Ahead of the Curve

A new certification course prepares nursing students to educate new mothers about the benefits of breastfeeding.

By Yolanda Mancilla
Special to UM News

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (January 02, 2014) — It’s the first meeting of the “Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding” course, and instructor Shakira Henderson is playing the role of a teen mother.

The young mom, sulking and bored, is apathetic about breastfeeding her newborn. One student takes on the role of the maternity unit nurse and tries to capture the new mother’s attention by telling her that breastfeeding promotes rapid weight loss after pregnancy. The new mother’s interest is finally piqued, and as she begins to breastfeed her baby, the mother-child bonding process is strengthened.

Launched in spring 2013 as an activity of the University of Miami’s School of Nursing and Health Studies’ WHO Collaborating Centre for Nursing Human Resources Development and Patient Safety, “Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding” is changing the way people—including nurses—think about breastfeeding.

Every nurse who completes the “Ten Steps” course learns that the health benefits to mothers include reduced risk for postpartum blood loss and infection; reduced risk of developing osteoporosis, ovarian cancer, and breast cancer as they get older; increased post-pregnancy weight loss; and decreased incidences of postpartum depression.

Breast milk immunizes infants to many diseases and enhances their cognitive development. Healthier babies mean fewer infant medical bills and fewer lost workdays. It’s estimated that if 90 percent of American mothers breastfed, the U.S. economy would save $13 billion per year. But people tend to have deep-seated and often erroneous assumptions about breastfeeding.

The SONHS introduced the “Ten Steps” course as a free extracurricular education option to all students who want to obtain their breastfeeding certification before graduation. The course is not part of the required curriculum, but students are seeing great value in taking advantage of the opportunity.

Given the rigorous B.S.N. curriculum, and the fact that breastfeeding education falls outside of students’ required activities, the SONHS faculty knew they’d have to be enterprising in their methods to engage students. “Ten Steps” facilitators Rosina Cianelli and Natalia Villegas Rodriguez worked with the school’s instructional designer to streamline and adapt the WHO/UNICEF’s “Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding” curriculum into a hybrid model that combines live class sessions with online modules. The Web-based component covers basic knowledge, and the live classes include review of online material, class discussions, role-play of nurses and lactating mothers in diverse scenarios, and interactive learning games such as “Breastfeeding Charades” and “Breastfeeding Jeopardy.”

“We want students to learn that a new mother’s decision on whether or not to breastfeed, whether to breastfeed exclusively, and how long to breastfeed should be based on evidence and facts provided by their nurse, the health care professional with whom they interact most frequently during their hospital stay,” said Cianelli.

To better support students, staff, and faculty who are new mothers and wish to breastfeed their babies, the University of Miami provides multiple Nursing Mothers Rooms across the Coral Gables, Miller School of Medicine, and Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science campuses. Each of the rooms contains designated space where nursing mothers are welcome to pump or nurse.

This article is adapted from a story that ran in the fall 2013 issue of Heartbeat, the magazine of the School of Nursing and Health Studies. To read the full story, click here.


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