A place for every mom

Baby Café program nurtures families at Thomasville Medical Center

Please note: this video was recorded prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Breastfeeding is hard for many moms, but a local program is here to help.

The Baby Café at Novant Health Thomasville Medical Center offers new and expecting mothers a combination of expert guidance from lactation consultants and peer-to-peer support to improve breastfeeding outcomes. Families who are breastfeeding or pregnant can drop by to participate in this evidence-based program with proven effectiveness for free.

“We have demonstrated that with even one visit to a Novant Health Baby Café, breastfeeding outcomes improve,” said Lisa Miller, lactation consultant and board chair for Novant Health Thomasville Medical Center Foundation.

Breastfeeding: Good for you and your baby

Exclusive breastfeeding, the process of only feeding a baby breastmilk, has many health benefits for both mothers and babies. Breastfeeding can lower a mother’s risk for certain cancers and postpartum depression. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for six months and including complementary foods until the baby is at least 12 months old.

Not your average café

The Baby Café opened in Novant Health Thomasville Medical Center in January 2018 and eventually expanded to Charlotte, Winston-Salem, and Bolivia, North Carolina. Throughout Novant Health, Baby Cafés have hosted more than 2,000 visits to date. Thomasville hosted its first homecoming for all the mothers it has served since opening on Mother’s Day in 2019.

“We invited every mom who’d ever been to the Baby Café to come back in and show us how much their babies have grown, and we had terrific attendance,” Miller said.

For mothers, the café isn’t just a place for learning. It’s also an opportunity to connect and help other mothers grappling with the same concerns. Some moms undergo training at the cafes and become peer counselors.

“Every mother is grateful to receive help, and each one of them tends to turn around and become a helper to the next mom who comes in,” Miller said. “We’ve been open long enough now that we’re seeing moms come back with the next baby and that’s really cool.”

The in-person program at Thomasville was put on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it has continued with online consultations. The café is expected to reopen in the future, and a new café will be included in the Center for Health and Wellness at Thomasville Medical Center, due to open in 2022.

Did you know?

  • The World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), recommend exclusive breastfeeding for about six months with the addition of complementary foods and continued breastfeeding through the first year or longer (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2012; UNICEF et al., 2003).
  • There are multiple health benefits for infants who receive only their mother's milk during infancy, including decreased risk of childhood obesity, asthma, and sudden infant death syndrome.
  • Health benefits for mothers who breastfeed, include reducing the risk of breast and uterine cancer and Type II diabetes (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2020)
  • For perinatal women and their babies in the United States, low breastfeeding rates add more than $3 billion a year to their medical costs (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2020).
  • Exclusive breastfeeding is protective of mental health (Brown, 2018; Dennis & McQueen, 2009).
  • Breastfeeding outcomes are improved when multifaceted interventions spanning the perinatal period are implemented, and a combination of peer and professional support significantly extends the duration of breastfeeding (Meedya et al., 2010; Moran et al., 2015; & Thomson et al., 2012).
of women do not meet their breastfeeding goal

While 84% of mothers in the United States initiate breastfeeding after delivery, 60% of women do not meet their breastfeeding goal (Odom et al., 2013).

infants breastfed in U.S.

Currently, in the United States, only 25% of infants are breastfed exclusively through the first six months of life, and only 35% are breastfed through the first year, as recommended by The American Academy of Pediatrics (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2011).

infants breastfed in NC

In North Carolina, the disparity is even greater. Exclusive breastfeeding through six months was 23%, and breastfeeding through 12 months was 29% (CDC, 2020).

Where purpose and career come together

Before Miller became a lactation consultant, she was one busy mom. She’s been a nutritionist, a doctoral candidate and chair of Novant Health Thomasville Medical Center Foundation, but motherhood is her passion. She’s the proud mother of four grown kids, and she found a way to merge her passion with her career and became a lactation consultant.

“I identity as a mother before any other characteristic,” Miller said.

Miller enjoys helping mothers who come into the café, many of whom lack access to care and health insurance. Miller said she frequently discusses postpartum depression, and the café leverages donations and community partnerships to provide mothers with screening and resources.

“The Baby Café tends to be where moms let their guard down and start asking questions,” Miller said. “Hardly a day goes by I don’t have a mom ask, “How do I get tested for postpartum depression?”

Miller finds personal fulfillment in helping women navigate motherhood – so much that she donated $10,000 to Thomasville Medical Center Foundation’s capital campaign for the Novant Health Wellness and Education Center. Miller requested her donation be used for the benefit of a new Baby Café space in the facility. Miller chose to give because she’s seen just how much the café helps women.

“I’m in a rural area and more than half of the women we serve experience economic disparity, so they’re even more at risk for postpartum depression,” Miller said. “Exclusive breastfeeding can reduce the risk of postpartum depression, and we see it in real time. We see the impact the baby café has on our moms.”

You can play a role in supporting mothers and families in your area.

Through a gift to Novant Health Thomasville Medical Center Foundation, you can provide much-needed resources to new and expecting mothers. Give today.

Donate now