In the 1990s, the Pediatric Residency Program of the Mercy Hospital of Pittsburgh started a unique project: training pediatric residents in breastfeeding support and promotion, then supporting those residents to sit for certification by the International Board of Lactation Examiners.
Dr. Nancy Brent, formerly the Medical Director of the Breastfeeding Center of Pittsburgh, worked in the department of Pediatrics at Mercy, where she created and directed the Maternal Infant Lactation Center. Dr. Brent took to this program because the topic was near and dear to her heart and to her professional work.
Dr. Todd Wolynn, now the Executive Director of the BFCPgh, was one of the first residents to take advantage of this program. Drs. Albert Wolf, Alicia Hartung, Lucas Godinez, and Amy Maddalena all followed this path and became International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs).
The idea behind the program was to send these doctors and all their breastfeeding knowledge across the nation, or at least across the region. But this group of docs all joined Kids Plus Pediatrics, where they were eventually joined by their teacher, Dr. Brent.
While this group supported breastfeeding families in the practice, they soon realized that they were unique. That there was no other pediatric group like them — in structure, skill set, or expertise — anywhere in the country. And that, with so many requests pouring in from families outside their own practice, they had an opportunity to do something new. And great. And powerful.
And so, in August of 2006, this amazing concentration of knowledge and practice in Breastfeeding Medicine formed a new entity and powerhouse resource: the Breastfeeding Center of Pittsburgh.
The BFCPgh was formed to meet a huge gap in knowledge, support, and promotion of breastfeeding. Studies and “real-world” experiences showed that breastfeeding failures and premature weaning were a result of misinformation, mismanagement, ignorance and sometimes even frank hostility toward moms attempting to breastfeed.
Many women never even tried to breastfeed, because they didn’t know about the many clinical advantages, because the idea made them uncomfortable, and because they had absolutely no support. What little support existed was difficult to access, expensive, and not covered by insurance. That meager support was also hopelessly disjointed; breastfeeding problems might be addressed, but a baby’s and mother’s pertinent medical issues had to be referred back to their own providers. (For more on this history, see Dr. Wolynn’s excellent TED-style talk: “Milk Money.”)
The Breastfeeding Center of Pittsburgh was created to be a one-stop shop: the ability to see a lactation consultant and a medical provider, for the visit to be covered by insurance, for breastfeeding to be made successful, and for moms and babies pertinent medical issues to be addressed at the same time, were all under one roof.
By 2011, the BFCPgh had become a nationally recognized entity, earning the honor of being the first and only Advisor to the United States Breastfeeding Committee. Many of the BFCPgh’s providers work to promote breastfeeding at the national level as well, including with the Office of Women’s Health, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and even the Surgeon General of the United States.
With each new year, we continue to grow and expand, both in our clinical work and in our national reputation. But our bottom line remains the same: the support of Moms, babies, and the amazing experience of breastfeeding that unites and benefits them both.