Rochelle Fields left, lactation consultant, talks with Aisha Gordon of Byram about the benefits of breastfeeding her baby Kyree during her recent visit to The Baby Café at 2548 Livingston Road in Jackson. (Photo: Kathy Matheny/Special to Clarion Ledger)
Written by Nell Luter Floyd, Special to Clarion Ledger
Published February 20, 2018
Two orange-colored planters and a banner mark the entrance to the metro area’s first Baby Café.
Located at 2548 Livingston Road in Jackson, the café is part of the Mississippi Roadmap to Health Equity, which sits inside the Livingston entrance of the Jackson Medical Mall.
But just what is a Baby Café?
It’s a welcoming place that a mother-to-be or a mother and her baby — plus supportive friends and family — can visit to learn more about breastfeeding. Experts and other mothers who are nursing their infants also weigh in with encouragement and support.
“It is about creating a culture of breastfeeding,” said Beneta D. Burt, executive director of the Mississippi Roadmap to Health Equity, an organization with programs designed to make Jackson healthier.
Open on Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., the Baby Café is composed of two inviting rooms. One room is more of a living area, with a comfy couch, educational materials and bottled water, while a second room contains a couch, changing table, nursing covers and infant support pillows for mothers to use while breastfeeding.
The Baby Café offers the support of a board-certified lactation consultant and a trained peer breastfeeding counselor. There is also Mommy’s Closet, which contains items needed for breastfeeding such as breast pumps and nursing pads as well as free, gently used baby and maternity clothing.
The Baby Café also offers a year of free use of the fitness center at the Roadmap for Health Equity, Burt said.
Also a possibility in conjunction with the Baby Café are healthy cooking classes in the Roadmap’s commercial kitchen, so mothers could prepare meals together and take them home, she said.
Aisha Gordon of Byram, mother of three, recently checked out the Baby Café with her two-month-old son, Kyree.
“I saw it on Facebook and said, ‘I’m going to stop by.'”
Gordon said she would advise mothers to breastfeed because of all the health benefits for the baby. “At first it’s kind of tough, but it does get easier,” she said.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends babies receive only breastmilk for the first six months of life and continue to receive breastmilk with other foods until at least one year of age.
Rochelle Fields of Canton, a lactation consultant certified by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners, said breastmilk contains more than 1,000 components that offer a baby protection from infections, diarrhea, constipation, allergies, asthma, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, diabetes and some cancers.
Breastmilk promotes brain growth and may keep a child from becoming overweight later in life, said Fields, who is working to open an education center for mothers in Canton.
Breastfeeding helps a mother lose weight after pregnancy and recover from childbirth, decreases the risk of breast and ovarian cancers and osteoporosis, and enhances the bond between mother and baby, Fields said.
Wanaki McDuffy of Jackson, a healthcare advocate, said some mothers might opt not to breastfeed because they are unfamiliar with it, are not be encouraged to do so by their partner or lack support needed at the beginning.
“You have to have support, education and training,” she said.
Mississippi has the highest infant mortality rate in the country, said Shanina Carmichael, project manager for Roadmap.
“Helping mothers give their babies the best first food, a food that has been proven to help reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, is definitely something we at Mississippi Roadmap to Health Equity are proud to be part of,” she said.
The Baby Café initiative is sponsored by BUILD (Bold, Upstream, Integrated, Local, Data-Driven) Health Challenge, a collaboration between national foundations including the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and is in a partnership with the University of Mississippi Medical Center, the Mississippi State Department of Health, the Jackson Medical Mall Foundation and the Mississippi Roadmap to Health Equity.
“The wonderful thing is how we sat down together and decided we wanted to do something on the ground to make a difference for babies and moms,” Burt said.
Burt said she welcomes soon-to-be mothers and new mothers and their supportive friends and family to visit the Baby Café and learn more about breastfeeding.
“We want people to come out and see what’s going on,” she said. “I don’t want people to think a Baby Café is where people are drinking coffee.”