Breastfeeding while working: New program supports medical trainees at CHoR
Medical providers help their patients make the best decisions for themselves and their families – but, do they always take their own advice? A new program at CHoR is making sure when it comes to medical trainees (medical students, residents and fellows) who are also new parents, the answer is yes!
CHoR has been selected to participate in Breastfeeding & Lactation Support for Medical Trainees, an 8-month program through the American Academy of Pediatrics and American Academy of Family Physicians designed to increase medical trainees’ positive experiences with breastfeeding and lactation.
We’re one of only 10 hospitals selected for this national program that will result in a guide shared broadly with the pediatrician and family medicine communities to improve breastfeeding support across the country.
“One of the great commitments of an academic medical center is educating future medical providers. This includes not only helping them gain clinical knowledge, but supporting them personally and professionally along the way,” said Dr. Jenny Fox, neonatologist and project team co-lead. “We’re continuously telling our patients and families about the many health benefits of breastfeeding. It only makes sense that we would provide our own medical trainees with the resources to support them in their personal breastfeeding efforts as well.”
Providing the best start for babies by backing breastfeeding
It’s recommended that infants are breastfed for their first six months of life, and preferably for the first year. As a Baby Friendly Hospital, VCU Health and CHoR strive to provide new moms with the information, confidence and skills to successfully begin and continue breastfeeding their babies.
Women stop breastfeeding for a variety of reasons. Working outside the home often correlates with a shorter duration of breastfeeding – and the work hours and demands associated with being a medical trainee can make continued breastfeeding particularly challenging. Is there protected break time in the hectic daily schedule to pump? Is there a convenient, private, comfortable and clean spot reserved for pumping? Is there an appropriate place to store the expressed milk? Are there on-site childcare facilities that allow workers to stop in and feed their babies throughout their shifts?
“Our goal is to offer the support needed to ensure these new moms are successful both professionally and on their breastfeeding journeys. Not only is this what’s best for our medical trainees and their own families, but it will better equip them to support their patients in this process as well. These are medical providers who hopefully have long and successful careers ahead of them with the ability to positively influence thousands of families,” said Dr. Tiffany Kimbrough, pediatrician, medical director of our Mother-Infant Unit and physician champion of the program.
Commitment to a culture of respect for breastfeeding
Through the program, medical trainees and their supervisors are encouraged to work together to determine a schedule that supports the trainee’s lactation needs, while simultaneously allowing them to fulfill their patient care and classroom requirements.
“The added layer here is that administration and supervisors need to communicate with others who will be affected by this schedule and share their expectations of support from the entire team,” added Dr. Fox. “It’s about not only developing but also upholding a culture of support and respect.”
In addition to guidance from Drs. Fox and Kimbrough, the program has tremendous support from health system leadership and representation from an interdisciplinary team, including:
- Dr. Stephanie Lee – ob/gyn and program co-leader
- Valerie Coleman – nursing
- Kym Gee – nursing/administration
- Kristin Olsen – pregnancy and parenting partner management
- Sara Sulla – human resources
- Dr. Karen Hendricks-Muñoz – interim physician-in-chief, CHoR
- Dr. Gauri Gulati – physician support
- Paul Wesolowski, chief operating officer
The program will begin with the pediatric and ob/gyn residency programs, which have nearly 100 residents combined, and then expand to other residency programs in phase two and finally other interdisciplinary training programs across VCU Health System in phase three.
Learn more about how our lactation services support you during the breastfeeding journey