For generations in the United States, the breastfeeding of infants has been done in relative privacy -both the action and the process of providing information to mothers.
But recently, cafes for hungry babies have opened in the Tampa Bay Area, providing walk-in service for mother and child.
Called “Baby Café,” the walk-in breastfeeding clinics are an initiative of Champions for Children Tampa Bay, a Tampa-based local nonprofit dedicated to preventing child abuse and neglect. In Hillsborough County, the Tampa-based Champions is the only nonprofit dedicated exclusively to abuse and neglect prevention and provides services and support systems that can help protect children and benefit their families.
To date, Champions has opened five Baby Café clinics, with two more scheduled by 2026.
The clinics are staffed with professional lactation consultants and support personnel for new mothers and provide Hillsborough County’s only no-cost, professional, universal access lactation consultation services. That support can cost up to $150 per session in private clinics, an amount beyond the financial means of many families.
The most recent locations, are at the Children’s Board Family Resource Centers in Town ‘N Country and Plant City and opened on April 12 and April 14, respectively, according to Kiela Bentley, a marketing and communications associate at Champions.
A grant from Tampa Bay nonprofit healthcare system BayCare Health will provide professional, no-cost breastfeeding support consults on-site at the new clinics, expand the capacity to provide individual, appointment-based consults outside the clinic setting, staff the breastfeeding “warm line” phone support, provide prenatal education classes for families and eventually add a sixth and seventh clinic in coming years, Bentley says.
Other current Baby Café locations are at the Children’s Board Family Resource Center in Brandon, University of South Florida Pediatrics and Layla’s House in Tampa.
With the new locations, the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County, a nonprofit that invests in programs that support the success and well-being of children, has Baby Café clinics at three family resource centers.
“The lactation consultations are important for new moms and we are very excited to partner with BayCare Health to provide the service at two of the Children’s Board Family Resource Centers,” says Children’s Board of Hillsborough County Executive Director Kelley Parris.
Dr. Amy Haile, CEO of Champions for Children, says evidence shows breastfeeding supports proper development, reduces the incidences of common childhood illnesses and reduces food insecurity if baby formula is in short supply. Additionally, she says it also supports “secure attachment,” providing protection against child abuse and neglect.
“At Champions for Children, our goal is to help parents feel more confident and competent in their parenting roles because while we know that all families need support, some families need all the support we can give them,” Haile says.
Once at a Baby Café, mothers receive a lactation consultation, get help latching a child, have their babies weighed before and after feeding and get answers to other breastfeeding concerns. Each visit lasts about an hour.
According to Champions, evidence shows breastfeeding impacts the lifelong health of babies. It helps promote proper development and secure attachment, reduces the rates and severity of common illnesses and protects against abuse and neglect.
It is also an area of significant economic and racial disparity. The Champions organization reports that, among low-income households in Hillsborough County, sustained breastfeeding rates are less than a quarter of the 60 percent set by federal standards. In addition, the Champions says women of color breastfeed at rates far below white women.
The Baby Café program was launched in response to a BayCare’s Community Health Needs Assessment. They are the only services of their kind in Hillsborough County.
Regina Maria Roig-Romero, an international board-Certified lactation consultant at Champions for Children, says health organizations and the Centers for Disease Control agree that breastfeeding provides protection from asthma and ear infections, obesity, type 1 diabetes and other health issues.
"Lactating parents also benefit from breastfeeding; research shows that women who breastfeed are less likely to develop breast cancer, ovarian cancer, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes,” she says. “Breastfeeding is acknowledged by all major health organizations as the superior infant food and critically important for optimal maternal and infant health.”
For information, go to Champions for Children Tampa Bay or call (813) 673-4646, ext. 1127.