Community-based doulas dramatically increase breastfeeding rates in underserved communities
Published on August 4, 2014 at 8:17 AM
A new study by the federal government finds that community-based doulas – based on a program started by HealthConnect One – dramatically increase breastfeeding rates in underserved communities, where a baby's exposure to breast milk can help mitigate the impacts of poverty.
"This study shows that community-based doulas can change the way our country cares for our most vulnerable moms and babies, and it can save taxpayer dollars," said Rachel Abramson, HC One's Executive Director.
Suboptimal breastfeeding is estimated to cost $13 billion per year in pediatric costs and $18 billion in maternal costs. Community-based doulas help to lower these and other costs.
A community-based doula is a woman of and from the same community who provides emotional and physical support to a woman during pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and the first months of parenting, through home visits and center-based activities. The effectiveness of the program emerges out of the trusting relationship between the doula and her participant, the duration of their relationship, and the continuous presence of the doula during labor and birth.
The study, supported jointly by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), looked at 8 community-based doula sites around the country assisted by HealthConnect One, and found that 87% of community-based doula clients were breastfeeding at 6 weeks, as compared to 61% of a similar sample.1 Even at 3 months, 72% of community-based doula clients were still breastfeeding, as compared to 48% of the broader sample.
These sites were part of a pilot Community-Based Doula Program supported by federal funding, an effort championed by U.S. Senator Dick Durbin. The new study concludes that the program was very successful and should receive additional funding to be replicated nationwide. Congressman Mike Quigley is currently leading the call for bringing the Community-Based Doula Program to dozens of new communities across the country.