Giving Guide: Healthy Start

Families are facing unique challenges in 2022. A global pandemic changed hospital births. Breastfeeding is hard to do, and formula is hard to find. Postpartum depression can be detrimental.

In order to address all of the above, one local nonprofit organization is connecting expectant and new parents in the Commonwealth to birth workers who care. For over 30 years, Healthy Start Pittsburgh has supported healthier pregnancies, safer births, and stronger families.Their goal is to end infant mortality, especially for Black families.

Infant health disparities are striking. In 2019, Black babies in Allegheny County died before the age of 1 at a rate over five times higher than white babies. But there’s hope. Families who receive Healthy Start services show far better outcomes than the general population of Black women and babies in Allegheny County.

There’s still more work to be done to change the trajectory of our region, and Healthy Start is leading that charge. Living out their mission looks like free perinatal care, community-based education, and one-on-one support to new parents in their homes. The organization envisions a society where everyone has the opportunity for optimum health and wellbeing, despite race, economic status, or zip code.

One of their focuses in 2022 is safe infant feeding during the formula shortage. What’s best for one family may be different from what’s best for another family. Whether a mother decides breastfeeding, formula feeding, or supplementing is best for her and her baby, HealthyStart is here to help people like Lovie.

Lovie Jewell Jackson Foster—mother, wife, yoga teacher, and social butterfly—chose a combination of breastfeeding, infant formula, and human donor milk to nourish her three children. In 2014, Lovie gave birth to twins, Magnus and Justus. Her breastmilk supply alone wasn’t enough for her growing boys, so supplementing with formula worked for Lovie and her family. Eight years later, as she awaited the adoption of her third child, Lovie took steps to relactate and found a human donor milk resource. Her adopted daughter, Angel, was born in 2021 and has been breastfed by Lovie and supplemented with human donor milk and formula ever since.

As a Black woman, Lovie’s choice to breastfeed was not the norm. Even though breastfeeding is recommended, a 2018 report from the Allegheny County Health Department demonstrated that mothers who identified as Black consistently had the smallest percentage of intention to breastfeed. Healthy Start’s Center for Urban Breastfeeding offers free, on-demand lactation support to Black mothers in Allegheny County. Last year, they conducted 67 lactation visits.

In addition to the infant formula shortage, Healthy Start is working to support physical and mental health. Their Doula Program supports pregnant moms every step of the way, including labor. They also offer in-home therapy to new moms experiencing postpartum depression. This holiday season, Healthy Start asks that you give a gift to connect more families with birth workers who care. bit.ly/ConnectFamiliesWithBirthWorkers

STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY HEALTHY START

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