WASHINGTON — They say it takes a village to raise a child, but in a city like D.C., new moms don’t always have extended family close by to lend a hand and share advice during an infant’s first few months of life.
That’s where the Breastfeeding Center for Greater Washington comes in.
“You’re so prepared to give birth and you read all of this stuff about giving birth, and then you go home with this two- or three-day-old baby and you’re like, ‘Oh my God, what do I do now?’” said Gina Caruso, the center’s deputy director.
“So we sort of help bridge that gap in our health care system.”
In the center’s brand-new location at 19th and K streets NW, parents can access free breast-feeding and pumping classes led by lactation consultants.
There are also private rooms for women who need to pop in off the streets and nurse or pump, or for women who don’t have access to a lactation room. (Caruso mentions it’s a popular service for moms who are in town for a conference or business meeting.)
However, the most popular draw is the center’s weekly support group for moms with babies up to 4 months old.
“A lot of moms come in to meet other moms and have that community, because we don’t have that community, generally, built into our society,” said Caruso, who estimates that each of the two Tuesday groups attracts 30 adults, plus their infants.
“And then they’ll go out to lunch afterward or hang out at a park. It’s a really nice environment.”
In recent years, Caruso says the breast-feeding center has seen a dramatic increase in the number of women seeking its services. It quickly outgrew its previous space on K Street, where it had been since 2003, and moved around the corner to a bigger location on 19th Street.
Caruso says the uptick in clients has a lot to do with the Affordable Care Act, which requires insurance companies to cover breast pumps and lactation services. Over the years, D.C. has also seen an increase in breast-feeding rates, especially for mothers who nurse past six months.
“They have been going up, which is great, but there’s still a lot of work to be done,” said Caruso, who added that one of the main challenges women face when it comes to maintaining breast-feeding is balancing it with returning to the workforce.
“And so we try to prepare them for that transition, for how to return to work and keep up the nursing relationship, how to pump at work, how to schedule it — all the logistics to try to make their lives as easy as possible.”
Other classes and private consultations are also offered at the Breastfeeding Center for Greater Washington. The center accepts insurance and negotiates reduced rates for those who can’t afford to pay.
The Breastfeeding Center for Greater Washington’s new location is located at 1020 19th St. NW, suite 150. Its hours are 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday; and Sunday by appointment.