OTTAWA -- Providing nourishment to a newborn is the number one priority for new parents, but breastfeeding can be a struggle for some.

To meet those needs, CHEO launched a lactation consultant pilot-project, offering families advice and guidance.

New parents Sumona and Adam Di Tota used this program when their baby girl Sienna was born three months early.

"We ended up at the General Hospital," said Adam Di Tota. "We found out there was a bit of difficulty with some fluid in her ventricles in her brain."

As a result they were transferred to CHEO, where Sienne was fed through a tube and IV for the first two and a half months of her life.

During their time at CHEO’s NICU, Summona Di Tota’s biggest concern was getting a good latch to feed her baby.

"As a new mom, it was a whole new world of not getting to hold your baby but having to provide milk and the importance of breast milk for premature babies is they need those nutrients," she said.

Through CHEO’s lactation consultant program, the team helped the parents by counselling them, providing tools and problem-solving techniques, and answering questions.

"We did every trick and you know things I would never have thought of," she said. "I would say by our third session she latched."

The lactation consulting program has been in the works for more than 25 years, according to Catherine Charbonneau, a registered nurse and international board certified lactation consultant.

"A lot of what family's goals are, especially at the beginning of new life, is to feed their baby," she said.

The program launched in December, CHEO staff worked with the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario to bring best practices into effect and with help from donors.

"How do we incorporate the needs of the mom, the family, but also the needs of the baby whether they are in a true crisis or need that extra support," said Charbonneau.

Since its launch, CHEO has received requests for more support.

"Human milk is medicine for these infants, so it's really an important piece part of their care,” said Alanna Lakoff, a nurse in CHEO’s NICU. Her hope?

"To have more accessibility to pumps for all of our families that are providing human milk for their babies."

"We’ve been able to expand the program through the entire hospital patient support,” added Charbonneau. "We trained over 120 staff at this point. That includes physicians, nurses, occupational therapists and even our dietitian." 

"We see this as a real help for staff on floors," Susan Lepine, also a lactation consultant. "This has been a real benefit for to spend time with our families to do that."

The nurses at CHEO say closing that gap in resources can empower families, like the Di Tota’s.  

"I did breastfeed for a month and a half at home," said Sumona. "All the skills we learned helped with that (transition)."

Help they got at CHEO. Especially, said the family, during an emotional and stressful time.