In Spring 2015, Swedish Covenant Hospital introduced Chicago’s very first hospital-based outpatient breastfeeding clinic to support new moms. Generous donations to the hospital supported the development of the clinic, allowing Swedish Covenant Hospital to remove geographic and financial barriers to lactation support. Since its opening, the clinic has provided help to hundreds of new moms, including Hilary B.
Like many babies born at 37 weeks, Hilary’s son had difficulty breastfeeding. It took seven weeks, but with the help of Gwenan Wilbur, an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant, in the outpatient breastfeeding clinic, Hilary’s son began to breastfeed exclusively.
“This was an incredibly challenging and exhausting experience,” Hilary said. “The clinic provided the physical and emotional support I needed to get through this stressful time.”
Housed in the Mayora Rosenberg Women’s Health Center, the clinic was created to serve women who deliver at Swedish Covenant Hospital, as well as the community at large. It is the only clinic of its kind in the City of Chicago – similar services are offered at suburban hospitals, or through home visits. The clinic is unique in that it is one of few that provides hands-on professional breastfeeding support from a certified lactation consultant that is billed directly to insurance, including Medicaid. Alternative options often require costly up-front payments, making it inaccessible for low-income families, as well as the insured, that must make a payment up front and file for insurance reimbursement.
“What is beautiful about this program is that we are able to bill insurance, as well as Medicaid. If we weren’t able to offer this service, mom’s like Hilary would have had to write a $230 check up front for each home visit and she may not have received the ongoing support she needed,” Gwenan said.
According to the Surgeon General, breastfeeding has many health benefits for mothers and their babies, in addition to economic benefits. Breastfeeding protects babies from infections and illnesses, and reduces likelihood of the baby developing asthma, obesity and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Mothers who breastfeed have a decreased risk of breast and ovarian cancers. However, according to the Illinois Breastfeeding Blueprint, women interviewed from all socio-economic and ethnic groups cited a lack of confidence and lack of support for breastfeeding. Women felt they did not receive enough support from their family, hospitals, the WIC program, employers or schools. They also felt that education about breastfeeding was either very poor or completely missing.
“We are so grateful for the grant received from the Swedish Covenant Hospital Foundation,” Gwenan said. “Without those funds, as well as the coordination of many SCH employees in developing the clinic, we would not be able to provide these much needed services to women in our community.”
To learn more about the Outpatient Breastfeeding Clinic, visit the Swedish Covenant Hospital website. To support the Outpatient Breastfeeding Clinic at Swedish Covenant Hospital, contact the Foundation at (773) 293-5121 or Foundation@swedishcovenant.org.