BRADENTON -- One of Jane Naylor's favorite photographs shows five women and their 10 children happily crowded onto a sofa.
The cherished photograph owes its existence to the Mothers of Manatee Memorial, more affectionately known as MOMM's Place.
That's where the five women met registered nurse Katie Powers, a board-certified lactation consultant, prenatal educator, co-founder and overall spiritual leader of Momm's Place, who gave them tips on breastfeeding and myriad other aspects of being a mom at Manatee Memorial Hospital's Family BirthPlace, Naylor said.
"To us, MOMM's place was our saving grace," Naylor said of the five women, whose children were all born at Manatee Memorial Hospital. "It gave us an outlet to speak to new moms."
The five friends include Bradenton's Erika Vitiene, Anna Maria Island's Leah Loudermilk-Reeve, Parrish's Tracey Hubert, Snead Island's Sara Gaines and Bradenton's Naylor, who is originally from the United Kingdom and calls moms "mums."
MOMM's place celebrated its 20th birthday from 4-7 p.m. Thursday with a constant flow of celebratory guests at an open house in Suite 3-F in the Outpatient Services Building next to the hospital.
MOMM's Place, really just a large room with a bathroom, kitchen and office where classes and support groups meet, was decked out in balloons and extra chairs.
Powers cut a chocolate-and-white birthday cake and children ran around MOMM's Place until Powers slowed them down.
"I am just so grateful that I have been given the opportunity to be part of their lives," said Powers who wore her normal work outfit and not fancy party clothes. "I think it's great that they have been able to support each other and Manatee Memorial has supported the whole thing."
The number of moms and babies touched by MOMM's Place over the past two decades numbers in the thousands, Powers said.
Mia Stillman came to the party with her children, Alexander, 1; Katherine, 3; Victoria, 5; Marc Anthony, 6; Emily, 7; and Esmeralda, 16.
"I remember when I had my babies in the room upstairs, Katy taught me how to breastfeed my babies," Stillman said.
Patricia Rettig, who came with her three children, Valerie, 6; Regina, 8; and Melissa, 9, said she learned to breastfeed at MOMM's Place and speak English from her sister moms.
Naylor praised Powers' positive attitude.
"She's always available," Naylor said. "She's always welcoming. She never comes across as if she is busy even though she has a million things on her plate. Her knowledge is just exploding. She knows so much about babies. You might go in a panic but she soon puts you at ease and lets you know that whatever is going on, you are still a good mom.
"My daughter cried a lot and Katie taught me to swaddle," Naylor added. "Katie taught me how to help my daughter sleep at night and a lot about nursing her."
MOMM's Place started in September 1995 when Powers realized new mothers needed education.
"My director, Carolyn Pratt, and myself approached the administration here to allow us to use a vacant office that the hospital had a lease on," Powers recalled recently in her "Baby Talk" column, which appears every other week in the Herald. "We wanted to use it to create a place where we could see patients within a few days of discharge during the day and use it to teach our classes in the evening."
The third patient to the office had a headache, Powers said.
"We took her blood pressure and it was 210 over 150," Powers said. "She was close to having a stroke. She had postpartum pre-eclampsia. Her life was saved because of that visit to what we were calling Momm's Place."
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact her via Twitter@RichardDymond.