A Rare Community for Breastfeeding Mothers

A Rare Community for Breastfeeding Mothers

Breastfeeding has become a hot topic over the last few years in the United States. There have been debates regarding when, where and how a mother should breastfeed. Often what isn’t considered is how these discussions affect mothers who are often involved in their own struggles pertaining to nursing.

According to a resource published by Novant Health Thomasville Medical Center (TMC), 80% of mothers initiate breastfeeding. However, approximately 60% of them don’t reach their breastfeeding goals -meaning the majority of mothers stop breastfeeding and resort to other options.

This fact is one of the main reasons that TMC sought funding to introduce a new initiative to the county called Baby Café. The unique community began in the United Kingdom in 2000 when two lactation consultants came up with an idea to mainstream services where mothers could access high quality breastfeeding support from qualified practitioners, volunteers and fellow moms. The first Baby Café opened in the U.S. in 2007 in Massachusetts.

In January 2018, TMC opened Novant Health Baby Café Thomasville, the first in the state. Subsequently, locations opened in Winston-Salem and Charlotte. However, in-person Baby Cafés haven’t been held since 2020. 

As the only provider of this resource in the state, Novant Health has transitioned to a virtual option. They’re offered a few times a month. Dates and times can be found here. 

Across the country, Baby Cafés, now open in multiple states, are facilitated by trained staff who offer assistance to mothers experiencing a wide range of issues such as pumping, weaning and maintaining supply if a mother decides to return to work outside of the home.

According to Baby Café USA baby cafés are constructed to bridge a gap often visible amongst women from various socioeconomic backgrounds.

“Baby Cafés specifically target under-served areas with low breastfeeding rates and are individually funded by a wide range of community, private, and national funds and grants obtained from surrounding community organization. Baby Cafés are physically situated in public areas such as libraries, WIC offices, churches, YMCAs, and other donated spaces. The model is designed to foster community connections and investment in the local population’s health by offering an inexpensive, flexible and successful program. The statistical and breastfeeding duration data gathered at each Café allows evaluation of the impact on community breastfeeding rates and factors influencing a mother’s breastfeeding success, with potential for national impact analysis.”

Becoming a mother for the second time, Jess Duncan had a decision to make in 2018. Discouraged by her experience with her first child, Duncan didn’t have much hope or a desire to give breastfeeding another try.

“I only made it about four months (the first time). I felt like a failure as a mom. I had post-partum depression, but it didn’t start until I started having breastfeeding issues with my first baby. To hear there was a service that would help put my breastfeeding issues to rest and give me more confidence is what fueled me to try nursing.”

The day she had planned her first visit to the café, Duncan admits that she had planned to make it her last day nursing because she had so many issues and felt like it wasn’t worth sticking it out. Instead of just giving up, she gave a lactation consultant at Novant a call who encouraged her to come in for her visit. Duncan agreed to come but was coming with the mindset that “this isn’t going to work.” To her surprise, it was a complete 180.

“When I got there I was going over my issues and she was like everything going’s to be fine. We’re going to fix this and adjust this. Having her look at how I was nursing and my latch then hearing her say that’s normal or not normal (as he described her issues).  I left feeling so encouraged.” 

Knowing there are mothers out there utilizing the services that felt this way keeps Miller reassured.

“I think most mothers want to breastfeed. The breakdown is in implementation – getting through those early days. If they can get through the learning curve which is about three to four weeks, then most can meet their goals.”

If you’re struggling to meet those goals, Duncan believes this is the best place you can go to receive assistance.

“Lisa was amazing. She was personable and made you feel at home. Don’t sit and wait for things to fizzle out or give up so easy. Go to the Baby Café and let them encourage you and get you a plate of fruit and a muffin. That’s what the Baby Café is here for.”

For more information, call (336)474-3253.

Kassaundra Shanette Lockhart is a freelance writer.

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