The Fort Bliss Spouses’ Association has awarded Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso’s Department of Pediatrics a $3,000 grant to create the “Supporting All-Star Moms” project.
Ajay Singh, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics at TTUHSC El Paso, said the multifaceted project has a goal of improving breastfeeding rates for very low birth weight newborns admitted to El Paso Children’s Hospital neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). As part of the project, the pediatrics department will produce a handbook for mothers of very low birthweight babies, who are often born prematurely.
“The purpose of the handbook is to introduce how we plan to help mothers of our NICU babies navigate health care, how we can help them achieve their goals of breastfeeding and providing the best nutrition for their child,” Dr. Singh said.
Breast milk has long been considered the ideal form of nutrition for all newborns by public health agencies and pediatric health organizations. Benefits include decreased rates of infection, allergies and higher IQ in newborn infants who are exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life.
Very low birth weight infants are typically those born prematurely, with a birth weight less than 1,500 grams. They are the most vulnerable group of preemies and need round-the-clock care in a NICU setting. Out of many variables, a mother’s own milk has been consistently shown to improve health outcomes for these tiny newborns, helping to improve lung function and decrease the rate of conditions such as sepsis and necrotizing enterocolitis, a devastating disease that affects mostly the intestine of premature infants.
Breastfeeding has been shown to be beneficial for lactating mothers by reducing their risk of breast and uterine cancers.
Nationally, there’s been an increase in the use of human milk in very low birth weight infants, but the increase has lagged both in the South and in Hispanic single births. A review by El Paso Children’s NICU revealed that only 40-43% of very low birth weight infants at the time of discharge from 2015-2017 were receiving human milk, Dr. Singh said.
The “Supporting All-Star Moms” program is an opportunity to develop and formulate a plan to help increase the percentage of babies receiving human milk in the El Paso Children’s NICU.
“On behalf of the Fort Bliss Spouses’ Association, we are delighted to support TTUHSC El Paso’s ‘Supporting All-Star Moms’ project in the development of a breastfeeding handbook for NICU moms,” said Helena Ota, the 2020-2021 grants coordinator for the Fort Bliss Spouses’ Association. “Projects like these are critical to fostering healthy communities and empowering new moms, both of which are centric to our mission in supporting the community we live and work in.”
TTUHSC El Paso students, as well as residents, receive hands-on, clinical education experience at three area teaching hospitals, including University Medical Center of El Paso, El Paso Children’s Hospital and The Hospitals of Providence Transmountain Campus.
TTUHSC El Paso medical students and residents completing clinical rotations at El Paso Children’s Hospital get the unique opportunity to train in an environment where they’re exposed to a variety of cases, better preparing them for experiences they may encounter in their careers. The hospital is equipped to offer highly specialized care, including some of the most innovative pediatric treatments and research opportunities in the region.
For more information on the Fort Bliss Spouses’ Association and its programs, visit their website.