“I truly think peace on Earth begins with birth, and what happens at birth and postpartum really matters in the lifetime of a child and family,” says Georg’ann Cattelona, executive director of Bloomington Area Birth Services (BABS).

Founded by a pregnant Cattelona and friends in 1994, BABS’s mission is to improve the lives of mothers and babies by increasing breast-feeding rates, treating perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, providing new families with education and resources, and maintaining a safe place where families can gather for mutual support.

BABS provides services for more than 800 area families annually. These services include lactation classes, doula services (non-clinical care providing emotional, educational, and physical support from labor through six weeks after birth), prenatal and postpartum yoga, a new mothers’ support group, a lending library, and family fun nights.

“Women often make their way through the BABS doors via prenatal yoga classes,” notes Cattelona, “and from there we build a community of women and work to connect them to one another and our services.”

Says Kendra Maxwell, a mother of two, “When you walk in [to the center] for the first time, it feels like home. Everyone is so welcoming, and it’s cozy like your grandmother’s house. You can relax and let your kids play while you meet other moms, exercise, or get advice.”

The nonprofit organization (2458 S. Walnut) is funded by program fees, individual donations, grants, annual fundraisers, and BABS Boutique sales. The boutique sells baby, maternity, and breast-feeding items, as well as books and toys.

Some of BABS’s services are free while others vary in pricing. In September, its program BloomingFamilies will use supervised volunteer student doulas to help at-risk families at no charge. “Despite the best efforts, sometimes people fall through the cracks,” Cattelona says. “This on-call program will provide physical, mental, and breast-feeding support for those at risk for depression or domestic violence or presented with other unique challenges.”

BABS also hosts an annual baby fair, an educational display of parenting resources from pregnancy through preschool, in March at the Bloomington/Monroe County Convention Center.

For more information on BABS’s services or to volunteer, visit their website or call 337-8121.