Resources and Support for Black Maternal Health

NPR reports that, “Black women in the United States are 243 percent more likely than white women to die of pregnancy or childbirth related causes. There’s evidence that shows this gap is caused by the “weathering” effects of racism. Weathering is a term coined for stress-induced wear and tear on the body.” This statistic is true across all socioeconomic classes because “it’s a type of stress for which education and class provide no protection.”

There are amazing organizations working to improve outcomes for Black birthing people and we’ve compiled a list of places you can learn more as well as offer your support. Please leave any additional organizations or resources in the comments and we will continue to update this post.

Photo by Mustafa Omar on Unsplash

Organizations Supporting Black Maternal Health

  • National Birth Equity Collaborative (https://birthequity.org/): Creates solutions that optimize Black maternal and infant health through training, policy advocacy, research and community-centered collaboration. Donate here. Follow on instagram @birthequity and facebook
  • The Black Maternal Health Caucus (https://blackmaternalhealthcaucus-underwood.house.gov/Momnibus): Aims to raise awareness within Congress to establish black maternal health as a national priority and explore and advocate for effective, evidence-based, culturally-competent policies and best practices for health outcomes for black mothers.
  • The Blavatnik Family Women’s Health Research Institute (https://icahn.mssm.edu/research/womens-health): Optimizing quality of care for women across the life span and narrowing gaps in treatment and outcomes in underserved populations
  • ROOT, Restoring our own Through Transformation (https://www.roottrj.org/): Black women-led reproductive justice organization dedicated to collectively restoring our well-being through self-determination, collaboration, and resources to meet the needs of women and families within communities. Donate here
  • Black Women for Wellness: Black Women for Wellness has been working for over 20 years for maternal and infant health for Black women. Programs include nutrition education, chronic disease prevention, breast cancer support, reproductive justice, environmental justice, sexual health education, civic engagement and policy work.
Photo by Taylor Wright on Unsplash

Education and Community Resources

  • Mamas of Color Rising (https://mamasofcolorrising.wordpress.com/): A collective of working class and poor mothers of color around Austin, TX interested in organizing women/mamas of color around issues with accessing needs and building ideal community together. Donate here
  • Black Midwives Alliance Train and organize midwives to serve as advocates to address disparities in maternal health care that impact black birthing people. Central goal is to have a representative voice at the national level that clearly outlines and supports the various needs and interests of Black midwives.
  • My Brown Baby (http://mybrownbaby.com/): Providing service for those who need information and helping sort through the “beautiful struggle that comes with being black parents in America”. Follow on instagram @mybrownbaby and facebook
  • How does Racism Affect Pregnant Women and Babies?: (npr.org) video

Mental Health

Doula Education and Services for the Black Community

  • Sista Midwife Productions (https://www.sistamidwife.com/): Doula training and education for Black community. Follow on instagram @sistamidwife and facebook
  • National Black Doula Association (https://www.blackdoulas.org/): Overall mission is to help fight the Black Maternal Mortality rate in the U.S. and beyond, through education empowerment. Provides a professional business directory and resource for Black Doulas & Trainers in the childbirth industry.
  • The Black Doula Project: Providing free doulas to Black parents in DC and Baltimore. Donate here. Follow on instagram @blackdoulaproject
  • Why maternal outcomes are worse for Black women and what doulas are doing about it: (nyc lens) video

Articles/Reports

Books

Podcasts

  • Natal: A Docuseries about having a baby while Black in the United States.
  • Homecoming Podcast: At Homecoming, we address two myths: 1) Hospitals are the safest place to give birth and 2) Black families don’t birth at home. We broadcast how Black families birth in love and choose to birth at home, unassisted or with midwives.
  • Birth Stories in Color: Birth Stories in Color is a podcast for people of color to share their birthing experiences- a space that specifically celebrates, mourns with and supports people of color and their transformation through birth.
  • Sisters in Loss podcast: Sisters in Loss is dedicated to replacing silence with storytelling around pregnancy and infant loss and infertility of Black women.

Year in the Life Documentary Photography with Heather Gallagher

This past year I had the amazing privilege of getting to work with Heather Gallagher to document our family from the end of my pregnancy through Harvey’s first birthday. I love that Heather offers this “year in the life” photography package because it focuses more on how the whole family changes and grows over a year rather than the more typical baby milestone photo packages I’d seen before. We have two older children and this year was HUGE for them in terms of changes and I’m so grateful to have these priceless images to remember our whole family unit over the course of the year that we welcomed baby number three into the fold.

If you are in the Austin area, I highly recommend Heather Gallagher not only for this year-in-the-life package but for any of your photography needs (especially birth photography!). She also travels for photo sessions from time to time!

Heather is also a full spectrum doula which you can learn more about by reaching out to her at heather@heathergallagherphotography.com or following her on Instagram @lifesaspectrum.

Heather and I first met at the Born into This conference in 2018

Maternity Photos

Our first photo session was a maternity photo shoot at the Austin Public Library which is one of our favorite places to explore together. The kids quickly became comfortable with Heather and were up to their typical silly antics.

Birth Photography

The next time we saw Heather was for the birth! She arrived just 40 minutes or so before Harvey was born and probably would’ve missed it if she hadn’t had the foresight to be hanging around the area ‘just in case’ which I’m forever grateful for! Birth photos are the most beautiful images in the world and I look back at mine often. It can be hard to remember the details when you’re in “laborland” and having all of the little moments captured is not only really special but has also helped me in the processing of my birth story.

Postpartum Photo Session

Heather came back a few days later for a Postpartum shoot which really captures our big kids and how they were changing as they stepped into their new roles.

Two Months Old Photo Session

We had another photo shoot when Harvey was about 2 months old and It’s really special because we actually ended up moving soon after so I love having these images in the home that he was born in.

6 Months Old Photo Session

When Harvey was six months old, we had a photo session at our new home and I also got to model some of my sweet friend Hailey’s breastfeeding clothes from Chapter Goods. This are definitely my most favorite photos of nursing which is such a huge part of my journey as a mother and feels extra tender this time since we don’t plan to have any more babies.

9 Months Old at our Favorite Brewery

This is one of my favorite sessions which is so funny because it was actually pretty short and really casual! My kids were in a great mood and we were all in our happy place: Jester King Brewery in Austin. I loved that we captured the short window where Adelaide’s two front teeth were missing and Harvey had changed SO much since 6 months old!

One Year Old Birthday Photo Session

We finished our year together with Heather capturing Harvey’s 1st Birthday party! Of course I love all of the images but more than that, it was so nice to not have to worry about where my phone was so I could be taking pictures as well and I am in way more of the photos than I would’ve been as well. I think it helped keep everyone else off of their phones as well especially when it came time for the smash cake—I noticed that everyone didn’t do the typical thing of all trying to film this moment because they knew Heather had it covered.

It’s so surreal to have more than a year captured of our family and putting together this blog post was so much fun as I went back through all of the images. It was defiitely hard to pick my favorites and I’m sure my favorites will change over time! I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into a year in the life of our little family! If you are in the Austin area, I highly recommend Heather Gallagher not only for this year-in-the-life package but for any of your photography needs (especially birth photography!). Heather is also a full spectrum doula which you can learn more about by reaching out to her at heather@heathergallagherphotography.com or following her on Instagram @lifesaspectrum. Thank you Heather!!!

Our Favorite Baby Sleep Products

It’s amazing how many new products have popped up since my last baby was born 6 years ago. With baby #3 and working in the baby industry, I got to try a lot of new products as well as some old favorites. I wanted to round them all up to share with you. Let me know in the comments if you have any questions about any of them.

Create a Good Sleep Environment for Baby

When your baby is first born they will need SO much sleep that they can pass out just about anywhere… usually on your chest after a feeding. But as they get older, you’ll want to put some thought into creating a proper sleep environment for them.

Diffuse Essential Oils in Baby’s Room

I got really into essential oils during my pregnancy and especially found so much support from them for my sleep. So of course I was excited to try some of the gentler oils with baby. We only use Young Living essential oils because they are 100% pure therapeutic grade and honestly just work better than any other brands I’ve tried. When baby was still sleeping with us we’d just diffuse one or two drops of lavender, frankincense, or a blend called Gentle Baby right before bed. Now that he’s in his own room we do the same and have since discovered that he seems to sleep really well with White Angelica or Peace & Calming. Most of these oils come in the Young Living Starter Kit if you want more info about getting started.

crane humidifier

Use a Cool Mist Humidifier

Babies only breathe through their noses so if they are congested it’s very difficult for them to get good sleep. We love Crane’s cool mist humidifiers (the cool mist part is really important) because they are super easy to use and clean and are freaking adorable. They come in all different animal themes as well as sleep drop styles. We’ve been partnering with Crane for quite a while and they offer the coupon code BIRTH19 to my audience for $10 off +free shipping.

Make the Room Super Dark

Babies are used to complete darkness in your womb and they like a dark room to sleep in too. I know when they are brand new they can sleep anywhere and anytime but as they get older you’re going to want to create a dark room which is easy to do with some quality blackout curtains.

Use a White Noise Machine

Again, babies are used the loud white noise of being in your belly so they love a good, loud white noise machine. Not all of these are created equal and you definitely don’t want songs or nature sounds. I interviewed a sleep expert on the podcast and they actually said pink noise is best. My favorite ones are from Lectrofan.

Baby loungers

My husband and I have chosen to co-sleep with all three of our kids for the first six months or so. With our first two children we just had them in bed with us and practiced safe co-sleeping guidelines. With our new baby we tried out a couple of baby loungers. There are many brands on the market from large and small companies but the two we had were the DockaTot and the SnuggleMe Organic. We like them both for different reasons. The SnuggleMe really hugs baby and keeps their knees up with baby’s love when they are having tummy troubles. The DockATot has a bottom to it so it was more comfortable for travel with we would put baby down in it on the hard floor. We also ended up using the DockATot longer because it felt like he grew out of the SnuggleMe faster.

compare baby loungers

Swaddles and Sleep Sacks

Ok there are a million different swaddling and sleep sack options on the market so it can be hard to know what to use and they aren’t exactly cheap either. Luckily once you find one your baby loves, you really only need two. Here’s what worked best for us.

types of baby swaddles

Getting Baby to Sleep While Traveling

I discovered a couple of products to make travel more easy this time around and am excited to share them!

  • Slumberpod Blackout tent for playyard – This one is a GAME CHANGER you guys. I think of all of the times we tried to squeeze our older kids pack n plays into a hotel bathroom and wonder why it took so long for someone to invent this!? You can use the code birthhour for $10 off too! It’s on backorder a lot but they will notify you when it’s back in stock!
  • Travel blackout curtain – if you aren’t going to use the Slumberpod, there’s also a great travel blackout curtain that suctions to any window.
  • Portable white noise machine – I love this rechargeable white noise machine for on the go. You can use this next to their bed but also in the car, strollers etc.
  • Doona Carseat that converts to a stroller – This is one of my favorite baby products on the market right now. It is definitely pricey but if you are going to register for one big ticket item then I can’t recommend this enough. Or go for the $80 ikea crib (we love ours) and then spring for the Doona carseat/stroller! Not only does it make short trips in and out of the store WAY easier, it also helps baby stay asleep when you don’t have to fumble with a travel system or take them out of the carseat to put into a stroller.
  • Baby carrier – There are so many options and everyone will have different preferences here. We’ve been using Ergobaby carriers for all three kids and still love them and you can’t go wrong with a snuggly wrap for the newborn days.

Remember, All Babies are Different

It’s good to keep in mind that no two babies are going to have the same sleep habits but having some awesome products on hand will hopefully help! I also highly recommend Taking Cara Babies sleep course for newborns and older babies and the Happiest Baby on the Block.

Perifit Pelvic Floor Exerciser Review

I love that we are discussing pelvic floor health more and more especially with moms postpartum. In many countries it is standard practice to visit a pelvic floor therapist after having a baby and while that isn’t the case here in the United States, there are more and more therapists available. I’m always happy to get the message out that if you are experiencing symptoms related to your pelvic floor after having a baby, you do not need to just ‘deal with it’.

I recommend looking for a pelvic floor therapist and doing some of your own at-home therapy as well. I’m always recommending the MUTU system for an at home program and I myself have really loved it. Recently, I also had the opportunity to try the Perifit Pelvic Floor Trainer as the company sent me one to review.

From their website, “Perifit is an FDA-approved medical device that is recommended by doctors to prevent prolapse and incontinence, eliminate the need to wear pads permanently, aid quick recovery from childbirth and surgery, regain core strength and bladder control, and enhance confidence in the bedroom.”

From my own personal perspective, it’s also just fun to use compared! You insert the device into your vagina and then it connects with an app that you play games with your pelvic muscles to move your “player”. It’s kind of hard to explain but go here to watch how it works. I’m not even someone who typically likes video games but this was surprisingly really satisfying to advance to the next level on—maybe because I know that I’m actually doing something good for my body in the process.

perifit

Kegels aren’t all that great for you

Many of us have always heard to do kegels… the way I learned was to practice the feeling of stopping the stream of urine but it turns out that that isn’t all that good for strengthening your pelvic floor, plus it’s boring! So, the difference with the Perifit is that you also work on the action of relaxing your pelvic floor muscles and contracting them. Plus, the device can tell you the difference between the use of your deeper muscles versus the superficial ones.

My favorite part is that you get real-time feedback so you know how you’re improving. It really helped me to better understand how to do pelvic floor exercises since you can try different things and then see in the app whether you’re improving or not rather than just listening to someone describe what to do.

Programs for your stage in life

They have a few different programs to choose from including: postpartum, stress/urge incontinence, intimate well-being and preventative. I’m working my way through the postpartum program right now and feel quite the sense of accomplishment when I move up to the next level! I only spend about 10-15 minutes a day doing the games and noticed an improvement within about 3 weeks (I may have missed some days in there but I TRY to do it every day). You can set the app to send you reminders to play the games too!

I definitely recommend the Perifit if you’re struggling with any pelvic floor issues and think it would benefit just about any mom postpartum. Of course it’s always a good idea to consult with your care provider if you have any questions.

You can use the coupon code TheBirthHour10 for 10% off your purchase. I was gifted the Perifit to review and was not compensated in any other way. I only recommend products to you that I truly love and all opinions expressed are my own.

Family of Five

Capturing Our Family at Home

We’re a couple months into our Year in the Life documentary photography package with Heather Gallagher and I’m in love with the most recent images. The package started with maternity photos, then birth photos and will culminate with Harvey’s 1st birthday. I just know this year is going to fly by (as they tend to do) and I’m so excited to have so many memories captured by Heather.

This most recent session was a more intentional family session with a few posed shots (kind of necessary to get all five of us in one frame!) but we were still in the comfort of our home where our kids were free to be themselves (for better or worse ha!). I’m not a fan of props or background setups for family photos and I NEVER buy the school photos because they just don’t truly capture my children.

Heather has such a great eye (and timing!) for snapping photographs that I will always cherish. Here are a few of my favorites from our most recent session. Contact her via her website or Instagram for all the details!

How and When to Introduce a Bottle

This is a topic many parents forget to prepare for and then are in full on panic mode when their 3-month-old refuses a bottle and the breastfeeding mama can’t even get one night out with friends or struggles with returning to work. So we’ve created a free video for you all about this topic! You’ll definitely want your partner to watch this one too because often they are the one giving a bottle while you grab a quick shower! Click here to watch!

how and when to introduce a bottle