The first Baby Café
In 2000, lactation consultants Catherine Pardoe and Julie Williams set up and ran a drop-in centre for breastfeeding mothers in West Sussex within the local NHS Trust with Department of Health Infant Feeding Initiative funding for one year.
From the outset the aim was to create a mainstream service where all mums could access high quality breastfeeding support from a mainstream provider in a relaxed, stylish setting.
Soon health professionals and mothers in other areas of the country began to make enquiries about using the model in their own area. Julie and Catherine developed the Baby Café Professionals' Information Pack giving a step-by-step guide to applying for, setting up, running and evaluating a Baby Café drop-in centre.
Those who wanted to set up a drop-in using The Baby Café name, logo and associated model of care and standards paid an annual registration fee which entitled them to use the name and logo, to feature on the Baby Café website and have access to a national support structure. They also agreed to maintain the standards and model detailed in the pack and provide annual statistical information about their Baby Café drop-in.
The support to registered Baby Café drop-ins was initially provided by Catherine and Julie, co-founders/national coordinators, and Sue, website coordinator. Time spent administering and coordinating the growing number of Baby Cafés, providing the support services and developing The Baby Café as an international venture was in addition to their day jobs and the associated expenses of providing this support was covered by the annual fee paid by each Baby Café.
Becoming a charitable trust
In 2005 the Baby Café initiative became The Baby Café Charitable Trust, with an established licencing and support structure. The Baby Café Handbook was published in 2006, providing detailed information for facilitators of licenced Baby Cafés about all aspects of running a successful drop-in. The aim was to enable continuing support, communication and monitoring of standards to ensure a growing number of mothers would have access to the high quality breastfeeding help provided by Baby Café drop-ins.
Merger with NCT
In 2010 the Baby Café Charitable Trust merged with NCT to help support and grow the network of Baby Café drop-ins more effectively. The Baby Café network continues to operate with its existing team of trustees and staff and the branding remains synonymous with high quality, professional, evidence based breastfeeding support in the community. The service will remain free at the point of delivery to all mothers accessing it and all Baby Café drop-ins continue to receive support from the main headquarters in West Sussex and from the same dedicated personnel.