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Published August 07, 2013, 10:00 PM

Nurturing the nursing: Breast feeding support groups help moms connect, answer questions

FARGO - The large white tent on Third Avenue North during last month’s Downtown Street Fair could be seen as a harbinger of support for nursing women in the community.

By: Sherri Richards, INFORUM

FARGO - The large white tent on Third Avenue North during last month’s Downtown Street Fair could be seen as a harbinger of support for nursing women in the community.

Over the three-day fair, about 100 women stopped in to use the Sanford Health tent, set up especially for breastfeeding mothers, says Fran Mosey, lactation consultant for Sanford in Fargo. Others popped by to express their appreciation and support for the idea.

It was the first time Sanford had offered the tent at a community event, and Mosey hopes it will be set up at more.

Mosey says the tent’s presence helps normalize breastfeeding in the community.

She points to other welcome changes that encourage breastfeeding as a norm.

Most health insurance plans now cover the cost of breast pumps. More local employers have policies that better accommodate breastfeeding moms in the workplace. A renovation at West Acres Shopping Center last year created a second mother’s room.

Sanford now has a breastfeeding support group, called Nurturing Connections Baby Café, where nursing moms can drop-in, feed their babies, get advice from lactation consultants, and visit with other moms.

It’s the most recent addition to the breastfeeding-centric groups in the community.

The theme of this year’s World Breastfeeding Week, held Aug. 1 through Wednesday, emphasized breastfeeding support and peer counseling, something widely available in Fargo-Moorhead through these groups.

“One of the most important things we know to help them continue on their journey is for them to have support from the people in their lives and the health care community,” Mosey says.

Breastfeeding support groups offer women the encouragement they need to meet their long-term breastfeeding goals, lactation consultants say.

“I think the more women in the population are exposed to breastfeeding as the norm, the healthier our population will be,” says Jan Medford, program manager for lactation and OB patient education with Essentia Health in Fargo.

Baby Café

Nurturing Connections started at Sanford in January and just recently received its affiliation with Baby Café, an international organization that coordinates a network of breastfeeding support groups.

The first Baby Café drop-in center started in England in 2000, according to thebabycafe.org. It now has a presence in at least six countries.

Being a Baby Café group means Sanford’s meet-up is listed on a national registry and receives peer support training, Mosey says.

Nurturing Connections Baby Cafe is open to any mom. Moms can drop by or stay the whole time. It meets weekly on Wednesday afternoons, and once a month on a Wednesday evening.

More than 20 women attend most weeks, with babies from a couple weeks old to over a year, Mosey says. Babies can be weighed at the beginning of the meeting and again after eating to see how much they eat.

Refreshments are also served to the moms.

“It appears to me they’re having a really good time,” Mosey says.

Michelle Kyser, a West Fargo mom, started attending the Baby Café after her daughter Zaria was born in March.

Kyser’s older daughter, Zeyda, now 3, was tongue-tied, a common condition among babies that makes breast feeding difficult. She thought it would be nice to have a place to go to ask questions in case she had trouble again.

“Nursing is a big commitment, and it’s not easy,” Kyser says. “It’s nice to just be able to ask questions to other people who are in the same situation.”

Tender Transitions

The same year that Baby Café got its start in West Sussex, Fargo’s first breastfeeding support group opened.

Tender Transitions, a support group at Essentia Health, now meets twice a week at its South University Drive site and is open to anyone in the community after a Dakota Medical Foundation grant allowed it to expand in 2009.

Like at Sanford’s Baby Café, lactation consultants answer questions, moms visit, babies eat and are weighed.

Medford says some women drive as far as two hours to come to the group, scheduling other appointments in Fargo for the same day because they want to come.

She’s seen strong friendships form between moms attending the group.

“When we become new mothers, our whole world has changed. We are full of emotions. We are overwhelmed with love for this little one,” Medford says. “This is something so many of us have never experienced before. It’s so helpful to have people who are walking the same path, who have experienced this and have a knowledge base.”

La Leche League

Jaci Kulish became involved with La Leche League after her first son was born and she was having difficulty breastfeeding. She needed someone to turn to.

A leader of the group met her at a play group and answered her questions.

“A lot of women wouldn’t have been able to offer me the support I needed to continue,” she says.

Now Kulish is a co-leader of the Fargo-Moorhead group, which meets the third Thursday of the month.

The goal of the international organization to offer mom-to-mom education and support, Kulish says.

Each meeting addresses a topic, such as the advantages of breastfeeding, and time for questions. Common questions posed there, and on the group’s Facebook page, focus on sleep, latching, introducing solid foods and weaning.

Often, the mom just needs to be reassured her experience is normal.

“Every mother at the meeting is going to support the other mother,” Kulish says.

Kulish encourages expectant mothers to attend. Some pregnant women who come want to observe another mom nurse as they’ve never seen someone do it before, she says.

Attending before baby is born also allows the new mom to become comfortable with the leaders. Though not medically trained, they can go to the hospital to offer that peer-to-peer support.

“Breastfeeding starts at hour-one, and it’s not always easy to get the support you need at that time,” she says.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Sherri Richards at (701) 241-5556

If you go

What: Nurturing Connections Baby Cafe

When: 1 to 3 p.m. Wednesdays and 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. the third Wednesday of the month

Where: Sanford Health, 2801 University Drive S., Fargo (the evening group meets at the Southwest Children’s Clinic, 2701 13th Ave. S., Fargo)

Info: (701) 234-5560 or www.thebabycafe.org

What: Tender Transitions

When: 1 to 3 p.m. Tuesdays and Fridays

Where: Essentia Health, 1702 University Drive S., Fargo

Info: (701) 364-8066

What: La Leche League of Fargo-Moorhead

When: 7 p.m. third Thursday of the month

Where: Xtreme Measures, 1612 Tom Williams Drive S., Fargo

Info: www.lllofmndas.org