New mothers have it tough enough when everything is going well. Add an unprecedented pandemic to the mix and a whole new layer of complications arise.

To help ease one of the most common anxieties of early motherhood – navigating the difficulties of breastfeeding – Novant Health added a virtual element to its already-strong lactation consulting program in 2020. The goal was to give moms the support they need with options (like Baby Cafés) while keeping themselves, and baby, safe at home, said Penelope Sluder, a lactation consultant at Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center in Winston-Salem.

Penelope Sluder
Penelope Sluder
First-time mom Anida Kleege holds her daughter, Holland.
First-time mom Anida Kleege holds her daughter, Holland.

“When Penelope reached out with a link for the virtual café I was like, ‘Oh my God. Yes!’” said first-time mom, Anida Kleege.

'I was so insecure and nervous as a new mom'

Kleege began attending the Baby Cafés when her daughter, Holland, was just four weeks old.

“Going to a Baby Café was my first trek out into the world, which was great because I was so insecure and nervous as a new mom. I was anxious of people scrutinizing my actions during a vulnerable time in our lives when I was still figuring things out,” Kleege said.

And Kleege isn't alone, said Belinda Phillips, a lactation consultant at Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center.

“When I had babies, they just kind of handed you the baby and smiled and said, ‘OK, good luck with that!’” Phillips said, laughing. “One of the reasons I do what I do is that every mom should be able to have the answers to be successful in breastfeeding.”

Giving moms reassurance

Learning to breastfeed can take time, practice and patience. At Novant Health Nursing Mother's Place, international board-certified lactation consultants teach technique and promote confidence in someone's ability to breastfeed.

womens and childrens

Learning to breastfeed can take time, practice and patience.

We can help

Giving moms reassurance is what the program is all about.

“A lot of your breastfeeding success is your self confidence that you are doing it well and that you are doing it correctly. We’re also building a community of moms. I've had mothers who have become best friends through Baby Café; others have created playgroups. It’s a way for these women to find the support they need, but it’s also backed up by a lactation professional. The combination of the two is just unbeatable," Sluder said.

Virtual breastfeeding support

Sluder, one of two lactation consultants in Winston-Salem, also hosts virtual breastfeeding classes.

“It's a lot to pack up a baby and go somewhere. I think when all of this is said and done, there will be still a segment of women who feel like they can get their breastfeeding needs and questions met in the virtual arena,” Sluder said.

Online breastfeeding support is available across Novant Health's footprint. The frequency of Zoom Baby Cafés and other classes will vary based on location.

TOP PHOTO: Courtesy of Anida Kleege.