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St. Francis lactation consultant has helped thousands learn to breastfeed

February 15, 2018
St. Francis lactation consultant has helped thousands learn to breastfeed

She's helped half of Scott County feed their babies. You may have heard this saying about Kris Beuch, RN, Family Birth Place and lactation consultant at St. Francis Regional Medical Center. If you do the math, that estimate may not be far off. Beuch began her career as a registered nurse in St. Francis' labor and delivery unit 43 years ago, and became a breastfeeding advocate soon after.

In 1975, there was little medical research about the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding, and few mothers chose to do it. There also wasn't a dedicated nursing specialty around lactation support. Yet on occasion, new mothers would call the hospital and ask if there was anyone who could help them overcome breastfeeding challenges.

This sparked Beuch's interest in breastfeeding support. But what really inspired her to become a lactation consultant was her own experience as a new mother. When her daughter was born, Beuch struggled with pain and engorgement while following a rigid feeding plan from her doctor that didn't feel right to her. Once she gave into her intuition and focused on what naturally worked best for her and her baby, everything fell into place. She recognized how valuable help from an expert would have been, and decided to specialize her skillset so she could help other moms and their infants.

After completing specific classes, exams and a credentialing process, Beuch became a certified lactation consultant in 1994 and applied for a grant to provide breast pumps and breastfeeding education to mothers delivering at St. Francis. She also began instructing doctors and other nurses on the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding. Supporting mothers who wished to breastfeed requires a different way of doing things in the immediate hours and days following the birth of a baby, which meant health care professionals had to update their processes to help mothers and babies get off to a successful breastfeeding start.

Since then, the national conversation around exclusive breastfeeding has evolved and the stigmas surrounding it are lessening. The American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends that mothers provide breastmilk for their babies at least up to 1 year of age. Today, the large majority of mothers who deliver at St. Francis choose to breastfeed, and Beuch is helping another generation learn to master this method of feeding. She's also taught dozens of nursing students from all over the metro area what she's learned after years of experience as a lactation consultant.

One of the most important parenting lessons new mothers quickly learn is that not everything goes according to plan, and Beuch has experience in helping parents overcome that hurdle as well. Despite the best preparation and effort, breastfeeding doesn't always work for every mother. That's why Beuch helps mothers set specific goals depending on their unique situation and to develop plans A, B and C for feeding their babies.

Beuch's perspective is that there's only a certain time in life that parents get to experience this particular part of mothering, and that's why she's so passionate about what she does. Families approach her in public to tell her their stories months, years and sometimes decades after the birth of their children – and Beuch gives them credit for helping her, too. She admits that it was local mothers that built this program for asking about help and committing to breastfeeding.

For more than four decades, Beuch has helped one mother at a time learn to feed their babies, and she hopes to assist many more. She loves "putting families together" and being a part of such special moments between parents and their babies.

More information about breastfeeding support at St. Francis:

• We promote breastfeeding as the optimal method for feeding infants, but we honor the mother's choice.
• Your nurse will help you breastfeed as soon as possible after delivery. The first hour after delivery belongs to you and your baby. Take this opportunity to learn your baby's early feeding cues.
• St. Francis has three certified lactation consultants, and all Family Birth Place nurses receive some training in breastfeeding support and are available to help around the clock.
• St. Francis received the International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLC) Award for excellence in lactation care and promoting and supporting breastfeeding.
• Donor breastmilk is an option for newborns whose mothers wish to breastfeed but need to supplement in the first few days. It's available at no cost for babies during their stay.
• A mother can make an outpatient appointment with Beuch or another lactation consultant, even if she didn't deliver her baby at St. Francis.
• For details about the health benefits of breastfeeding and more online support resources, visit our Benefits of Breastfeeding page.