Spotlight: Baby Café Bakersfield
I had the pleasure of interviewing Christine Staricka, an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) and the Director of Operations at Baby Café Bakersfield. Baby Café Bakersfield is currently the only Baby Café operating in the state of California. Christine and other lactation professionals volunteer their time to provide clinical lactation support at no-cost to the community 3-days a week.
Me: How did Baby Café start?
Christine: In 2013, a group of local lactation care providers were looking for a way to help families get help with breastfeeding and lactation issues outside of the hospital. Nothing like that existed here in our community, and when we read about the Baby Café model, it felt like we were given a gift: a ready-made, evidence-based model of care that had already been proven in other communities. We were instantly ready to make a Baby Café possible here locally, and we sought out community partners to make it happen. We celebrated our 5th anniversary this past March, and our Baby Café has become even more than we had hoped: a place for parents to gather, a sweet memory for families with growing children who came to us as babies, and a place for future lactation care providers to learn about the work of supporting families through lactation.
What is the core mission of Baby Cafe?
Christine: We are committed to providing a welcoming, non-judgmental place for parents to come - at no cost to them - for evidence-informed lactation care. Whatever their infant feeding goals, wherever they currently are on their journey, however they are feeling about the process, we want them to know they can come in, meet our kind and compassionate staff, and receive excellent lactation education and assistance. Every family deserves the opportunity to meet their own infant feeding goals, and we are prepared to help them through any challenge or obstacle.
What can a new mom (or parent) expect when attending Baby Cafe for the first time?
Christine: When parents come in for the first time to one of our free drop-in sessions, they are welcomed by our highly-trained staff and given the opportunity to discuss their goals and their progress around lactation and infant feeding. The care of every new family is overseen by an international board-certified lactation consultant (an IBCLC), who is a member of the health care team and educated to be able to address any lactation issue, from the most minor to the most complex. New parents also have the opportunity to join the group conversation with their peers at Baby Café, and we also host a Facebook group so parents can connect with each other easily to keep their conversations flowing. Parents do not pay to attend a Baby Café drop-in, and they do not need to provide any information about health insurance or identification. Any information they choose to provide about their or their baby’s health is maintained according to the HIPAA standards required in the United States, so they won’t need to worry about their private health information being shared.
What does a meeting at Baby Cafe entail?
Christine: Since we never know who will attend a Baby Café session in advance, we are prepared to handle any lactation questions or concerns by staffing our drop-ins with IBCLCs and highly-trained lactation counselors. Parents can come in any time during the open drop-in hours, and they can stay as long as they like. Each individual is met with individual attention according to their needs, and those who attend for social reasons are definitely welcome and loved by our staff! A Baby Café drop-in is whatever its attendees need that day: teaching about a lactation-related topic, hands-on help with feeding or expressing milk, assistance with interpreting results from our baby scale, private conversation with one staff member in our private area if needed, or anything else that comes up that day. We always encourage parents to bring their baby, their support person, their pump or bottle if they’re using one, and their list of questions - we’re here for all of that!
For me as an IBCLC and member of the Bakersfield community, I am confident that what Baby Café provides to families is a necessary service which is offered in a unique way. As a member of a national network of Baby Cafés through Baby Café USA, we adhere to a charter which establishes the level of evidence-informed care we are required to provide. The kindness of this community through financial donations is what keeps us operational, and we do not have any grants or funding from any hospitals or organizations. .
We are grateful for the generosity of this community to keep our service functioning, and interested parties can donate by mailing a check payable to Baby Café Bakersfield, 4208 Rosedale Hwy Suite 202, Bakersfield, CA 93308. We also accept donations in person at Baby Café drop-ins, and, like babies, there’s no such thing as too little!