Virtual care technology can help women who deliver a baby in a hospital without a lactation consultant to be able to access one and to also re-engage new mothers upon their return home with their babies.
Breastfeeding is known to be the most nutritious food source for newborns and infants. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for about 6 months, followed by continued breastfeeding as complementary foods are introduced, with continuation of breastfeeding for 1 year or longer as mutually desired by mother and infant. While new mothers may want to follow these guidelines, new mothers may experience challenges and struggles. Plus, lactation consultants may not be readily available when the new mother is in the hospital. And, access to available LCs may be lost when new mothers are released to return home.
While in the hospital, a nurse can take a tablet or smartphone to the bedside of a new mother and facilitate a virtual consult with a remote certified lactation consultant. Using video technology, a virtual lactation has many benefits including:
- Allowing mothers to get lactation assistance and advice
- Enhancing patient satisfaction with lactation services
- Increasing the productivity and capacity of the lactation department
- Improving the timeliness of referrals for follow-up visits (whether in-person or virtual)
A virtual care platform also enables mothers to receive the support system they need, especially in the early days, at their convenience and from the comfort of their own home. Those who are located in rural areas – and/or experience challenges in getting to they physician’s office with a newborn – will have better adherence to their breastfeeding plan if they can access a lactation consultant for a virtual appointment.
A study was conducted using videoconferencing sessions to provide lactation support to 10 mothers inside their homes. The study based the success on LATCH assessment scores from telehealth and home-visit International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs) during the first 2 visits, as well as the overall satisfaction of the patients involved. Results were favorable for the use of videoconference consultations:
- The percentage agreement on the 5 LATCH score dimensions ranged between 40% to 100% during the first visit and 80% to 100% during the second visit. (More on the LATCH Assessment Tool scoring here.
- All participants “strongly agreed” that they were comfortable talking about breastfeeding concerns using a video-based platform.
As professional lactation support drives an increase in breastfeeding duration, providing easy and convenient access to LC support via a virtual care platform may help all mothers – rural, urban, underserved, etc. – stick to their breastfeeding plan.