Babies are being coddled and cooed over. Toddlers are crawling on the floor and playing with toys. Moms are changing diapers and breast-feeding. Moms-to-be are taking it all in and asking questions about what to expect.
Conversations range from breast-feeding and baby clothes to the weather and mother-in-laws.
Welcome to B.I.B.S. (Breast Is Best Social).
It’s a support group for women seeking to learn about breast-feeding and it meets at 6:30 p.m. Wednesdays at the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department, 200 Maine. Mentor moms facilitate the group, and Lawrence resident Sarah Rahija is one of them.
Two years ago, Sarah helped establish B.I.B.S. because she wanted to offer support to breast-feeding moms — something she didn’t have while breast-feeding her three children, who are now ages 10, 7 and 4.
“It’s different with every baby and it’s not easy,” she said. “So many people think you have this tiny baby and it’s such a precious time in your life. But when you are in the throes of that, it doesn’t feel so precious. It can be, but it also can be one of the most terrifying and frustrating times.”
Sarah said new moms often are tired and exhausted and when breast-feeding issues like poor milk supply or latching are thrown into the mix, it can be overwhelming.
That’s where B.I.B.S. can help. Moms listen, share ideas and offer possible solutions. More importantly, they provide that sympathetic nod to say, “I’ve been there. I understand.”
Soon after B.I.B.S. started, Sarah became pregnant. “I went from being a mentor mom to a participating mom as well. I’ve learned a lot of things from the other moms and I’m so grateful for their support,” she said.
Sarah gave birth to her fourth child, Joshua, about one year ago, and now, he’s crawling and making new friends during the B.I.B.S. meetings.
“It’s not a hard core group. No one is going to inundate you with all of this information. It’s an open group and very informal,” Sarah said.
Some moms come once with a specific issue and others come to just hang out. Sarah said they’ve had young moms and “surprise baby” older moms attend the meetings. There also have been new moms, moms with lots of kids, and moms with big age gaps between kids. Occasionally, dads attend too.
Sarah said she has learned a lot about cultural differences when it comes to breast-feeding as well as how breast-feeding works for moms who have had breast implants or breast reductions.
The group also hosts bi-monthly mini-workshops on topics such as cloth diapering, sign language and baby yoga. On July 31, it will mark its second birthday with games, prizes and refreshments.
The funding enabled Sarah, three other mentor moms and a Health Department employee to take a three-day course in Kansas City, Mo., to become certified breast-feeding educators. The course taught them how to be supportive through active listening and then offering suggestions rather than asking, “What’s your problem?”
If Sarah or another mentor mom needs help, they have two peer breast-feeding counselors who work at the Health Department to lean on: Cary Allen and Elizabeth Sedita-Laufer. One of them attends every B.I.B.S. meeting to help answer questions, provide information and lend support. They both were breast-feeding moms.
Cary said health care professionals have recommended breast-feeding for years because breast milk provides the ideal nutrition for infants. There also are benefits for mom such as it may reduce uterine bleeding after birth, reduce risk of breast and ovarian cancer and lower risk of osteoporosis.
Now that more moms are breast-feeding, Cary said the problem is there’s not a lot of support in the community, workplace or health care system. Some jobs don’t allow breaks or have areas for moms to pump. Insurance doesn’t always cover the supplies needed. “I think we’re making baby steps, but a lot of moms get frustrated and we’ve still got a way to go,” Cary said.
B.I.B.S. will mark its second birthday with a party at 6:30 p.m. July 31 at the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department, 200 Maine St. in Lawrence.
The free event will include a trivia contest, children’s games, prizes and refreshments. It also will kick off World Breastfeeding Week, Aug. 1-7. This year’s theme, “Breastfeeding Support: Close To Mothers,” highlights the importance of peer counseling.
For more information about B.I.B.S., visit the Health Department’s website at ldchealth.org, look for the Douglas County Breastfeeding Connection on Facebook or call 785-843-3060.