Being a new mom, especially when it’s your first child, can be overwhelming and isolating at times. No matter how supportive your partner or extended family is, there are some feelings that only a fellow mom can empathize with, and some questions that only a fellow mom can answer. There are some moments of pure panic when only a fellow mom can make you feel reassured.

That sense of community is exactly what happens in the weekly drop-in groups hosted by Cherie Tannenbaum, IBCLC, FNP, a baby care expert with the Center for Children and Youth. Her free, weekly Baby and Me group for parents of 0–6-month-old babies has been fostering moments of connection, expressions of empathy, and lasting friendships for 16 years.

“I think one of the reasons that my groups are pretty successful is that it is absolutely a non-judgmental environment,” says Cherie. “People come late and they’re feeding their baby and babies are crying. There is no judgment, not with these moms.”

Samantha Zeger, who attended the group after giving birth to her son in March 2020, echoes that sentiment. “Having a baby in the beginning of the pandemic with so many unknowns was an incredibly unique experience. Having a group of women that I could count on each week who knew exactly what I was going through was a literal life saver. We were able to be honest and vulnerable in ways it may be hard to be with family and friends.” Plus, she adds, “Cherie is a gift. She is so knowledgeable and non-judgmental.”

Cherie also relies on her experience as a family nurse practitioner and lactation consultant—not to mention as a mom herself. “I really try to normalize a lot of things—and I can talk about what’s not normal, without judging anyone. I tell humbling stories about myself; I’m an authority, but I’m also one of them.”

Samantha agrees. “As a new mom you have so many questions and are constantly being bombarded with information and opinions. Having the support of Cherie and the other women in the group who you can trust to empower you to find the best way for you and you baby is very special.”

While Cherie does typically go into the meetups with a topic in mind, she rarely gets to it, as the needs of the mothers in the group truly guide the hour. An expectant, first-time mom coming up on her due date can get reassurance and advice. A third-time mom with a four-month-old baby can draw from her experience to answer questions and provide support. The groups discuss everything from what kind of baby carriers they’re using to child development to anxiety and depression.

“We talk about everything,” Cherie says.

Validating the experience and instincts of the parents in the group—primarily mothers, though Cherie has had a few dads join—has always been especially important, as the pressure to feel perfect can lead parents to be too hard on themselves.

“There’s no way to get the parenting journey on graph paper,” Cherie says. That’s not what her group is about. “I want to settle people down and let them relax and find their own style. It’s about helping them find their inner parent.”

Cherie’s Baby and Me group for parents of 0-6-month-olds meets every Thursday at 1 p.m. She also runs Discussions About Parenthood, for parents of 1-6-year-olds, which meets every Wednesday at at 12 p.m. Learn more about both groups here.