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This could be the key to lower Black mother + baby mortality rates

Black babies and moms are less likely to die if they are cared for by Black doctors.

black doctors and infant mortality rate

Becoming a mother is an amazing experience for so many, but for Black moms in the United States, the safety of the experience depends a lot on the doctors and medical staff involved. Black women in the United States are 3 to 4 times more likely than white women to die from pregnancy or childbirth-related causes. There is also a stark racial contrast when it comes to newborn baby mortality rates.

A study published this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds Black babies are less likely to die if they are cared for by Black doctors.

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According to the study, Black babies are 2 to 3 times more likely to die than white babies when white doctors are in charge of their care. Being cared for by a Black doctor almost cut the number of deaths in half.


To gather data for the study, researchers examined almost 2 million birth records in the state of Florida from 1992 to 2015. Taking into account the race of the doctor in each instance, they were able to determine the developing pattern of mortality rates for Black babies. Interestingly, the race of the doctor did not affect the outcome of the survival of white newborns. The death rate for white babies was almost 300 per 100,000 births; for Black children, it was almost 800 deaths.

The United States struggles with high infant mortality rates. According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 22,000 babies nationwide died prior to their first birthday in 2017. With 5.8 infant deaths per 1,000 births, the U.S. outpaces infant mortality rates in several countries, including Canada, France, United Kingdom, Belgium, Switzerland and the Netherlands. Singapore, Japan and Monaco are among those with the lowest infant mortality rates. Health System Tracker states that the United States' rate is 71% higher than the comparable country average.

What accounts for the huge disparity?

Along with the race of the doctor caring for the baby, other external factors can include social and economic disadvantages, environmental stress and even unconscious racism some white doctors may have towards Black mothers and their children.

"The healthcare system in the United States has to grapple with a lot of issues throughout our history related to racism that have had an impact on the trust that people have when they're interacting with the health-care system," study co-author Dr. Rachel Hardeman tells CBC News.

The physician workforce is disproportionately white

Given these stats, it makes sense that some Black moms would seek out Black doctors for their birth, but Black mothers don't always have an easy time finding a Black physician to deliver their babies. When examining diversity in medicine in 2018, the Association of American Medical Colleges found that only 5% of doctors are Black.

The role of Black midwives

Dr. Hardeman is currently researching health outcomes at a Black-owned birthing center and says "infant mortality rates "are not reflecting the disparities that we see in the rest of the state and across the country."

"What we see is that people who received care from a Black midwife in this particular research study were more likely to report being satisfied with that care, feeling like they were a partner in that care, feeling respected, feeling heard," she tells CBC.

Bottom line: Things need to change

The study notes that the "results underscore the need for research into drivers of differences between high and low performing physicians, and why Black physicians systemically outperform their colleagues when caring for Black newborns."

According to Dr. Hardeman, patients should not be afraid to ask questions of their OB-GYN or birthing center, and medical professionals should be dedicated to "listening to Black birthing people and hearing—really hearing—what they need and what they want, and centering that and allowing that to be what drives any of these efforts in any of this work forward," she explains.

LaKeisha Fleming is a proud wife and homeschooling mother to her two sons. If that's not enough to keep her busy, she’s also the founder and president of Vision 2:2 Productions, LLC, a multimedia production company that creates television, film, digital and print content. Visit her website at www.lakeishafleming.com.

I felt lost as a new mother, but babywearing helped me find myself again

I wish someone had told me before how special wearing your baby can be, even when you have no idea how to do it.

My first baby and I were alone in our Brooklyn apartment during a particularly cold spring with yet another day of no plans. My husband was back at work after a mere three weeks of parental leave (what a joke!) and all my friends were busy with their childless lives—which kept them too busy to stop by or check in (making me, at times, feel jealous).

It was another day in which I would wait for baby to fall asleep for nap number one so I could shower and get ready to attempt to get out of the house together to do something, anything really, so I wouldn't feel the walls of the apartment close in on me by the time the second nap rolled around. I would pack all the diapers and toys and pacifiers and pump and bottles into a ginormous stroller that was already too heavy to push without a baby in it .

Then I would spend so much time figuring out where we could go with said stroller, because I wanted to avoid places with steps or narrow doors (I couldn't lift the stroller by myself and I was too embarrassed to ask strangers for help—also hi, New Yorkers, please help new moms when you see them huffing and puffing up the subway stairs, okay?). Then I would obsess about the weather, was it too cold to bring the baby out? And by the time I thought I had our adventure planned, the baby would wake up, I would still be in my PJs and it was time to pump yet again.

Slowly, but surely, and mostly thanks to sleep deprivation and isolation, I began to detest this whole new mom life. I've always been a social butterfly. I moved to New York because I craved that non-stop energy the city has and in the years before having my baby I amassed new friends I made through my daily adventures. I would never stop. I would walk everywhere just to take in the scenery and was always on the move.

Now I had this ball and chain attached to me, I thought, that didn't even allow me to make it out of the door to walk the dog. This sucks, I would think regularly, followed by maybe I'm not meant to be a mom after all.


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Motherly editors’ 7 favorite hacks for organizing their diaper bags

Make frantically fishing around for a diaper a thing of the past!

As any parent knows, the term "diaper bag" only scratches the surface. In reality, this catchall holds so much more: a change of clothes, bottles, snacks, wipes and probably about a dozen more essential items.

Which makes finding the exact item you need, when you need it (read: A diaper when you're in public with a blowout on your hands) kind of tricky.

That's why organization is the name of the game when it comes to outings with your littles. We pooled the Motherly team of editors to learn some favorite hacks for organizing diaper bags. Here are our top tips.

1. Divide and conquer with small bags

Here's a tip we heard more than a few times: Use smaller storage bags to organize your stuff. Not only is this helpful for keeping related items together, but it can also help keep things from floating around in the expanse of the larger diaper bag. These bags don't have to be anything particularly fancy: an unused toiletry bag, pencil case or even plastic baggies will work.

2. Have an emergency changing kit

When you're dealing with a diaper blowout situation, it's not the time to go searching for a pack of wipes. Instead, assemble an emergency changing kit ahead of time by bundling a change of baby clothes, a fresh diaper, plenty of wipes and hand sanitizer in a bag you can quickly grab. We're partial to pop-top wipes that don't dry out or get dirty inside the diaper bag.

3. Simplify bottle prep

Organization isn't just being able to find what you need, but also having what you need. For formula-feeding on the go, keep an extra bottle with the formula you need measured out along with water to mix it up. You never know when your outing will take longer than expected—especially with a baby in the mix!

4. Get resealable snacks

When getting out with toddlers and older kids, snacks are the key to success. Still, it isn't fun to constantly dig crumbs out of the bottom of your diaper bag. Our editors love pouches with resealable caps and snacks that come in their own sealable containers. Travel-sized snacks like freeze-dried fruit crisps or meal-ready pouches can get an unfair reputation for being more expensive, but that isn't the case with the budget-friendly Comforts line.

5. Keep a carabiner on your keychain

You'll think a lot about what your child needs for an outing, but you can't forget this must-have: your keys. Add a carabiner to your keychain so you can hook them onto a loop inside your diaper bag. Trust us when we say it's a much better option than dumping out the bag's contents on your front step to find your house key!

6. Bundle your essentials

If your diaper bag doubles as your purse (and we bet it does) you're going to want easy access to your essentials, too. Dedicate a smaller storage bag of your diaper bag to items like your phone, wallet and lip balm. Then, when you're ready to transfer your items to a real purse, you don't have to look for them individually.

7. Keep wipes in an outer compartment

Baby wipes aren't just for diaper changes: They're also great for cleaning up messy faces, wiping off smudges, touching up your makeup and more. Since you'll be reaching for them time and time again, keep a container of sensitive baby wipes in an easily accessible outer compartment of your bag.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on www.comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

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Becoming a mother has been life-changing. It's been hard, tiring, gratifying, beautiful, challenging, scary and a thousand other things that only a parent would ever understand.

It is these life-changing experiences that have inspired me to draw my everyday life as a stay at home mom. Whether it's the mundane tasks like doing laundry or the exciting moments of James', my baby boy's, first steps, I want to put it down on paper so that I can better cherish these fleeting moments that are often overlooked.

Being a stay-at-home-mom can be incredibly lonely. I like to think that by drawing life's simple moments, I can connect with other mothers and help them feel less alone. By doing this, I feel less alone, too. It's a win-win situation and I have been able to connect with many lovely parents and fellow parent-illustrators through my Instagram account.

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