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 everyday difficulties of breastfeeding – Novant Health has added a virtual element to its already-strong lactation consulting program. The goal is 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.

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!’” new mom Anida Kleege said. “These are unprecedented times in general, but I’m also dealing with being a first-time mom and still having a lot of questions to navigate at the same time.”

Kleege has attended the Baby Cafés since 6-month-old 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,” Kleege said. “I was anxious of people scrutinizing my actions during a vulnerable time in our lives when I was still figuring things out.”

Giving moms reassurance is what the program is all about, Sluder said.

“A lot of your breastfeeding success is your self confidence that you are doing it well and that you are doing it correctly,” Sluder said. “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, one of two lactation consultants in Winston-Salem, is also hosting virtual breastfeeding classes. Spanish-language classes are in the works, as well.

“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.

Virtual breastfeeding support is available across the entire Novant Health footprint. Belinda Phillips, a lactation consultant at Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center, sees it as an essential service.

“When I had babies, they just kind of handed you the baby and smiled and said, ‘OK, good luck with that!’” Phillips said. “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.”

The frequency of Zoom Baby Cafés and other virtual classes will vary based on where you live. Find the latest calendar here.

Novant Health team members are on the front lines in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic. Novant Health Foundation has established a new fund dedicated to supporting our teams, as well as the overall response to the pandemic. Contributions will support team members and help fund testing and medication to support patient care, as well as medical supplies. To donate, click here.

TOP PHOTO: Courtesy of Anida Kleege.

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