Black Infant Mortality and Your Responsibility

Welcome to the Third Edition of the  Black Birth Carnival. Hosted by Darcel of  The Mahogany Way Birth Cafe and Nicole of Musings From The Mind of Sista Midwife.
The Topic: Infant Mortality Awareness: Saving OUR Babies. Many birth workers are talking about the alarming infant mortality rates in this country, but none are talking about infant mortality in the Black Community. That’s where this Blog Carnival comes in. We will talk about statistics, try to figure out why, and most importantly what we can do to help lower our infant mortality rates.
This post will be updated with live links by Noon, linking back to the other participants posts.

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If you haven’t heard by now, September is infant mortality awareness month. And if you haven’t seen the statistics yet, here is a brief overview from the Center of Minority Health….Black babies are 2-3 times more likely to die than white babies, or babies of any other ethnicity.
Maybe you’ve heard that it’s only happening to the poor black women living in the inner cities with little to no education, it’s because of poor health, lack of proper prenatal care.

Wouldn’t it be simple if that were true? Then we could all say “well their economic status has nothing to do with me” and keep it moving. That way the responsibility doesn’t fall on us. The truth is that myself, a black doctor, or a black woman living in the poorest conditions imaginable have one thing in common….we are all black women. That one factor puts us all at the same risk for losing one of our babies before their first birthday.

I have given birth to three full-term babies, all attended by white midwives, and I had proper prenatal care. My first two midwives were a little tough to deal with. I was always on edge with them and I felt completely abandoned by my first midwife. My 2nd birth the midwife seemed to not really like me towards the end of my pregnancy and while I was in labor. During my first two pregnancies I always wondered if I was treated so poorly because I was black.  The third was a dream and I’ve recommended her to several of my friends. I’m so grateful for my healthy children but sometimes wonder what it is exactly that causes another black woman to lose her child? I guess You could say its a luck of the draw between myself and the woman in this video.

More and more evidence is coming to light that racism has a significant impact on infant mortality.
As black women in this country, we are exposed to racism in the womb and it continues throughout our entire lives. I’ve heard stories of black mothers not getting breastfeeding help in the hospital because “it’s a well known fact that Black women do not breastfeed” but we know this isn’t true. I’ve heard of black women receiving less than prenatal care because “black women are super fertile and we don’t know how to keep our legs closed.” Then there’s the cashier that peers at you over the counter making sure you don’t steal anything. All of these things cause a great deal of stress on mother and baby and we all know that stress can literally kill you.

There is no excuse for the United States of America to have the infant mortality rate that it does, and there is no excuse for Black babies to die by the thousands because of racism in this country. Not when we have such an intelligent and classy Black First Lady(the first in history)and not when Blacks are fast becoming the majority population in this country.
It’s time to stop harping on black single moms, teenage moms, and black women in general. Talk is cheap and if we really want to help lower the infant mortality rate in our community  we need to band together and learn how to take care of our own.

Black women usually feel more comfortable being in the care of someone they can relate to on many levels….and this is why we need more Black Midwives, Doulas, Childbirth Educators, and Lactation Consultants. We need parenting classes that are centered on the black community being taught by black men and women.
We need groups like the Midwives Alliance of North America to recognize what a loss it is to the community to lose their entire board of Midwives of Color.

We need to create our own villages and offer support to allmothers and their unborn child. If you are pro-life then you need to sit back and think about what that really means. Are you really pro-life or just anti-abortion? To me pro-life means caring for that life before and after it’s born in every way. Are you willing to go above and beyond for your fellow sister and this child that she’s carrying? Will you cook, organize birth and breastfeeding support groups? Will you go out into your communities to serve and support that 16yr old carrying the baby that you disapprove of because she’s not married? She needs all the love and support she can get right now!  She needs to know that she is not a screw up and her life is not over….she needs to know there is a village of black women who are willing and more than ready to help meet the needs of her and her child(ren).

You don’t have to be a midwife to apply the Midwives Model of Care.
Take that statement and see how you can use it to best serve your community. It’s time that we say enough is enough-we need to work together to save OUR babies.

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Please take the time to visit the other participants posts. They are very thought-provoking and each woman has written about amazing solutions for lowering the Infant Mortality rate in the Black Community.

Amy: Health Programming and It’s Impact on Black Infant Mortality. Guest Post on Musings From The Mind of Sista Midwife.

Darcel: Black Infant Mortality and Your Responsibility. The Mahogany Way Birth Cafe

Nicole: Stop The Talking… Implement SOLUTIONS! Sista Midwife Productions

Darline Turner-Lee: Standing For Little Brown Babies By Supporting Their Mothers. Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond

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5 thoughts on “Black Infant Mortality and Your Responsibility

  1. I’m so glad you wrote on this topic! And shared your personal story too. There are so many ways to start to work this out and thank you for offering great solutions. And YES on the meaning of pro-life as ALL lives.

  2. Sooooo powerful Darcel!!! Thanks as always for sharing such wonderful insight. “You don’t have to be a midwife to apply the Midwives Model of Care.” RIGHT ON and this means we must care for our pregnant mamas everywhere and all the time. At the grocery store, in the mall, at school and at church. We have to celebrate our mothers during and after pregnancy AND we have to celebrate the babies. Its bad enough when we have the racism from others. Its important that we also learn to love ourselves. I love your paradigm of what it means to be “pro-life” . As we accept this we really can work together and save OUR babies.

  3. I agree with the need to focus on the infant mortality rate in communities of color. I also do not agree with the rate of infant mortality being a signal of economic status, marriage status, or the level of education acquired. I am a black female from the West Indies, who is married and received care from a great black OBGYN in a private hospital. My daughter’s pediatrician was a white female, and very highly recommended. My daughter and I received the best prenatal care, yet at 6 months and 2 days old, my daughter died. Autopsy could not show any cause of death. My daughter simply being black was her only risk factor for SIDS. There must be something more than just one’s blackness to explain why their perfectly healthy and thriving first born child dies.

  4. Pingback: Health Programming and Its Impact on Black Infant Mortality | Using Lessons from BIRTH to Create Inspiration for LIFE

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