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Island Hospital Center for Maternal & Infant Care

An Anacortes care center is one of just 13 winners of an international award for promoting healthy and successful breastfeeding practices. The Island Hospital Center for Maternal & Infant Care in Anacortes earned the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners Care Award (IBCLC Care Award). There are only 13 IBCLC Care Awards given annually worldwide. Recipients are listed as IBCLC Care Centers for two years.

“It takes about six weeks for breastfeeding to become easier than formula feeding,” said Dr. Jody Cousins, the physician advocate at the center. She understands the many frustrations associated with feeding a new baby. Before the Affordable Care Act made infant care more affordable, Dr. Cousins sought to create a center, where women have access to optimal breastfeeding care and advice under their existing health insurance plans. Since it opened in 2015, the center has helped more than 800 patients, two-thirds of whom don’t have primary physicians at Island Hospital.

Many new moms are inundated with the message, “Breast is best.” The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusively breastfeeding infants until six months of age, then continuing breastfeeding alongside solid food until at least one year. A myriad of data proves breast milk helps boost a baby’s immune system, improves gut health, and decreases a mother’s risk of postpartum depression. Seems like an easy choice. But what many moms don’t learn until they’re sleep deprived, covered in spit up, and cradling a fussy baby is that sometimes breastfeeding is difficult and even painful.

Dr. Cousins didn’t set out to win awards, though she is proud of being “the only clinic like this in the area” and the evident impact it has made. The first year the clinic was in operation, the rate of breastfeeding in the community increased by 8% for babies one to six months old. “We’re not going to take all the credit for it,” Dr. Cousins said. She acknowledged the wonderful nurses in the Island Hospital maternity ward, but she emphasizes the goal of the center is to “Make every effort to keep women breastfeeding, who want to keep breastfeeding.” She has every patient who enters the clinic to “define your own success” which the staff uses to tailor the sessions.

The center doesn’t only deal with breastfeeding. They’ve helped parents with bottle feeding, assisted moms that want to transition to formula, helped with breast pumping, and worked with moms transitioning back to work. It’s a one-stop shop for early infant nourishment, growth, and development. The staff of board certified lactation consultants don’t just help first-time moms, plenty of third and fourth time moms come in claiming “this baby is not like my other kids.”

Just as all babies are different, so are all mothers. Not all mothers want to breastfeed, and that’s OK, the center doesn’t exist for them. For the mothers who do want to breastfeed, even part time, Dr. Cousins and her staff offer advice and solutions in one-on-two sessions. Holly Eldridge who is working on her lactation consultant certification, explained the satisfaction she feels helping mothers achieve their breastfeeding goals. Eldridge explained a good number of mothers come in with babies who are tongue tied, a condition where the membrane connecting the tongue’s underside to the bottom of the mouth is too short. That makes breastfeeding difficult for the baby and painful for the mother. After minor surgery, Eldridge said watching “the relief that the mothers have on their faces is incredible.”

All in all, Dr. Cousins and the staff at the Island Hospital Center for Maternity & Infant Care are necessary cheerleaders for mothers struggling to reach their breastfeeding goals. Dr. Cousins explained that a lot of times it helps to hear, “’This is awesome and you’re doing it so well,’ or ‘This is hard, why don’t you try this?’” For a new mom constantly wondering if she’s doing it right, that kind of support is the gold standard.

1213 24th St., Ste. 100, Anacortes
360.293.3101 | islandhospital.org/maternal-infant-care

"All in all, Dr. Cousins and the staff at the Island Hospital Center for Maternity & Infant Care are necessary cheerleaders for mothers struggling to reach their breastfeeding goals."