Polly Thoman has walked Disney World, phone to her ear, providing comfort to a nervous new mom back home in Western New York.
She has kept an eye on many an infant in her store so a mom could take a bathroom break.
And few holidays have passed during recent years in which at least a mom or two hasn’t dialed her up on a 24/7 hotline to talk about a breast-feeding challenge.
“I based my business on being available for moms when they needed us,” Thoman said of Baby’s Sweet Beginnings, in Lancaster.
Nursing pillows, nursing bras and breast pumps draw customers into her shop at Aurora Street and Como Park Boulevard. Hand-blended teas and lactation cookies with ingredients that help moms produce more milk also entice.
“Everything I have in the store is organic and nontoxic,” Thoman said. “We just want to play it safe for everybody.”
Classes also are part of the mix. Some lead to lasting friendships. Regular customers Heather Rust, of Alden, and HollySue Phillips, of West Seneca, met each other four years ago in a “Momma’s Breastaurant” breast-feeding support group after Rust’s youngest daughter, Gianna, was born on Mother’s Day and Phillips gave birth to a daughter, Nova, four days later.
“We and our girls have been close ever since,” Phillips said.
Thoman and her husband, Elmer, a construction inspector, have three children, Matthew, 30, Jacob, 24, and Jeanenne, 20.
“I have grand kitties, not grandbabies,” said Thoman, 54, an animal rescue group member, trained EMT and international board certified lactation consultant who opened her business eight years ago.
Q. You’re a mother of three prematurely delivered babies. How did that help shape the creation of your business?
None of them nursed well and I had a very good lactation consultant from WIC (Women, Infants and Children program). When the third one was born, she didn’t latch on for five months. My counselor from WIC said, “We have this volunteer program to be a peer counselor,” so that’s where it started. Through WIC, I liked working with the new babies and the moms, being able to connect with them and watch the kids grow. Then you start seeing that second baby come along. You kind of grow up with everybody’s family.
Q. Why did you decide to go into business privately?
The community really needed it. We have a 24/7 line – 681-8100 – and I’m available 24/7. Just being there for moms on a Saturday afternoon, when you may not be able to get a hold of the pediatrician, you’re not going to get a hold of the lactation consultant for sure, we’re kind of the stopgap.
Q. Is it different to be pregnant now than a generation or two ago?
There was a big push about four years ago from New York State to become more breast-feeding friendly. A lot of pediatric offices sent their nurses to get certified in lactation consulting. You’ve got more doulas, more lactation people, more midwives practicing. It goes along with people trying to be more health-conscious, more natural. It’s coming back around.
Seventy-some years ago, my mother, Jean Reynders, was born in her mother’s house. The hospitals are becoming more friendly when it comes to natural birth.
Q. What are your top products and most popular services?
The most popular services are the classes: Joy of Parenting, infant massage, breast-feeding, childbirth, babywearing, sibling preparations, successful pumping, CPR, Happiest Baby on the Block, Dancing for Birth, Make Your Own Baby Food. And we’re adding Bradley childbirth soon. It’s a chance to get out of the house and meet someplace safely with other new moms that are probably going through a lot of the same things. Products, it’s the pumps, because of the insurance reimbursements.
The class prices vary from $20 to the Bradley method, which I think is going to be $200 but that’s 12 classes. Coming up in June, BlueCross BlueShield is going to cover our classes 100 percent. The lactation consultations, I charge $60 and follow-ups are free. The breast-feeding, childbirth education and return to work classes are the most popular.
Q. Is it even more important for a mother who has delivered a premature baby to breast-feed? Why?
Yes. The colostrum, that first milk that comes in, is loaded with good stuff. It has a lot of antibodies and immunities in it. Those antibodies and immunities will help protect the underdeveloped gut from things like necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). My oldest one had it, and that can be deadly to a baby.
Q. What are some of the joys moms share?
Getting over the hurdles. Watching their babies grow and thrive on their breast milk. Developing their parenting skills in general.