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Black mothers are at greater risk for pregnancy + childbirth issues

At the very beginning of my pre-pregnancy journey, I made it my mission to seek out as much information as I could about pregnancy. I devoured my favorite baby book, highlighting studies that peaked my interest so that I could look them up later. The part of me that worried over the smallest detail was soothed by the data I found.


Yet nothing in my research told me that, as a black woman, I was at higher risk to lose not only my baby, but my own life.

I'm a professional woman with two degrees and a salaried job, with access to some of the best medical care in the country, and yet my risks were higher than they should be—although I didn't understand just how high until after my daughter was born. The statistics are dire when it comes to mother and infant mortality for black women.

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According to the CDC, I was up to four times more likely to lose my life during or after my pregnancy, compared to my white friends who were pregnant at the same time. That frightening stat is among a series highlighted in a recent New York Times Magazine report that has brought much-needed attention to the issue.

"Black infants in America are now more than twice as likely to die as white infants … a racial disparity that is actually wider than in 1850," journalist Linda Villarosa wrote.

Despite my upper middle-class lifestyle and advanced degree, statistically I was at greater risk of losing my daughter compared to a white woman with a poorer, less educated background. Indeed, this issue impacts even incredibly wealthy black women, as tennis star Serena Williams' birth story illustrates. Even with all the resources she has at her disposal, Williams says she was initially not taken seriously by medical providers when, shortly after giving birth, she voiced concerns about signs of a pulmonary embolism.

Williams' story of being ignored is all too common among black mothers. Black women like me have higher risks for preeclampsia and eclampsia, but as a series of stories collected by ProPublica and NPR demonstrate, black mothers often report being ignored by medical providers when symptoms arise.

When a mother's concern is not taken seriously, complications can develop and are too often fatal.

So why aren't we being heard? We're often treated by health care professionals who, as the Washington Post reported, believe in inaccurate stereotypes of black patients, like our skin is thicker or we feel less pain compared to other races. It all comes together to form a perfect storm, one that black mothers and black babies are paying for with their lives.

I was lucky. Even before I knew the true scope of these statistics, I preferred an approach to health care that some say reduces risks for black mothers: I opted for a midwife service instead of a traditional OB. My pregnancy was relatively easy, only plagued by heartburn that grew progressively worse as my baby grew. I also hired a doula, because I wanted extra support in the delivery room, since my mother (who lives out of state) would most likely not be at my daughter's birth. This is something New York State is now promoting in an effort to save the lives of Black mothers.

Continuity of care and having someone to advocate on your behalf can make a big difference for a mother facing birth complications. I often reminded my husband that he had my permission to do whatever he needed to do to advocate for me if was unable to advocate for myself during labor & delivery.

My labor started out as pretty typical, until I stalled and refused to dilate further. After laboring for 36 hours, my husband and I advocated for a C-section, and my medical team agreed. Our daughter was born perfectly healthy, though she spent her first night in the critical care unit. I spent three days in the hospital before discharge, and even had a home nurse visit to check both me and the baby.

When I later learned the harrowing birth statistics for black women, my first reaction was shock. How could it be that so many other women, women exactly like me, were now gone? How can I protect myself and my future child from a dire outcome?

I don't have the questions to those answers yet. But I am encouraged that there are teams of people – from doctors and researchers to doulas and community health organizations – who are all looking at this problem and trying to solve it. I've shared the information I've learned with my networks in an effort to bring more attention and arm other mothers with information that could save their lives.

I'm encouraged to learn about doula networks across the country, and even in the Twin Cities where I make my home, that are committed to providing black women the support they need during and after pregnancy.

When we know these horrible statistics we can change them, and that will save mothers and their babies.

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After 4 kids, this is still the best baby gear item I’ve ever purchased

I wouldn't be swooning over the BABYBJÖRN bouncer after eight years and four kids if it didn't work.

I have four kids 8 and under, so you might expect that my house is teeming with baby gear and kid toys.

But it turns out that for me, the more kids I have, the more I simplify our stuff. At this point, I'm down to the absolute essentials, the gear that I can't live without and the toys my kids actually play with. And so when a mama-to-be asks me what things are worth registering for, there are only a few must-haves on my list.

The BABYBJÖRN bouncer seat is on the top of my list—totally worth it and an absolute must-have for any new mama.

In fact, since I first splurged on my first BABYBJÖRN bouncer eight years ago (it definitely felt like a splurge at the time, but the five star reviews were really compelling), the bouncer seat has become the most-used product in our house for baby's first year.

We've actually invested in a second one so that we didn't have to keep moving ours from the bedroom to the living room when we change locations.

BABYBJÖRN bouncer bliss

baby bjorn bouncer

The utility of the seat might seem counterintuitive—it has no mechanical parts, so your baby is instead gently bounced by her own movements. In a world where many baby products are touted for their ability to mechanically rock baby to sleep, I get that many moms might not find the "no-motion" bouncer that compelling. But it turns out that the seat is quite reactive to baby's little kicks, and it has helped my kids to learn how to self-soothe.

$200

Lightweight + compact:

The BABYBJÖRN bouncer is super lightweight, and it also folds flat in a second. Because of those features, we've frequently stored it under the couch, in a suitcase or in the back of the car. It folds completely flat, which I love.

Entertainment zone:

Is the toy bar worth it? The toy bar is totally worth it. Not only is the toy bar adorable, but it's one of the first toys that my babies actually play with once they discover the world beyond my boobs. The toys spin and are close to eye level so they have frequently kept my baby entertained while I cook or take a quick shower.

Great style:

This is not a small detail to me–the BABYBJÖRN bouncer is seriously stylish. I am done with baby gear and toys that make my house look like a theme park. The elegant European design honestly just looks good in my living room and I appreciate that parents can enjoy it as much as baby.

It's adjustable:

With three height settings that let you prop baby up to be entertained, or lay back to rest, we get years of use. And the bouncer can actually be adjusted for bigger kids and used from newborn to toddler age. It's that good.

It just works:

I wouldn't be swooning over the BABYBJÖRN bouncer after eight years and four kids if it didn't work. But I have used the seat as a safe space to put baby while I've worked (I once rocked my baby in it with my foot while I reported on a breaking news story for the Washington Post), and as a cozy spot for my second child to lay while his big brother played nearby. It's held up for almost a decade with almost-constant use.

So for me, looking back on what I thought was a splurge eight years ago, was actually one of the best investments in baby gear I ever made.

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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9 products that will help baby sleep better (and longer!)

For many parents, attempting naps and bedtime can seem like a never-ending cycle of rocking, shushing and hoping for some kind of magic sleep solution.

How do I get my baby to sleep? This is one of the most commonly asked questions among new parents, and it makes sense, given that babies are born with their days and nights mixed up. For many parents, attempting naps and bedtime can seem like a never-ending cycle of rocking, shushing and hoping for some kind of magic sleep solution.

And while that might not exist (yet), we have found some of the best products out there that can help baby fall asleep faster and for longer durations. Because when baby is sleeping, so are you!

Dreamland Baby weighted sleep sack and swaddle

Designed by a mama, parents swear by this weighted sleep sack. It mimics your hug to give your baby security and comfort that helps them get to sleep faster and stay asleep longer. The detachable swaddle wing makes it easy to transition as they grow.

It's also super easy to get on and off, and includes a bottom-up zipper for late night changes, so you don't have to wake your baby in the process.

$79

Yogasleep Hushh portable sound machine

Yogasleep hushh sound machine

With three soothing options, this is a perfect solution to help your baby settle when naps are on the go and during travel! I love how compact this noise machine is and that it can run all night with one charge.

$30

Bebe au Lait muslin crib sheets

Burt's Bees Organic Crib Sheets

With a variety of print options to choose from, these breathable sheets are *so* soft and smooth, even through multiple washes. The luxury fabric keeps little ones warm without overheating—a formula that helps ensure more sleep for everyone.

$32

The Simple Folk perfect pajamas

The Simple Folk perfect pajamas

You know what's going to help baby have their best sleep ever? Some quality, super soft pajamas. The timeless (and aptly named!) Perfect Pajama from The Simple Folk are some of our favorites. They last forever and they're made from organic pima cotton that is safe on baby's precious skin. They come in a wide range of sizes so siblings can match and feature fold-over hand covers on sizes up to 12 months.

$37

The Snoo bassinet

Snoo

Designed by expert pediatrician and sleep guru Dr. Harvey Karp, the Snoo bassinet gently rocks your baby to sleep while snuggled up in the built-in swaddle. Not only does it come with sensors that adjust the white noise and movement based on your baby's needs, there is also an app that allows you to adjust the settings directly from your phone.

While this item is a bit on the expensive side, there is now an option to rent for $3.50 a day, which is a total game changer!

$1295

Hatch Baby Rest sound machine + nightlight

best baby sound machine

The Hatch Baby Rest is a dual sound machine and nightlight that will grow with your family. Many parents use this product with their infants as a white-noise machine and then as a "time to rise" solution for toddlers.

The thing I love most about this product is that the light it gives off isn't too bright, and you can even select different color preferences; giving your toddler choices at bedtime.

$59.99

Crane humidifier

Crane Humidifier

The only thing worse than a sick baby is a baby who is sick and not sleeping well. The Crane humidifier helps take care of this by relieving congestion and helping your baby breathe better while sleeping.

Personally, I think the adorable design options alone are enough of a reason to purchase this product, and your child will love watching steam come out of the elephant's trunk!

$46.99

Naturepedic organic crib mattress

Naturpedic Lightweight Organic Mattress

In the first few months of life, babies can spend up to 17 hours a day sleeping, so choosing a mattress that is safe (read: no chemicals!) and comfortable is incredibly important.

Naturepedic uses allergen-friendly and waterproof materials with babies and children in mind, making them easy to clean and giving you peace of mind.

$259.00

Happiest Baby sleepea 5-second swaddle

best baby swaddle

There are baby swaddles and then there is Sleepea. Similar to the brand's swaddle that is built into the Snoo, the Sleepea is magic for multiple reasons. First, it's got mesh panels ensuring baby never overheats. Second, the zipper zips from the top or the bottom, so you can change the baby's diaper in the middle of the night without ever waking them. Third, it's hip safe. Fourth, the patterns are SO cute. And fifth, the interior swaddle wrap that keeps baby's ams down has a "quiet" velcro that won't wake baby if you need to readjust while they're asleep.

$27.95

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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It's science: Why your baby stops crying when you stand up

A fascinating study explains why.

When your baby is crying, it feels nearly instinctual to stand up to rock, sway and soothe them. That's because standing up to calm babies is instinctual—driven by centuries of positive feedback from calmed babies, researchers have found.

"Infants under 6 months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease, compared with holding by a sitting mother," say authors of a 2013 study published in Current Biology.

Even more striking: This coordinated set of actions—the mother standing and the baby calming—is observed in other mammal species, too. Using pharmacologic and genetic interventions with mice, the authors say, "We identified strikingly similar responses in mouse pups as defined by immobility and diminished ultrasonic vocalizations and heart rate."

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