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Aza Nedhari's picture

Tell us about MamaToto Village and how it began.

Mamatoto Village is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, devoted to creating career pathways for Women of Color in the field of Maternal Health; and empowering women with the necessary tools to make the most informed decisions and choices in their maternity care, their parenting, and their lives. Our mission is two-fold: to provide complementary and low-cost maternity support services to women and their families during pregnancy through the first year of the child's life, and to facilitate the increase of qualified women of color serving in the Maternal Health profession. By promoting health equity, which will aid in the reduction of barriers and inequality in maternal and child health for women of color in the D.C. Metro Area, we aim to foster healthy individuals, healthy families and healthy communities.

We began officially in 2013. The idea was birthed long before, after a conversation with my partner Cassie Pringle regarding the lack of cultural empathy and depth of the doula training that we both took. We desired to create something more holistic; something that would provide depth, and an awareness of the issues related to women and families of color during the childbearing years. Furthermore, we desired to offer services to women who would not normally be able to access this seemingly privilegedsupport due to economic status.

Tell us about an experience you've had that conveys the importance of your this project.

Late 2014 we had a client referral for a teen mother, 34 weeks pregnant, who was seeking labor support. She desired to have an unmedicated birth and breastfeed, but lacked the social and family support to achieved that goal. She was paired with a Community Birthworker, we began working intensively with her, providing education, guidance, and helping her to outline both her goals for the pregnancy, but also her goals for her life.

After having an unmedicated birth with midwives the teen mother continued to exclusively breastfeed and began engaging in the breastfeeding support groups. Seeing her motivation to improve the life of herself and her child, we offered her a part-time job as an administrative assistant.

In 2015 we finalized the structure of our Mothers’ Rising Program, which is catered towards mothers under the age of 23 and included an education component entitled Project Elevation. This young mother is a the first participant in this project which is designed to offer an educational program (via an accredited online school) for young mothers under the age of 23. This program will see participants through the completion of their high school diploma and acceptance into a trade school or institution of higher learning. Barriers to graduation are reduced as mothers can stay with their babies, decreasing the likelihood of breastfeeding cessation, and eliminating the need for daycare; mothers are also provided 1:1 tutoring and community supported parenting. This young mother would have easily fallen through the cracks of the educational system, as her school was willing to pass her along, while encouraging the use of government assistance, without a long-term plan in place for economic sustainability and career success.

What data do you use to show the importance of breastfeeding and the impact of your work?

Currently we have 100% breastfeeding initiation rates and about 85% of our clients continue to six months. We use Mobile Doula and Mobile Lactation Consultant to track our outcomes. We have this system customized to our needs and it has been working very efficiently. Our success has been attributed to our model of continuous care. We provide breastfeeding education prenatally and then offer several in-home visits in the first 2 weeks postpartum. Coupled with weekly check-ins during the first 8 weeks and then monthly thereafter. We also provide support groups for stay-at-home as well as working mothers.

What is one thing the person reading this can do to support MamaToto Village?

If you would like to support Mamatoto Village, you can donate your time to the organization; we have a page on our website for donation requests; you can also sponsor a young mother’s education. The cost to school a young mother for one school year is about $2000. The impact of a young woman who will not stay on welfare throughout her lifetime and who is going to give her and her child a brighter future leads to healthier communities, healthier families, and healthier economies.

You can also spread the word about us and our work.

Lastly, you can host a training in your area.

What is an area of breastfeeding support that is being overlooked and what should be done about it?

An area that I believe is overlook is the inclusion of the immediate family (not the partner), but the mother, grandmother, aunt, best friend in the conversation. These persons are often key factors in a mothers success or failure while breastfeeding. Educating them, demystifying, and offering ways in which they can encourage the mother creates a much firmer foundation.



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