“We were 10 days from our assessment date when COVID shut everything down.”
That’s how Heather Lakatos, one of Cape Cod Hospital’s Lactation Consultants remembers the first of several unexpected hurdles she and the team at the hospital needed to overcome in order to achieve their goal of Baby-Friendly designation.
L to R: Amber Hand, RN; Maggie Wagoner, RN; Heather Lakatos, RN, Lactation Consultant; Kayleigh Eckstrom, CNM; Diane Robertson-Milliken, RN, Lactation Consultant; Jevon Plunkett- Rondeau, MD; Joshua Lupton, MD; Andrea Conrad, Clinical Leader, RN; Christopher Lops, MD; Paula Fabyan, LICSW
Their journey began back in 2011 when Heather and Diane Robertson-Milliken, the other Lactation Consultant from the maternity unit, started attending the Mother Baby Summit offered by Boston Medical Center.
“We were able to learn from other facilities in our state and that helped us get started and taught us how to get buy-in,” Heather recalls. “We presented it to our manager at the time, and then presented it to the OB providers, and they were all on board with it.”
The key to gaining momentum internally, however, was the formation of a multidisciplinary breastfeeding taskforce at the hospital.
“That team oversaw the effort and made sure everyone was on board across all disciplines,” Heather says.
They moved smoothly along the 4-D Pathway starting in 2016 and were highly anticipating their assessment in March 2020.
“We worked so hard to get to that point. We were excited and ready to go. So, it was disappointing to be delayed,” says Heather. “But we didn’t want to lose momentum. We have a great team that worked really hard to keep it together.”
Despite the set-back, the team stayed focused on their goal of designation. But soon enough, the pandemic placed another hurdle in their path. Cape Cod Healthcare, the parent organization for Cape Cod Hospital and other facilities on Cape Cod, decided to close the Birthing Center at Falmouth Hospital, 21 miles away.
“We were in a global pandemic and they needed ICU beds,” explains Jennifer Lacasse, Service Line Director for Women’s Health. “So, the birthing center at Falmouth Hospital is now an ICU.”
But what did that mean for Cape Cod Hospital and their Baby-Friendly journey?
“All of the providers from Falmouth became part of our team, and all of those patients became our patients,” recalls Jennifer. “We had to educate a whole new group of providers and office staff that had not been part of this journey. But we kept moving forward.”
“They jumped right in with us,” she says. “It helped that they had a Baby-Friendly mindset. Even though they had not been on a journey to designation, they already had full lactation support and were doing outpatient education. So, it wasn’t really hard to impress upon them why it was important for our moms and our babies.”
Yet, the team needed to overcome one more hurdle before reaching its goal. In November 2020, in the middle of the pandemic, Cape Cod Healthcare implemented a new EPIC electronic medical records system.
“We had built all of our Baby-Friendly data processes in our old system,” says Heather. “We had to learn new ways to pull that information.”
“I’m so proud of this team,” says Jennifer. “It’s just what we do here. Baby-Friendly is part of our culture.”
Local mom, Kristen Dupuy, who delivered all three of her children at Cape Cod Hospital before the hospital became officially designated, agrees.
“The whole experience was focused on giving me a chance to bond with my baby,” she says. “The lactation support I received from Heather and Diane was outstanding. There’s no way I would’ve been successful breastfeeding all three kids without them.”
The hospital’s breastfeeding rates reflect this culture, as they reached 90% for the first time in 2021:
The team finally had a virtual Baby-Friendly assessment in January of 2022, nearly two years after the original assessment was planned.
“Somehow we figured it all out,” says Heather. “Kudos to the team because everybody just rallied.”
After completing a quality project in the spring and summer, Cape Cod Hospital’s Baby-Friendly journey finally came to a happy conclusion in September 2022. They celebrated in the best way they know how.
“One of our nurses who is an artist designed a board that displays our Baby-Friendly journey with little babies along the pathway,” says Heather. “We finally got to move all the babies into the house at the end of the path and put fireworks above the house.”