By Scott Scanlon
Tina Harman wishes there was a place like the Baby Cafe when she was breast-feeding two decades ago.
Harman, 51, of Depew, a registered nurse, found it such a challenge after her four children were born, it became a mission to make the sometimes tricky, sometimes frustrating, often rewarding practice more manageable for new moms these days in Western New York.
The coordinator for the Sisters of Charity Hospital lactation team is among the specialists who staff the Baby Cafe from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. each Tuesday in the M. Steven Piver Center conference room, alongside the Main Street hospital.
Catholic Health runs a similar cafe – which provides one-on-one breast-feeding counseling, helpful handouts and snacks – during the same hours Thursdays in the newly renovated OLV Senior Neighborhood Community Room at 55 Melroy Ave., Lackawanna.
Harman has been a nurse for 32 years, worked in the newborn nursery at Sisters since 1989 and has run the lactation program at the hospital since 2000.
Years ago, breast-feeding for you was a challenge?
The support was not there. I breast-fed my first child and did not continue to breast-feed. I didn’t know any better. I called the doctor and he said, ‘Just give a bottle.’ You listen to your doctor. My son came 11 months later and I was too afraid. Then I went on and had twins – they’re 18 now – and people said, ‘What, are you crazy, you can’t breast-feed twins.’
Today, I want to make sure my parents walk out with every piece of information I can give them. I want to make sure they have a place where they can go, they can call, they can have support.
What are some of the most common challenges moms have when trying to breast-feed?
Sleep deprivation. Soreness. They’re worried that the baby’s not getting enough milk. Engorgement. Sometimes they can get infections and they’ll quit right away. I think it’s the limited knowledge that some people have. It scares them. Or they don’t even know that it’s good for the child. There are misconceptions: ‘My breasts are going to sag, or I’m not going to look like I did before,’ or sometimes they have partners who don’t want their partner to breast-feed. You have to have some kind of support. Maybe it’s friends, maybe it’s the Baby Cafe, if you don’t have the support at home.
What do you tell mothers about the benefits?
The baby has decreased incidences of infection, decreased incidences of SIDS, asthma, obesity. There’s research out there that shows a baby who’s breast-fed can have a 10 percent higher IQ. There’s new research out showing that there’s decreased risk of certain cancers for children, too.
For the mom’s benefit, there’s research that shows there’s decreased incidence of uterine and breast cancer. They lose weight faster. They burn a lot of calories breast-feeding. Their body gets back to prepregnancy a lot quicker. And in the economy that we live in, it’s free.
Talk about premature babies.
Some of our moms can’t even hold or touch their babies, so if they can sit there and pump their milk and provide it to their babies, the moms will do it. And I have had numerous moms continue on after they see their baby grow and get fatter and healthier.
How long is the recommended length for breast-feeding?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends at least a year; six months exclusive and then with food after that.
How did the Baby Cafe come to Buffalo?
Babycafe.org started in the U.K. about 2000. There’s about 25 in the United States. There were none in New York and the state Department of Health came up with some grants and gave them to different groups. I’ve always wanted a place like this, an outpatient place where parents could come, but I couldn’t get any funding.
What are some of the questions you’re hearing in the cafe?
Mostly positioning, latching, ‘How do I do this?’ ‘What happens when I go back to work?’ A couple of pregnant women were asking, ‘How long should I do it?’ This morning, one kinda was not sure because she’s due in July. I told her, ‘C’mon back, we’ll give you some booklets on breast-feeding. We’ll talk about the advantages.’
Do you talk to the moms about nutrition?
Absolutely, about how to add calories to their diet. They burn 500 calories a day just breast-feeding. We talk to them about eating healthy foods, about limitations on certain foods that they can have – like caffeine and certain fish. We talk to them about fluid intake, taking vitamins. The one thing we tell moms not to eat is a seasoning called sage that you use to make turkey. It dries your milk up. It’s also in fresh Polish sausage, and we live in a Polish town.
For more information on breast-feeding and the Baby Cafe, call 862-1939 or visit chsbuffalo.org. email: firstname.lastname@example.org