West Chester Hospital Baby Café Celebrates Third Anniversary

Every Wednesday morning, West Chester Hospital hosts a unique support group: children are welcome, snacks are provided, and talking is encouraged.

The group’s purpose? To provide pregnant and new mothers the emotional and professional support they need to successfully breastfeed their infants.

More than 400 mothers and babies have participated in the West Chester Hospital Baby Café since the program was launched three years ago, and this week the hospital invited them back for a special reunion event to celebrate the anniversary.

In 2016, West Chester Hospital became the first hospital in Ohio to partner with the nonprofit, Baby Café USA, to provide this free support and education to pregnant and nursing mothers. The program was created by Heather Evans, BSN, RN, IBCLC, a board-certified lactation consultant.

“During Baby Café sessions, we strive to help each mom reach her personal goal and achieve longevity for breastfeeding. Our hope is that she will continue to breastfeed beyond the hospital setting,” says Evans.

National studies show high breastfeeding initiation rates among American mothers, but those rates plummet when infants reach six and 12 months old – suggesting that new mothers need more support to help continue breastfeeding. Baby Café provides free help from experts and support from peers in a welcoming environment.

Every Wednesday morning, mothers and babies meet in a private spot at the hospital to share their concerns, talk openly with each other, and receive professional advice from experts. The program is free and confidential. Healthy snacks are provided, and mothers and babies may come as often or infrequently as they like.

Evans shared that Kelly Fortenboher came to Baby Café every week for the entire first year of her daughter Lillie’s life. She loved breastfeeding and breastfed Lillie for 22 months. She later gave birth to her son.

“When my son Liam was born, we were surprised to learn that he had a cleft palate,” explains Baby Café participant Kelly Fortenboher. “At the initial diagnosis, I did not realize exactly what that would mean for our breastfeeding journey, and was not quite prepared for a journey of exclusively pumping. Baby Café was crucial to our success during the first few weeks as we adjusted to feeding Liam with a specialized bottle, figured out a pumping schedule, and in general adjusted to having a newborn and an active toddler! It would have been far too easy to give up on breastfeeding (pumping) during Liam’s first month had we not had Baby Café.”

Baby Café USA is a non-profit organization that coordinates a network of licensed drop-in Baby Cafés across the country. All locations follow standards set by the organization, collect statistical data, and help reduce health disparities nationwide.

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