Category Archives: Book Reviews

Natural Disaster Labor

In the wake of hurricane Irene, the US’s East Coast is riddled with anxiety and fear. It’s been a tough week for us, given that natural disasters really aren’t our thing. The last hurricane to threaten the eastern seaboard was over 20 years ago when Gloria gifted us with a tropical storm in 1985. Add to that Virginia’s earthquake earlier this week that sent risidual tremors along the East Coast and many southern states, and we’re in panic mode here. News reports tell us what we should have on hand in the event of an emergency, but what about women who are full term in their pregnancies?

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Lakeisha Dennis, of Lighthouse Birth Services @DoulaonDuty, brought natural disaster births up on Twitter this morning. What happens to a mom if she goes into labor during an earthquake, hurricane or snowstorm? What does she do if she can’t get to her support, or if her support can’t get to her?

Here are a few things you should consider including in your emergency birth kit in case you go into labor without the ability to head to your birth place (or have your team come to you).

1. 3 gallons of water – mom will need to stay hydrated during labor, and will need extra water for cleaning both during and after the birth if she desires. Keep an additional gallon of water for each person present.

2. Canned fruit, nuts, vegetable chips, and other non-perishable healthy foods to last at least 3 days.

3. Disinfectant – in the event that you have no running water, you don’t want to waste your drinking water washing your hands.

4. Dental floss – you can use dental floss to tie off the umbilical cord once it stops pulsating if you choose to detach it.

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5. Large garbage bags – aside from their normal use, plastic bags can be used as lining for your furniture or floor as a protective layer against fluids.

6. Sheets that you don’t mind ruining – you can use these on which to labor, in addition to staying dry and warm. Old sheets are also great for cleanup, because you can toss them when it’s all over!

7. Towels – have several on hand for cleanup and staying dry/warm for both mom and babe.

8. A few sets of clothes – there’s nothing like searching through a dark, flooded or otherwise damaged home to find clean clothes in an emergency. Keeping protected, clean sets with your emergency birth kit will help you greatly in your time of need. Remember to include baby clothes and diapers

9. A mirror to go with the flashlight you’ve already got in your emergency kit. During labor, you may need to see what’s happening around your vulva, especially if you are birthing alone. With a 40-week belly, a mirror will help you get a handle on what’s going on down there.

10. An extra fully charged battery for your mobile phone – in the event that you have service, but no electricity, you’ll be happy that you set this aside to be able to reach out for help!

Although these are some great things to keep in your kit if you can, you’ve also got to be prepared to use them! Check out Penny Simkin’s Birth Partner; she’s got great advice for what to do during an emergency birth.

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Also, speak with your provider about a contingency plan. If you’re birthing at a hospital or birthing center, what happens if disaster strikes if you are either already there in labor or in labor at home en route to your birthing place? Speak with your midwife about what to do in the event that neither she nor her backup can make it to you during a disaster. Ask your doula about how her services might change during an emergency.

African-American Women and Breastfeeding

I’ve read the standard books on breastfeeding that outline the benefits to both mother and baby. My most recent read is Black Woman’s Guide to Breastfeeding by Katherine Barber. Barber writes an amazing guide that details why it’s so important for Black women to breastfeed.

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Barber states, “African American infants are twice as likely to die before their first birthdays as white infants…have the highest rate of asthma, severe asthma, and mortality caused by asthma than any other race…have a 20 percent higher occurrence of childhood obesity than white children…[that] African American women are 2.2 times more likely to die from breast cancer…[and] are 30 percent more likely to die from ovarian cancer than white women.”

So, what do these stats have to do with breastfeeding? The numbers drastically decrease when mothers share what nature intended for their children. Before downloading this book for my Kindle on Amazon.com, I read through some of the reviews. One woman threw her two cents in by explaining that this book promotes separatism, because all moms need support when it comes to breastfeeding, not just Black women. This reviewer was quickly schooled, thankfully, by other moms who explained that African American women do, in fact, have special needs when it comes to breastfeeding.

Almost half of African American mothers choose not to breastfeed their children, and the health repercussions of such a decision usually aren’t discussed in mainstream breastfeeding books. Often, women choose against breastfeeding because they’re afraid of pain or discomfort, have been convinced that formula is just as good as mother’s milk, or a host of other reasons that attest to being unaware of both the benefits associated with breastfeeding and the risks of not doing the same.

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In addition to being a great resource that breaks down why it’s so important that Black women breastfeed themselves, this is a book that belongs on every reading list for birth workers throughout the United States. As birth workers, we must understand the challenges that Black women face when it comes to breastfeeding, and be armed with facts that help us inform mamas about the benefits of breastfeeding. If you haven’t read Black Woman’s Guide to Breastfeeding yet, what are you waiting for?