AMSTERDAM - Even before entering the recently renovated maternity unit at St. Mary's Healthcare - known as The Birthplace - a person will see smiling children, happy parents and even flowers.
Jerri Cortese, the director of community and public relations for St. Mary's, said the images on the walls are designed to create a welcoming, comfortable atmosphere for any member of a family who is visiting its newest member.
"It's all about the entire family," she said.
Kelly?Rizzo of Johnstown is shown cradling her daughter, Alessandra Grace Rizzo, at St. Mary’s Healthcare in?Amsterdam on?Wednesday.
The Leader-Herald/Rodney Minor
When one enters The Birthplace, one of the most notable changes is the floor. The new wood floor has special insulation so it is quieter than normal, Cortese said. The floor extends into each of the eight private maternity rooms and the two "overflow" rooms that also can be used for the medical/surgery department. The added advantage of the new flooring is it's better for the staff as well, many of whom are standing for almost their entire shift, Cortese said.
Not only is it noticeably quieter in the maternity unit compared to other parts of the hospital, in the air is the slight sound of soothing music being pumped in. As the music plays, mothers can nurse their babies in the wooden rocking chairs available in each room. Family members can stay in the rooms, relaxing new barcaloungers, or go watch some TV and relax in the new Beech-Nut Cafe, which was provided by the baby-food company.
Of course, there were pure cosmetic changes as well. New paint and a new border on the walls was designed to make people feel more comfortable, while providing some texture and style, Cortese said.
Julia Shafer, the director of women's services at St. Mary's Healthcare, noted the renovations parallel changes in care that have been made at The Birthplace.
About 18 months ago, the hospital began taking part in a project with the New York?State Department of Health and the National Initiative for Children's Healthcare Quality to encourage mothers to breastfeed.
Shafer said there is a lot of evidence that indicates breastfeeding is the best option for the health of the baby and the mother.
The breastfeeding rate for mothers in Fulton?and Montgomery counties was about 65 percent last year, Shafer said, which is an improvement.
However, the goal is to get that rate up to 80 percent by 2020, she said.
"We are not expecting a huge increase all at once," Shafer said. "It will be more gradual."
Dr. Parul Saxena, a pediatrician in The Birthplace, said lactation consultants at the hospital can provide women with advice on breastfeeding.
Saxena noted for many women, breastfeeding can seem intimidating for a simple reason: they have never done it before. For many women there also is an economic concern: how do they continued breastfeeding when they go back to work?
"There are lots of ways to work and continue breastfeeding," Saxena said.
By offering customized care to each mother, Saxena said, they have been able to answer many of those questions and convince new motherstry breastfeeding.
Shafer said with most mothers staying just two days - three days if they have a c-section - they try to help mothers feel as comfortable as possible with continuing breastfeeding. Part of that involves making sure mothers are aware they can get help from the hospital's lactation center after they check out.
The breastfeeding effort also parallels the renovation work and a new style of care instituted at the hospital called "mother-baby care" and "rooming in," Shafer said.
Essentially, Saxena explained, the infants are kept with their mother after she goes through labor, instead of mainly being kept in the nursery.
The change - which was instituted about a year ago - took some getting used to; the nurses were used to having the children under their vigilant eye in the nursery, Saxena said, and mothers who'd had children before were surprised by the idea.
However, she said, it has helped many mothers with breastfeeding. Instead of having a nursery bring the baby in from a nursery when it gets hungry, Saxena said, a mother learns how to spot the signs - with help from the staff - the baby is ready for milk.
However, Saxena noted, the nursery is still available for mothers who feel they could use a break.
For the approximately 500 mothers who used The Birthplace in the last year, she said, there also is help available after they leave the hospital for continued advice on breastfeeding.
"This definitely made [teaching breastfeeding] better," Saxena said of the new care style. "[The mothers] had more confidence."
Shafer said the renovation also accentuates how The Birthplace focuses on making sure the mother gets the care she needs all in one room. From the moment an expectant mother checks in, Shafer said, all of her needs can be taken care of in one room.
For example, when a mother goes into labor, she is not brought to a different room. All of the equipment is brought into the room she is in, Shafer said.
The work that was done during the renovation kept that idea in mind, she said.
"It provides a calmer, more supportive environment," Shafer said.
More changes also are planned for the future. A breastfeeding support group will start meeting?Monday in the lactation center from 6 to 7 p.m.
Shafer said mothers will be able to meet with other mothers for support, and speak with lactation counselors and receive more information.
The group is expected to meet the first Monday of every month.
Kelly?Rizzo of Johnstown was in her room in the maternity unit Wednesday, cradling her new daughter, Alessandra Grace Rizzo.
As her daughter slept, ocassionaly moving a little arm to push the blanket she was wrapped in, Rizzo said she had received a lot of information about breastfeeding, and was thinking about the option.
"I think it's wonderful," she said, about the maternity unit.