduled to speak about the importance of breastfeeding to the reduction in health risks throughout the lifespan.  Recent studies show that breastfeeding reduces the risk for infection, obesity, diabetes, and other chronic diseases throughout the lifespan, and as such is the primary foundation for health.

¨      Keynote speaker Kiddada Ramey, president of the Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association in Detroit, Mich., will give a feature presentation on effective strategies for community breastfeeding.  Ramey will also address reasons why African American women breastfeed at lower rates than other populations in the United States.


  Breastfeeding Conference

“By bringing experts in the field together for this conference, we will identify hospital-community partnership strategies to increase the rates of breastfeeding initiation and duration among Chicago women,” said Paula Meier, director for clinical research and lactation in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Rush.

“Our goal is to identify geographic areas and populations within Chicago neighborhoods that have low rates of breastfeeding and to discuss the most effective ways we can reduce those breastfeeding disparities,” said Meier.

Anne and Ken Griffin are sponsoring the event. 

Continuing education credits applied for from the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners.  Rush University College of Nursing is an approved provider of continuing nursing education by the Illinois Nurses Association, an accredited approver by the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Commission on Accreditation.  This CNE activity is being offered for 4.2 contact hours. 

The conference cost is $25.  For more information or to register for the event, please call 312-942-4932.