University of Wisconsin-Madison Prevention Research Center staff recently connected with Dalvery Blackwell, the Executive Director and co-founder of the African American Breastfeeding Network (AABN), to chat about how COVID-19 is impacting AABN and the families they work with.
The African American Breastfeeding Network (AABN) has been operating in Milwaukee for eleven years to improve maternal and child health and to champion breastfeeding equity. To work toward this mission, AABN advocates for system policy changes, partners with community allies, and implements community-based and family-centered health education and support services. You can learn more about AABN and their work by visiting their website aabnetwork.org.
AABN Staff Quickly Began Supporting Moms and Families Virtually
When the World Health Organization first declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic in March, AABN swiftly reorganized all of their work to be done virtually. All staff began working remotely and offering all classes and support services virtually to minimize the spread of the virus while ensuring all moms would be supported through pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. AABN staff typically visit moms in their homes and hospitals, but now staff members are working to stay connected to moms virtually and encourage moms to birth with a birth worker or doula. Not only has AABN provided all programming and support virtually, but staff members are also ensuring moms and families feel comfortable and confident in accessing virtual services. The AABN staff say it is important, now more than ever, to connect with moms to get them up-to-date, trusted health information while keeping communities socially connected.
Despite COVID, AABN is Offering New Programming and More Support for Moms
AABN is using a rapid-response model to meet the needs of moms and host events virtually to help mothers and families stay connected while keeping their health and the baby’s health at the forefront. In March, AABN was preparing to hold their in-person, monthly community breastfeeding gathering and begin training doulas as ambassadors through the organization’s Community Doula Initiative, funded by Wisconsin Partnership Program at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. All programming is now being held virtually. Doula Ambassadors will work with community-based-organizations to convey the messages of the positive impact of doula-assisted-births. In June AABN’s Community Breastfeeding Gathering focused on how mothers can build their support base for breastfeeding during COVID-19. Starting this month, the Father2Father Empowerment Group is bringing together experienced fathers with first-time fathers to build community, mentorship, and initiate conversations with fathers about supportive measures for pregnant women and the impacts of chronic stress.
AABN is Bringing in Funding and Offering Programs to Meet the Needs of Families
AABN was recently awarded two grants to address the needs of moms and families during this pandemic: one to get care packages to families and another to connect Black birth workers to families. The Well Mommy and Baby Care Package Initiative, funded by Bader Philanthropies, Inc., includes putting together and distributing 250 care packages: Well Mommy, Baby Layette, and Family Centering. All families pre-registered and watched a COVID-19 education video before attending. The event held on June 13 was a great success. Over 40 volunteers joined in this community-wide event. AABN is planning to organize another care package drive-up on Saturday, August 8. WeRISE, also funded by the Wisconsin Partnership Program, is an initiative to pair Black birth workers (doulas) with families across Milwaukee, Racine, and Kenosha counties to get trusted health information to clients and improve birth and breastfeeding outcomes.
The UWPRC is Proud to Partner with AABN
AABN has been a leader in their swift and efficient response to COVID-19 while scaling up their programming to respond to the needs of moms and families during this pandemic. This pandemic has presented unique challenges that AABN has responded to whole-heartedly. The University of Wisconsin-Madison Prevention Research Center is proud to be a partner of this remarkable organization.