The Baby Café at the Gayle Greve Hunt School of Nursing (GGHSON), Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center at El Paso, celebrated five years of helping El Paso community mothers bond through breastfeeding with a ‘Share the Love’ event Friday, February 14, at 3 p.m. at the GGHSON, 415 E. Yandell.
Over 200 people came out to celebrate the Baby Café’s anniversary—many of them mothers and their five-year-olds (alumni) who have been visiting the café since it began in 2008. This Baby Café was only the second one in the United States. The first one opened in Boston, Massachusetts. Baby Café in El Paso founder and director Libby Berkeley has made it her mission to bring awareness to expecting mothers and to moms who have already given birth.
“Over these past five years, we marveled as the once ‘rebel’ idea of a Baby Café evolved into a standard which women with breastfeeding babies have come to expect in El Paso. The El Paso community has embraced us and continued to trust us as professionals. Mothers have found us and we have supported and helped them achieve their breastfeeding goals. We, in turn, have harnessed their energy to keep the Baby Café functioning along with a mammoth squad of volunteers,” said Berkeley.
Berkeley said she applauded the strength, courage and perseverance of the women in providing their babies, often in the face of immense difficulties, the gift of breast milk. “We wholeheartedly thank them for being such positive ambassadors of breastfeeding,” she added.
During the next few years, the El Paso Baby Café is planning to move with Texas Tech University HSC El Paso to new buildings on their main El Paso campus. The placement of the El Paso Baby Café within the main medical/nursing school as well as close by the county and children’s hospital will raise its visibility and underscore the importance of help and support for all mothers to succeed at breastfeeding.
Baby Café mom Vanessa Brady says she’s come to the conclusion that there is a sort of magic that happens at the Baby Café. Her breastfeeding journey began eight years before she had her first son when she needed a breast reduction to alleviate chronic pain and migraines. She was all but assured that breastfeeding after a reduction (BFAR) was impossible, “So when I delivered my first son and showed up at the front steps of the Baby Café in tears, I only had the slightest drop of hope in a well of doubt,” she said. She went to the Baby Café every day the café was open for six months to get the support she needed to continue breastfeeding as nursing was difficult from the very beginning. She’d wake up in tears because of the pain caused by her son pulling on scar tissue. “Add in the weeklong bouts of mastitis-like symptoms –high fever, chills, dizziness, exhaustion– not a day went by that I didn’t think of weaning my son. But I had the Baby Café and I had Libby whose gentle assurances carried me through the painful nights.”
Brady says it is through the friends who held her son so they could comfort her and the Baby Café’s support that she was able to nurse both her sons until they decided to wean at around two years of age.
The El Paso Baby Café began as a project of the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) Department of OB/GYN, University Medical Center of El Paso (UMC El Paso), Paso Del Norte Health Foundation, and the Texas Department of Health’s Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity Prevention Program, and has blossomed into an integral part of the Gayle Greve Hunt School of Nursing that trains nursing and medical students, promotoras (community health workers) as well as students from the UTEP/UT Austin CoOp Pharmacy Program.