As a doula, lactation counselor and mother of four, Tia Murray has both witnessed and experienced first hand the differences in treatment between birthing African American and white women when seeking medical care and resources.
After witnessing over 40 births in Dane county and birthing four children of her own here, Murray says she’s noticed “discrepancies in the quality of care” between Black and white mothers.
“Breastfeeding is very important especially for my family and especially in my community,” Murray said. “We talk a lot about racial disparities and we need to focus on where the disparities are present. We have disparities in breastfeeding in our African American communities and we have great disparities in infant mortality and we know that breastfeeding can save babies’ lives.”
Last June, the Today Not Tomorrow Family Resource Center opened on Madison’s east side with the goal of building strong families and improving birth outcomes. Several associates of the center, including the African American Breastfeeding Alliance of Dane County (AABA), Project Babies, Birth Wise Doula services, and Harambe Village: Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Breastfeeding Care, co-founded by Murray, came together Wednesday to announce the launch of a breastfeeding public awareness campaign.
The campaign aims to address breastfeeding disparities amongst African American women on both an individual and institutional level.
Hershey Barnett Bridges, co-founder of AABA of Dane County, believes that encouraging African American mothers to make their own informed decisions will help to decrease disparities.
“The best way to decrease disparities and to improve the encouragement outcomes is by supporting women who want to breastfeed,” Bridges said at the announcement. “We are no longer going to stand by and watch African American babies be on the bottom of the list and die because of not being cared for.”
The public awareness campaign will consist of two phases, the first engaging individuals and communities.
This phase will include public service announcements and social media campaigns as well a series of breastfeeding support and awareness classes throughout the months of March and April.
The partnership also announced the launch of a donation drive for a new lactation closet, an extension of the Project Babies’ baby closet.
The donation drive will collect lactation items such as new breast pumps, nursing bras, breast milk storage bags, and baby-friendly dish soap.
“We realized after listening to the community we serve, that there’s a great need for women to have access to lactation and nursing supplies,” Murray said. “For example we work with homeless women who are breastfeeding their toddlers exclusively, but don’t have a pump so they’re hand pumping in bathrooms.”
All lactation drive donations can be brought to the Today Not Tomorrow Family Resource Center located at 8 Straubel Court.
The campaign’s second phase will engage institutions, hospitals, clinics and workplace sites.
Murray says she’s witnessed medical professionals be more willing to encourage Black mothers or mothers with BadgerCare insurance to switch to formula when they experience issues with breastfeeding.
“It’s a fight to give our babies what they need,” she said. “We should be all the more supportive of African American mothers because we need to be equitable in our health practices.”
Bridges also pointed out that many workplaces do not provide a space for women to pump and women who work two or three jobs find inconsistencies in policies.
“Some of the jobs that we have tend not to be supportive of breastfeeding,” she said.
“We’re here to support every individual in the community, every provider, and every institution to come together and figure out how we can better support breastfeeding women,” Murray said.