Mamas on Bedrest: Standing for Little Brown Babies by Supporting Their Mamas

September 18th, 2012

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 linking back to the other participants posts


I have a real thing for little brown babies. Having had two of my own, I can honestly say that they are the most precious (and most beautiful) beings in the world to me. Having also lost two pregnancies, sadly I also know the pain of losing precious souls.

It’s hard to believe that the United States has one of the higher infant mortality rates in the world, with African American babies dying at nearly 2-3 times the rate of White and Latino infants.  According to the Office of Minority Health, a unit within the US Department of Health and Human Services,

African Americans have 2.3 times the infant mortality rate as non-Hispanic whites. They are three times as likely to die as infants due to complications related to low birth weight as compared to non-Hispanic white infants.

  • African Americans had twice the sudden infant death syndrome mortality rate as non-Hispanic whites, in 2008.
  • African American mothers were 2.3 times more likely than non-Hispanic white mothers to begin prenatal care in the 3rd trimester, or not receive prenatal care at all.
  • The infant mortality rate for African American mothers with over 13 years of education was almost three times that of Non-Hispanic White mothers in 2005.

The OMH website goes on to list all the data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding infant mortality in the United States. At all indices, African American infants fare far worse than their White or Latino counterparts.

The statistics are alarming, yet I encourage you to read through them. I believe that change in the African American community-whether it’s regarding infant mortality, maternal mortality, health care delivery disparities, crime, homicide or anything else-is going to have to be an inside job. It is all well and good for university researchers to study what is going on in African American communities. It is fine if news outlets want to report on activities going on in African American communities. But little to none of these analyses makes one hill of beans difference if they are doing nothing to change the situation on the ground, and by my observations they aren’t doing much. Raising awareness is good but action is imperative.

I recently wrote a blog post called, Mamas on Bedrest: I’m Pro-Action! It engendered a lot of controversy because people felt that I was politicizing birth, bringing in the Pro-Life/Pro-Choice debate. I’ll admit that I chose the term “Pro-Action” as an attention grabber, but the meaning I’ve placed behind it is entirely different.

“Pro-Action” is a term that I believe we all have to embrace. So often in our culture, we vent “righteous indignation” over one thing or another, yet we fail to act on our beliefs. I believe failure to act is in large part responsible for the demise of our communities and our culture. Being “Pro-Action” means putting movement behind the lip service and working to effect change.

After reading the statistics on infant mortality in African American infants, you might sit back with a feeling of helplessness and hopelessness. It is a daunting problem and one that as individuals cannot possibly tackle effectively. But as individuals in collective, we can make an enormous impact. So how does one become “Pro-Action”? What does that look like when working to curb infant mortality?

  • It’s working within your immediate neighborhood, community or congregation to assist mothers who are pregnant. Perhaps you give them a ride to their prenatal visits or watch their children so that they make it to visits unencumbered (we all know that even pregnant, you can move faster without the little ones along!).
  • If mamas are on bed rest (my particular soft spot), it’s going by their homes and making sure that they have healthy meals and groceries, making sure that they are comfortable, talking to them, reassuring them, helping around their homes and with their children and family responsibilities.
  • It’s talking openly and honestly to teenagers about sex and contraception. Let’s face it, the “sex outside of marriage is a sin” speech ain’t workin’ and hasn’t worked for decades. I think it’s time for a new approach (just my opinion here).
  • It’s educating teen-aged girls about why teen pregnancy is not a good idea. Again, address not only the moral arguments, but also address the concrete data in the medical literature that clearly shows that teenagers have higher rates of maternal and infant mortality. Contrary to popular beliefs, pregnancy is not a benign condition. Many things can and do go wrong and they tend to go wrong in the extremes-amongst young girls under 20 and women over 40.
  • It’s grassroots organization like Mamas of Color Rising here in Austin, TX. This group of low income African American and Latina mamas has come together to train birth attendants of color to be with mamas of color as they labor and deliver. They are supporting and training midwives of color who will attend births of low income mamas of color. They have lobbied for and are on the crest of seeing rules changes in the Medicaid laws of Texas such that Midwives will be able to care for and attend to pregnant women on Medicaid and be reimbursed for their services. And in just mere weeks, this dynamic group of mamas will see the grand opening of a free prenatal clinic for low income women of color who will be able to receive prenatal care in the midwifery model. Yes, these mamas are definitely “Pro-Action”!

I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture. Pick an area that pricks your heart and then Take Action! Get out and get involved. If each one of us becomes involved in each of our respective communities, soon, our efforts and our reach will coalesce and we’ll find that we are one large collective effecting change on a grand scale.

This Blog Carnival is once such example of change in action. Let’s keep the ball rolling and all be “Pro-Action” for our mamas, our babies and our communities.

Other Posts in this Carnival

Health Programming and It’s Impact on Black Infant MortalityBy Amy Hereford

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

Stop The Talking…Implement Solutions! By SistaMidwife Productions


6 responses to “Mamas on Bedrest: Standing for Little Brown Babies by Supporting Their Mamas”

  1. Tanashia says:

    Pro-Action…….I LOVE it! Thank you.

  2. Divine says:

    Great post! What you just listed are a few things I’ve been supporting and doing in my community. I think when we focus on the things we CAN do and know that we have a responsibility to do these things if we want to save Black babies, outcomes will change for the better.

  3. THANK YOU Darline for calling all of us to the carpet on this topic. As I mentioned in my post as well… it is certain time for us to stop simply talking about the problem and get to real ACTION that creates positive change. We all have the power to do something and if we dont care enough to save OUR babies, how can we be angry when others don’t. Thanks for your significant contribution to this edition of the Black Birth Carnival!

  4. Darline says:

    That is my point exactly! No one person can do it all. The problem is just too expansive. And it’s really too expansive to attack with just one agency or organization.
    But if we all do just a little bit, we’ll get there. That’s all, just a little bit. you do your thing, I’ll do mine. someone else does a bit more….Soon, the problem is not a mountain
    but a managable mole hill. Thanks for your efforts.

  5. […] directly from Mama’s on Bedrest gathered from the Office of Minority Health Share this:Digg Pin ItShare on TumblrEmailLike […]

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