Undoubtedly, as a new parent, you have had a question (or 10) where you just wished you could call up an expert and ask, “Is this normal?” Fortunately, when it comes to breastfeeding, Oklahoma has the Oklahoma Breastfeeding Hotline (1-877-271-MILK (6455), a toll free, 24/7 hotline. Families can call in English or Spanish, any time of day or night and talk to an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). Using a callback system, the hotline consultants will discuss any concerns you may have about feeding your child, whether your child is a day old or 2 years old.
“The Oklahoma Breastfeeding Hotline was created as a resource for families to get up-to-date clinical information on breastfeeding, from what medications are safe to take to should my baby still be feeding at night when they’re 8 months old,” said Rebecca Mannel, MPH, IBCLC and originator of the hotline. “While mothers may not like the answer to that question, they are relieved to learn it can be normal behavior.”
Breastfeeding can be hard, especially in the first few weeks. The lack of sleep, frequent feedings and fear of “Is my baby getting enough to eat?” or “Is breastfeeding supposed to be like this?” can quickly lead a mother to quit breastfeeding due to fear that something is “not right.” Many mothers do not get enough information about what breastfeeding will entail. Many parents think breastfeeding will be easy and natural right from the start. While it does get easier as baby grows, many moms can have breastfeeding difficulties in the first few days and weeks and feel unprepared and discouraged when problems arise.
The Oklahoma Breastfeeding Hotline was created 10 years ago in response to the need for mothers to have a resource for clinical breastfeeding help, regardless of location or income. When the hotline was created, breastfeeding rates were low in Oklahoma and there was not a lot of support for those who wanted to breastfeed.
“We kept hearing from parents who received inaccurate information, who did not have any support in their community or just did not know where to turn to for breastfeeding help,” Mannel said. “The hotline was created as a way to combat this.”
Thanks to the Oklahoma State Department of Health, the hotline is funded through a contract using federal funds for maternal/child health programs. It currently employs six consultants who have taken more than 25,000 phone calls and helped over 19,000 families from not only in Oklahoma, but also from other states and other countries.
Since the existence of the hotline, Oklahoma’s breastfeeding duration rates have increased 60 to 140 percent.
“We can’t attribute that increase solely to the hotline, but we do believe our team contributed to it,” Mannel explained, “as U.S. rates during the same time period only increased 25 to 60 percent for the same breastfeeding outcomes.”
The current No. 1 reason mothers call is due to questions about medications and breastfeeding, closely followed by questions regarding milk supply and baby issues such as weight gain or difficulty latching.
Often, moms are given medically inaccurate advice about these issues so the goal of the hotline is to provide evidence-based information to help mothers reach their breastfeeding goals. The hotline is seeing an increase in calls about managing breastfeeding after returning to work, reflecting the fact that most mothers of newborns must return to work within a few weeks. Other calls come from mothers in rural areas where hospitals may not have an IBCLC on staff or even mothers whose babies have been taken into state custody but they want to continue nursing.
“Families call us trusting that we will help them,” said Charissa Larson, MS, IBCLC. “It is a privilege to earn that trust and it is so special when we can help moms overcome challenges and continue breastfeeding. I am so proud to be part of the hotline team.”
To reach an expert, dial the hotline at 1-877-271-MILK (6455). The hotline operators are currently running a survey to better help local moms. Click here to participate.
About the author: Petra Colindres, registered dietitian, IBCLC, is the assistant director of the Oklahoma Breastfeeding Resource Center and a breastfeeding mother herself.