By Lori Szepelak
SPRINGFIELD – For moms-to-be and new moms, Mercy Medical Center's Family Life Center for Maternity recently opened Baby Cafés in two city locations.
"We provide a warm, inviting, comfortable environment with trained, professional staff to discuss any concerns a woman has and to offer advice and support on breastfeeding," Alice Hodge, RN, BSN, CLC, parenting education coordinator at the Family Life Center said during an interview with Reminder Publications.
Hodge is joined by Jacqueline Jones, MS, IBCLC, RLC, Sharon Livingston, RN, BS, IBCLC, Sarah Nacewicz, BS, IBCLC, RLC, and WIC peer counselor Anna Sepanek, CLC, who rotate sharing their expertise from 10 a.m. to noon on Mondays at the Mercy Care Forest Park Clinic, 475 Sumner Ave., and on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to noon in the childbirth education room in the main entrance to Mercy Medical Center, 299 Carew St.
"If moms have concerns about their baby's weight, we can also weigh the baby before they breastfeed here and then again after to determine the weight transferred," Hodge said.
For moms who prefer a bit of privacy while breastfeeding, a pretty gold screen next to one of the couches is also available.
The Baby Café at Mercy Medical is done in soothing blue tones and features couches, café tables and chairs, a lending library, nursing stools, a white miniature rocking chair, coffee, tea and light refreshments.
The Baby Café project is funded by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health through a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity Program. Promoting breastfeeding is recognized by the CDC as an important obesity prevention strategy, according to Hodge.
The overall goal of the grant is to improve the continuity of breastfeeding care in Massachusetts by enhancing community-based, post-discharge resources for women and their families. To achieve this goal, funds have been provided to nine local initiatives, serving 17 Mass-in-Motion communities that aim to provide education, peer mentoring, access to post-discharge care, and/or other supportive services specifically for breastfeeding mothers and their families.
Hodge noted that on each mom's first visit, a gift bag is given which can include a baby book, hand lotion, baby toys, a teething ring and bib.
"Each gift bag is unique," Hodge said. "We also have a special gift raffle each week. Gifts can range from cosmetic bags and baby clothes to sleepers, bibs, T-shirts, socks and baby shampoo."
Hodge added that partners, children and grandparents are also welcome to drop-in with the new moms or moms-to-be.
Hodge hopes that moms will learn from each other and share their experiences and challenges.
"The Baby Café is not meant to be a lecture," she said. "It's a sharing of the group."
Hodge noted that the benefits for breastfeeding are "enormous" for both mom and baby.
"Breastfeeding is really important for their overall health," she said.
For more information on the Baby Cafés, the first such offerings in Western Massachusetts, call 748-7295 or visit www.mercycares.com
. Interpreter services are also available, according to Hodge.