Alabama birth worker facilitates holistic, sustainable care for families

*Trigger warning: pregnancy loss

Doula and childbirth/breastfeeding educator Kayla Bitten’s (processing PMH-C. IBCLC student, midwifery student) road to maternal child health advocacy was paved in part by tragedy. 

One day while driving with her cousin and aunt who was pregnant, her aunt swerved into a wall in an attempt to avoid a driver who’d run a stop sign. 

Bitten remembers the aftermath of the crash; her aunt laying in the stretcher, unattended to. Later when transferred to the hospital, her aunt’s concerns about her developing baby were dismissed.

“Everything was fine,” care providers told her and sent her home.  This phenomenon, where Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) are dismissed in medical settings is not uncommon. 

“She knew something was off,” Bitten recalls. 

The next evening, Bitten’s aunt miscarried the baby. 

“Somehow, I was able to doula her through that miscarriage,” Bitten says. “It was very second nature. I knew how to help her breath through it, hold space for her emotionally.” 

“Hearing her say that it hurt so much emotionally and physically triggered something in me,” Bitten continues. 

From that point on, she consumed research, dove deep into conversations about BIPOC health, started writing about birth, surrounded herself with community health workers and studied under their care.  

She started making connections between the generational ailments that challenged the women in her family– things like uterine fibroids and infertility— and the systemic forces at play

Fueled, Bitten launched The Postpartum Clinic, a one-of-a-kind lactation and postpartum wellness facility that centers People of Color.

Through memberships, private appointment sessions, and support groups, The Postpartum Clinic offers comprehensive, inclusive, and culturally competent care to families as well as a network of  local resources for primary care and psychotherapy professionals around Birmingham, Ala.

With nearly 60 percent of Alabama’s population identifying as Black, Bitten notes that “it’s insane” that a care facility like this didn’t already exist. 

“I’m really proud of it and really excited about it,” she says. 

Bitten also leads Coloring Between The Lines – Mothers Of Color Breastfeeding Support (CBTL) which uplifts more than 160 women. The non-profit provides education through virtual and in-person meetings, online mini courses, emotional support, and breastfeeding supplies through donations from local women and businesses at no cost to participants. 

CBTL is rooted in advocacy and activism.

Instead of simply handing out pamphlets and sending families on their way, with CBTL, healthy infant feeding “becomes a sustainable journey not just a one stop shop,” Bitten explains. 

Most of the mothers Bitten and her colleagues work with through their community support groups arrive almost completely defeated by the demands of parenthood and the reality of living as a Person of Color.

“Immediately there are a lot of emotions and literal tears,” Bitten describes. “Once there’s support and community surrounding them, that completely changes.”  

With many of their clients living in North Alabama, skilled birth workers, education and support is hard to come by, so many families have to travel quite far for competent care; interestingly though, the onset of COVID has been mostly positive, Bitten reports. In the midst of the pandemic, different programs have offered free internet to those in need, so Bitten is now able to reach populations she might not have otherwise. 

CBTL partner Jasmine Hammonds and Bitten are conducting research with the goal of policy change in Alabama. The research aims to understand the lived experiences of families and help them pinpoint policies that will support healthy birth and infant feeding outcomes for BIPOC. 

Bitten is a recent recipient of the Accessing the Milky Way scholarship and is currently a CLC student. She says her experience with the Lactation Counselor Training Course (LCTC) has been “really good.”

“What I appreciate most is the different teaching styles… and the evidence-based education,” she says. 

Bitten adds, “With a CLC behind my name, I will be able to not only provide emotional support, supplies, and basic education for  mothers, but I will also have the opportunity to support them with more in-depth services.”

Learn more and connect with Bitten here and here.

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