Back in the early 2000’s, Memphis had the highest infant mortality rate in the country. 20/20 aired a documentary titled Babyland to shed light to the local crisis. The number of babies who did not live to see their first birthday was comparable to those in third world countries. Since that time, we have seen these numbers fall significantly thanks to education, information, and public health outreach.
If you’ve never been to my hometown of Memphis, TN you probably associate us with Elvis and BBQ. If you are new to the city then you probably associate Memphis with Midtown bars, the Grizzlies, gentrified neighborhoods and bike lanes. But if you grew up in this town then you are familiar with the poverty stricken neighborhoods, the high school drop out rates, the teen pregnancies… and you know better than to go to Graceland after dark if at all. Even more, if you’re a nurse in Memphis you know that many times babies are born too soon and die too fast. Since I have worked as a Pediatric ICU nurse and a Labor & Delivery nurse in Memphis, I have see both instances first hand.
Community Baby Showers are one way of getting out free information and resources to our residents in order to give their babies a better chance at living. Saturday I was a guest speaker at the Fullview Missionary Baptist Church Community Baby Shower. This event takes place annually at the Hollywood Community Center located in one on Memphis low income areas. This was my second year speaking at this event on a subject that I feel very strongly about, the positive effects of Breast Feeding.
I love the fact that the Black church is making a positive presence in the community with mothers who have limited resources. This event included a representative from Public Health inviting smoking mothers to enroll and assist them with the smoking cessation during and after their pregnancy. There were games, prizes, free food, and prayers. Every mother left with a diaper bag full of items for their little ones.
I spoke about the Who,What, When, Where,Why, and How’s of Breastfeeding. I am definitely not a refined public speaker and find it much easier to share information from behind my laptop as opposed to standing in front of a crowd with a mic, but I think it went well. Many of the mom’s were enthusiastic about breastfeeding and very interactive with me and my questions. I was happy to see that many of the had breastfed in the past and about 60% of the guest said that they plan to breastfeed their newborns. This is very significant because breastmilk offers babies all the nutrients they need and has benefits such as passive immunity to help keep them infection free. Also, by promoting bonding, I believe that breast feeding can help to continue to decrease our city’s infant mortality rate.
Community outreach and access to free education and information are the key to decreasing our infant mortality rate, ensuring that our newborns will have all the necessary resources to give them a fair chance to thrive. I am happy to see the progress in my city and honored to have a small part in educating and informing the women in my community.
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From your friendly neighborhood nurse!