Stephanie's Heroes: Dr. Ann Kellams

By: Stephanie Satchell Email
By: Stephanie Satchell Email

March 26, 2012

At just 12 hours old, a newborn at the University of Virginia Medical Center takes in his surroundings. But there's still so much to learn, starting with how to eat.

Dr. Ann Kellams, medical director of the UVA Newborn Nursery, says more and more doctors are recommending breastfeeding. But for new moms and their babies, it may not always be easy as it seems.

“It takes more than saying, You should do this, to make it happen because you're the most tired you've ever been, and the babies come out not necessarily knowing exactly what to do. If you've never [breastfed] before then you need some coaching and some cheerleading,” she explained.

Dr. Kellams wanted to do something to make a difference, so she and her colleagues recently created the Breastfeeding Medicine Program at UVA. It's a mix of lactation consultations and education for new moms.

“The most common things we see would be soreness and concerns about milk supply. We can help with those," she said. "We see what I call special needs, where either mom or baby has a condition or concern about how to maintain breastfeeding. And sometimes it's just reassurance."

Reassurance that Dr. Kellams says is available whether a baby is a few days old or nearing their first birthday. That what makes the program different, she tells CBS19. It's open to anyone, whether they're a UVa patient or not.

“We're covering the whole health system. So now moms and babies, whether they're inpatients in another unit in the hospital (for example, the pediatric intensive care unit) or a mom is admitted who has a three-month-old at home, we can help in those situations,” she said.

While it may be difficult to get some babies breastfeeding, when they finally do Dr. Kellams says it's rewarding to watch them accomplish this goal.

“All I need to help me get through the day is one mom who is worried and scared and struggling and the baby is fussing and crying. To help them achieve that latch that feels different to her and comfortable and see the baby's eyes pop open, that is the greatest thing. It's truly wonderful and it's a privilege to do this work,” she said.

Dr. Kellams says babies who are breastfed have been shown to have lower risk of conditions like sudden infant death syndrome, childhood leukemia and diabetes later in life.

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