A New Orleans-area doula collective is preparing to help new parents care for their infants as climate change supercharges major storms, The 19th* News reports. The Birthmark Doula Collective has prepared emergency infant feeding kits for years, working to fill gaps emblematic of larger societal failings to support children and families after a fetus is carried to term. The kits, which contain formula, ice packs, and nursing covers, now also include soap and bottle brushes and come in a bucket to wash everything — poorly sanitized bottles can cause diarrhea and dehydration, “especially scary for a baby that’s born prematurely or who has a weak immune system.” Malaika Ludman, a doula and certified lactation consultant with BDC, said.
The collective has also set up an emergency hotline staffed with doulas, lactation counselors, and Spanish language interpreters to help parents in the wake of disasters. In a crisis, details matter and ensuring shelters have breastfeeding spaces, sinks for handwashing, and private rooms for pumping are key. Low-income people breastfeed at lower rates — for a range of reasons including deficient postpartum care and support and the lack of paid family leave — and feeding babies with formula becomes even more complicated when a hurricane hits. “Thinking about it as a human rights issue is really critical,” Sarah DeYoung, an assistant professor at the University of Delaware and disaster researcher, said. “And in the United States, it’s a racial justice issue as well, because minority populations are more likely to be exposed to disasters.” (The 19th* News)