ALBANY -- Having a new baby can be both exciting and overwhelming. A service based across the street from Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital assists new parents with the transition.
From their rounds in the obstetrical wing to the one-on-one consultations, the hospital's lactation services helps new mothers and babies adjust to life with breastfeeding routines.
"We assist mothers with breastfeeding classes," said Teresa Poitevint, registered nurse and one of three lactation consultants with Phoebe. "We do a lot of education with our moms."
Along with their morning rounds in the hospital, the consultants offer nurses in the hospital the training they need to assist mothers. The services are based near the hospital on Third Avenue, where there are private rooms where a parent's individual needs can be addressed.
The consults are offered for free for as long as they are needed, but the beginning is usually the toughest period for new mothers, Poitevint said.
"The first two weeks is the hardest," she said. "Moms just need assistance. As long as they are breastfeeding, we are available."
Some of the common problems Poitevint sees are babies who are having a hard time gaining weight and infants who have trouble latching.
Even so, many of the issues mothers have can be linked to a lack of confidence.
"Mothers want what is best for their baby, but with a new mom, there is so much you are learning," she said. "It's a little overwhelming. She needs to know it's OK."
In the long run, breast milk is better for an infant rather than bottled formula, Poitevint said.
"We are really living in a bottle society," she said. "Breast milk is designed for babies. Formula and breastfeeding don't compare." Babies who are breastfed often have stronger immune systems, Poitevint said.
Mothers are not the only ones involved. There is plenty for new fathers to help with, Poitevint said.
"Dads are so important for breastfeeding," she said. "Some say that dads will be left out -- that is far from the truth. There is a lot of care going on."
The consultants give out educational literature on breastfeeding, including some for fathers. Products to assist with the process are also offered.
Mindy Spencer's third son, Elijah, was born a month early. She knew she needed help from the start, and has found some friends among Phoebe's lactation consultants.
"I knew I wanted to breastfeed, and I needed help," she said. "These ladies come around everyday and give materials to help and support you.
"I wouldn't be breastfeeding, or exclusively breastfeeding, if not for them."
Her husband, Kirk Spencer, has also benefited from the service.
"It's amazing that some people don't know the benefits of breastfeeding," he said. "I feel like my children are healthy. I have no regrets. Breastfeeding, I feel, has kept a vital role in his (Elijah's) development."
Mindy Spencer said she would recommend the consultation services to expected parents.
"You can't get the reassurance at home," she said. "I would not be doing as well, and he (Elijah) would not be doing as well."
Poitevint estimates that two to three consultations are performed daily, and that 46 percent of infants born at Phoebe are breastfed.
For more information, Phoebe's lactation services can be reached at (229) 312-0053.