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Local program pairs moms with expecting moms in urban areas in effort to reduce infant mortality

Posted: 5:59 PM, Jan 03, 2017
Updated: 2017-01-04 01:20:15Z

Embedded in the Hough neighborhood on Cleveland's east side are a group of trained women helping their pregnant and new mom neighbors in need.  

"This is my first-time ever breastfeeding," said Cassandra Lee, a Hough resident whose daughter Kayianna is one-month-old. "This is a new thing for me."

Lee, a single mom with two other children, is learning how to breastfeed and put her daughter on her back instead of her stomach. She's also learning how to properly install a car seat, all thanks to her community birth worker. 

"I'm just an extra set of eyes and ears and another [set of] arms and hands, and if I think she missed something, I'll mention it," said Paulette Chambers, also a Hough resident.

Chambers is one of nine workers trained and employed by Birthing Beautiful Communities, a local non-profit aimed at reducing the high infant mortality rate in urban, crime-ridden, blight-heavy neighborhoods like Hough. Since its inception two years ago, the organization has guided 40 new and expecting moms, teaching them proper parenting techniques.

"I saw a need for birth workers, particularly African American birth workers," said Christin Farmer, the organization's founder and a former resident of the Hough neighborhood.

"They make me feel very welcome," said Lee. "If I need someone to talk to, they talk to me. If I need any help with programs, they guide me."

Birthing Beautiful Communities paired up Lee and Chambers four months ago. Since then, Chambers said she stops by Lee's apartment almost daily to assist and answer questions. She's also connecting her with education and transportation services.

"If I need her, all I have to do is call her, and she is here," said Lee.

State statistics indicate the infant mortality rate in Hough is more than twice the national average. In 2015, Ohio ranked 45th in infant mortality overall and had one of the highest rate of infant deaths for black mothers nationwide. Statistics are not yet available for 2016.