WOOSTER — A mother’s questions about her baby don’t always come at the most convenient times.
For those late night emergencies, breastfeeding mothers can now speak to an expert with one click of a button, thanks to the new breastfeeding option on Wooster Community Hospital’s TodayCare.
Wooster launched its telehealth service TodayCare in February 2017 and on Feb. 5, 2018, it added the option for breastfeeding assistance with the hospital’s three lactation consultants. It is the first telehealth option for breastfeeding in Ohio and only the second in the nation.
"I’m excited we’re the only ones doing it, at least in Ohio," said Nicole Sword, RN, IBCLC, lactation program coordinator. "It’s very exciting for me to take that platform and fill a need in this community."
Mothers can enroll in TodayCare free on the Wooster Community Hospital website or by downloading the WCH TodayCare app for Apple and Android devices. Sword has also seen significant others signing on to take advantage of the urgent care option.
Once they log in, they can choose the "Breastfeeding Help" option where they can schedule an appointment with lactation consultants Sword, Becky Yoder or Vickie Heath. The consultants will conduct a virtual assessment of mother and baby then answer anything from general questions to specific problems.
"The nice thing, too, about this is in the past, our outpatient lactation program was pretty much limited to day shift, weekday hours," Sword said. "And this allows a mom, if she’s having a barrier in the middle of the night, to be able to reach out for help."
An hour-long consultation costs $75, but the consultants have found certain insurance companies are reimbursing the virtual visits.
"They can watch a feeding session and give advice from that feeding session — what’s going well, what can they do to improve, whether or not they need to be seen face-to-face by a physician or the consultant, or if the whole issue can be handled via telehealth," said Tara Raudebaugh, director of Perinatal Services.
Andy Miller, a telehealth specialist for Wooster Community Hospital, added, "It allows us to reach out to the moms in their environment. They don’t need to leave the comfort of their home. They don’t have to take their screaming baby or other children to the doctor."
Mothers can make an appointment for a variety of reasons. The consultant can monitor a baby’s behavior during feeding, speak with the mother about any pain she’s experiencing, or give a qualified opinion on conflicting advice the mother may be receiving from family, friends or social media.
"One patient told us her only turn-to was Facebook mom groups, which she said were helpful, but she was constantly getting conflicting information and she didn’t know if the person behind the answer really knew what they were talking about," Sword said.
With the telehealth option, this patient knew she’d be receiving medical advice from a licensed health care professional.
Other reasons to seek a consultation include mothers who had multiple births (twins, triplets), flat or inverted nipples, prior breast surgery, low or overabundant milk supply, returning to work, and slow infant weight gain.
Sword also advises mothers they can call for advice throughout their time breastfeeding.
"This is not something that only needs to be used as soon as they get home, in the beginning stages," the coordinator said. "People are encouraged to breastfeed for up to a year, but throughout that year a number of questions and challenges arise and we’re reminding them that this is a good go-to place for them during those times as well."
With little physical limitations, Raudebaugh hopes to see the breastfeeding telehealth service expand beyond Wooster and the surrounding area. Sword also sees the service becoming its own system, complete with its own staff to be available at any moment, around the clock.
"The telehealth isn’t limited by barriers. Anyone could use it in the United States. We’re hoping this will be great for Wayne County and regional areas, but also beyond," Raudebaugh said.
Other options being considered for telehealth are private classes for childbirth education or pre-natal breastfeeding classes. Raudebaugh wants to get up and running with the breastfeeding help first, before looking into other services.
"It’s nice to be supported by the hospital to have this platform so we can reach that many more moms that need help," she said. "This might sound extreme but the overall health of our community starts with birth and proper nutrition and that can last a lifetime. To be able to provide this service is great for our community."
Reporter Emily Morgan can be reached at 330-287-1632 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Telehealth breastfeeding consultation
Inspiration? Our main inspiration is the fact it’s been proven for many years, not only in our country but many others, that the more support a woman has to breastfeed, the longer she’s going to be able to do it and do it successfully and meet her goals.
How has it evolved? Over time, the staff would like to reach a larger area than Wooster, and expand their boundaries.