Saint Joseph Mercy Health System is dedicated to patient care and providing a positive hospital experience. Three of its hospitals Ñ St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor, St. Mary Mercy Livonia and St. Joseph Mercy Oakland Ñ have birthing centers that strive to provide the best experience for moms before, during and after delivery.
St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor and St. Joseph Mercy Oakland are both certified Baby-Friendly hospitals. St. Mary Mercy Livonia is currently working toward achieving the designation.
"Baby-Friendly is a specific designation that hospitals are awarded following an external assessment by Baby-Friendly USA. To become Baby-Friendly, hospitals have to go through a pretty rigorous preparation and education of their staff," says Lisa Judge, M.D., a neonatologist at St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor. The additional training ensures that the hospital staff is equipped to support all mothers who want to breastfeed their babies.
Baby-Friendly USA has identified the three places of optimum support for breastfeeding moms: Prenatal education, during the hospital stay, and supportive programs for the women after they are discharged home, Judge says.
"We recognize that the time in the hospital is short lived and we have a limited amount of time to be as impactful as we want to be," Judge says. "As a hospital that is Baby-Friendly, it has really transformed the way we care for these moms and babies in the hospital."
Judge says the routines following a baby's birth have moved away from being protocol-driven, which was weight, measurements and initial medical procedures performed directly after birth, to a process that encourages bonding.
"One of the first things that happens in a Baby-Friendly hospital is that the baby is immediately placed skin-to-skin on the mom's chest. They are not separated for weights and measures until they have nursed for the first time," Judge says. Moms and babies are kept together as often as possible, she adds.
Hospitals encourage breastfeeding
The nursing staff and providers at the Baby-Friendly hospitals participate in regular breastfeeding training. In fact, even doctors and advanced practice nurses receive breastfeeding education, Judge says. The nursing staff receives extensive breastfeeding education and works collaboratively with lactation consultants for the more complicated cases.
To encourage breastfeeding of newborns, Chiquita Berg, M.D., an obstetrician gynecologist at St. Mary Mercy Livonia, says that all three birthing centers within the health system offer mothers the aid of certified lactation consultants.
However, the hospitals recognize that not all moms will breastfeed, but the Baby-Friendly designation still benefits them. If mothers choose not to breastfeed for medical reasons, or due to personal choice, the hospital assists them with the safe use of formula including education on how to mix it, store it and avoid overfeeding.
St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor, St. Mary Mercy Livonia and St. Joseph Mercy Oakland also offer donor breast milk to mothers as needed.
"Babies who arrive at less than 32 weeks get donor milk because that is the best thing for the baby. Mom's milk and donor milk make a difference in the overall outcome and growth," says Renay Gagleard, DNP, MSN, RNBC, director of Women and Children's Services at St. Joseph Mercy Oakland.
St. Mary Mercy Livonia offers a smaller, intimate birthing center with the support of a 24-hour neonatal practitioner for higher risk births.
"Our moms labor, deliver and recover all in the same room," Berg says, adding that the hospital encourages moms and babies to stay together throughout their stay.
After labor and delivery, moms at St. Joseph Mercy Oakland are moved to a new Mother-Baby unit. Like the Miracle of Life unit at St. Mary Mercy Livonia, this special area offers anything a new mom may need.
"There are small refrigerators, speakers, ports for USB devices Ñ we tried to think ahead," Gagleard says. "We wanted to give the moms the best experience possible. We wanted that space to be exceptional."
Similar to St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor and St. Joseph Mercy Oakland, St. Mary Mercy Livonia offers other opportunities to help mom and baby bond from the first moment they meet, including delayed cord clamping and skin-to-skin care, even after a C-section. They also offer clear drapes for those who have C-sections. After birth, most of the baby exams are done at the bedside.
"We don't take the baby to a warmer unless it's necessary," Berg says, adding that the hospital places the baby directly on the mother after birth. "We don't collect weights and measures for at least an hour. This improves bonding. Unless it's medically necessary, we really want the babies to stay with moms."
If a complication arises, there are neonatal nurse practitioners on-site 24 hours a day at St. Mary Mercy Livonia. For moms with complicated pregnancies or deliveries, both St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor and St. Joseph Mercy Oakland offer mothers access to neonatal intensive care units (NICU). These highly advanced departments can support just about every situation, Gagleard says. There are maternal fetal medicine specialists available to handle any issues that may arise.
St. Mary Mercy Livonia has a dedicated Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist on staff to help with pain relief. This includes access to nitrous oxide for pain management, a service also available at St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor.
"It's delivered through a mask. Moms will breathe it in through a contraction and it takes some of the discomfort and pain away. Especially in a quick delivery, it helps take the edge off," Berg says.
Each hospital offers infant care and breastfeeding classes to help parents prepare for their babies.
"We have prenatal classes in breastfeeding, natural birth, care after the birth and our lactation consultants have an after-birth breastfeeding course for moms and their babies," Gagleard says.
St. Joseph Mercy Oakland also offers a Cuddler Program for babies in the NICU.
"The program is run by volunteer services. The cuddlers are here to support and love the babies when their parents can't be," Gagleard says.
Sometimes, she adds, parents have to return to work before babies are out of the NICU, or in other cases, the baby doesn't have family nearby. The cuddlers provide consistency through comfort and nurturing. They hold, rock, read and sing to the babies in the NICU. "They help us care for those babies, Gagleard says.
For more information about prenatal, delivery or antenatal care at Saint Joseph Mercy Health System, visit the health system website.
St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor Family Birth Center
Address: 5301 McAuley Drive, Ypsilanti
St. Joseph Mercy Oakland Family Birthing Center
Address: 44405 Woodward Ave., Pontiac
St. Mary Mercy Livonia - Miracle of Life Birthing Center
Address: 36475 Five Mile Road, Livonia