Mercy Hospital in Fort Smith started using a handy tool in early August to help mothers feed their newborn babies.
Sets of beads have been created for labor and delivery nurses at Mercy to wear on their ID badges that show the size of a newborn baby's stomach one day after birth. Janet Jarvis, registered nurse and internationally board certified lactation consultant at Mercy, said she got the idea for the bead sets, called belly beads, during a July lactation symposium in Little Rock.
"It was actually Baby Friendly Arkansas, and we're promoting breastfeeding, and so one of our biggest concerns with our new moms is that they don't have enough milk to feed the baby, and so they're concerned that they don't have a large amount," Jarvis said. "So we wanted to show them how big the baby's belly is so we can say, 'This is how big your baby's belly is on day one, and so you don't have to have a huge amount of milk to feed the baby.'"
One set of belly beads consists of one bead to show the size of a baby's stomach one day after birth and another smaller bead to show how much milk is necessary to feed the baby during this time, Jarvis said. A baby can get a stomachache from overfeeding.
"You really can't overfeed a breastfed baby, but moms usually are so concerned that they don't have this big volume, and so ... they'll say that, 'We want to supplement because I don't have enough milk,'" Jarvis said. "And so it is very prevalent with formula to be overfed."
The belly beads at Mercy Hospital are created by Judi Bryant, environmental services housekeeper at the hospital. Bryant said Thursday she has made about 100 of them so far.
"Janet came to me one day, and asked me and I said, 'Well, sure,' because I like doing it," Bryant said. "And before she even knew it, the next day I came in with 10, and I said, 'Well, this is just an example.' ... And I showed her the different ways I wanted to make them, and she said, 'Go for it.'"
Bryant said Jarvis gives the belly beads out to nurses. Jarvis said she first gave them out during the first week of August, which was World Breastfeeding Week. In addition to labor and delivery nurses, belly beads are also used by Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and postpartum nurses at Mercy.
One parent who said the belly beads helped her as a mother is Christian Jones, a registered nurse in labor and delivery at Mercy Hospital. Jones recently had her third child, Esther, who was 3 days old on Thursday. For Jones, it is all about just being able to see.
"You think about feeding your baby, and ... you don't see the amount," Jones said. "With a bottle, you pour the milk into the bottle, you see the amount you're giving the baby, but with breastfeeding you don't, and so just to be able to say, 'Now, this is exactly how big baby's belly is, and this is exactly how much we expect baby to get day-to-day,' ... it brings such comfort. It's encouraging."