Chauntel Norris is a DONA trained Labor and Post-Partum Doula, Certified Lactation Counselor, and LaMaze Trained Childbirth Educator. She currently serves as the Mother’s Milk Initiative Coordinator, Doula, and Group Facilitator for the Alabama Prison Birth Project, a program that seeks to improve the health of newborns birthed by women in custody while strengthening maternal bonds and self-efficacy. She is also a co-founder of the Baobab Birth Collective, a passionate advocate for breastfeeding in vulnerable communities, and a strong believer in the right of all women to be able to breastfeed their babies.
“The inequalities in birth outcomes motivate me to continuously want to do birth work,” Chauntel stated.
The Alabama Prison Birth Project provides one-on-one peer support, healthy nutrition, and breastfeeding support to incarcerated mothers during pregnancy and postpartum. Once mother and baby are separated post-delivery, Chauntel facilitates the process of delivering mother’s milk to babies and ensuring babies stay nourished with their own mother’s milk. This strengthens the bonds between mother and child and ensures that mothers stay motivated and empowered to express breastmilk for their infants. “I work with incarcerated women because I had a family member who was in this exact situation and I saw firsthand how it affected everyone involved” shares Chauntel. “It was awful, so now I work toward creating change for women who are so often forgotten.”
Founded in 2014 with her partner, Danica Davis, Chauntel does most of her community birth work through Baobab Birth Collective. The organization strives to provide pregnancy and postpartum security and support to women in their community, with an emphasis on Black women. They provide prenatal, labor and delivery, breastfeeding, and postpartum support to mothers in person, via phone and email. They also hold annual lactation counselor trainings to help provide more breastfeeding professionals of color in the communities.
Chauntel began her journey as a doula years ago after she witnessed the home birth experience of one of her close friends. This inspired her to want to facilitate the same empowering birth experience for other women, regardless of how they chose to deliver.
A native of Birmingham Alabama and the mother of 2 wonderful children, Chauntel holds a certificate of aromatherapy. She also serves on the board of the Alabama breastfeeding committee, is an active member of the Black Mamas Matter Alliance, and a Community Transformer for Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere (ROSE).
Congratulations Chauntel, thank you for being an unrelenting advocate for breastfeeding in vulnerable communities and populations!
This week’s CHEER Champion of the Week is Julie Ware, MD MPH, IBCLC, an experienced board-certified pediatrician who specializes in breastfeeding medicine. Dr. Ware was nominated for her long work in the breastfeeding field, for her recent paper on the associations between breastfeeding initiation and infant mortality, and also for doing the CHAMPS Wednesday Webinar in October!
“With the birth of my own sons, I quickly realized that I had not been trained well enough to help my patients with breastfeeding, so I sought to learn how to help other moms and babies, through the mentorship of Mary Rose Tully,” shares Dr. Ware.
In 1996, Dr. Ware became an IBCLC and started working in the larger community to support breastfeeding. Upon moving to Memphis in 2004, she was overwhelmed by the racial disparities in breastfeeding, and so she became the Chair of the Shelby County Breastfeeding Coalition to highlight the importance of breastfeeding and combat many adverse maternal and child health outcomes. Since she began her career as a General Pediatrician almost 35 years ago, Dr. Ware has obtained a Masters in Public Health and shifted her personal medical practice to focus on the breastfeeding dyad. From 2014, she has worked exclusively with breastfeeding mothers and babies at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Center for Breastfeeding Medicine.
Motivated by the knowledge that breastfeeding saves lives, Dr. Ware believes that babies and families need all the support they can get. She is encouraged by seeing other groups incorporating breastfeeding promotion into their work. “It makes me feel like we can win the battle,” she says.
Dr. Ware is also involved in breastfeeding promotion at various levels. Her community efforts include breastfeeding promotion and the development of a model peer-to-peer effort called AMEN (“All Moms Empowered to Nurse”) to improve breastfeeding support for those least likely to breastfeed.
In addition to spearheading breastfeeding outreach events and education for community members, she also focuses on resident physician education, with a special interest in training pediatricians to help mothers and babies be successful in breastfeeding. “Every baby deserves this best start in life to reach his or her potential and it is not always easy, especially for mothers facing obstacles of race and poverty.”
When asked what she enjoys the most about her work, Dr. Ware said she loves hearing that her patients met their breastfeeding goals. “I love being with the local AMEN Champion moms and seeing them help and encourage other neighborhood mothers and families,” she shares excitedly. “I get very excited when initially reluctant moms are promoting and supporting breastfeeding!”
Dr. Ware was the first AAP National Chief Chapter Breastfeeding Coordinator. She just completed 6 years of service on the board of Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (ABM) and is a member of the AAP Executive Committee (Section on Breastfeeding) where she works on policy development and educational endeavors.
Congratulations Dr. Ware! Thank you for your long service in the field of breastfeeding medicine.
Congratulations to AI/AN CHAMPS Hospital, Norton Sound Regional Hospital, on their Baby-Friendly designation. They received designation on December 13, 2019, four years after they joined the pathway. Norton Sound, located in Nome, Alaska, is a small facility with about 800-100 births per year.
“Being Baby-Friendly feels like a huge accomplishment!” expressed Carol Hobbs, CLC, and Health Educator at Norton Sound Health Corporation (NSHC).
Norton Sound began its process towards designation in 2016, although there had been conversations about pursuing designation for several years prior. “One of the biggest challenges was the high rate of trained staff turnover we experienced, but recently our staff census has been more stable making trainings easier to accomplish,” shares Carol. She further explained that they have experienced an increased number of moms choosing to breastfeed, thus reducing the need for formula on the L&D unit, since they began their Baby-Friendly journey. “The sweetest successes are when an expectant moms’ face lights up as she processes new information about breastfeeding or when a postpartum mom says, “Thank you for the breastfeeding support—I wish I would have known that with my first baby.”” Carol stated.
As a tribal hospital, NSHC serves primarily Alaska Native people who have practiced breastfeeding for millennia. Carol reported that achieving Baby-Friendly designation is a way of supporting moms and babies in a practice that has kept them healthy since time immemorial. “We were already doing many of the ten steps, but going through the process of becoming a Baby-Friendly hospital made us more aware of the details, like documenting baby’s movements out of the room, making sure there is a medical need for formula, or finding alternative ways to get colostrum into baby,” she shared.
Carol would like to thank staff members: Kelly Keyes Zweifel, RD, Stephanie Stang, RD, and Carol Hobbs, CLC; Anne Gollan, RN, IBCLC and Elizabeth Coler, RN, IBCLC; the wonderful team of OB RNs including Chelsea Hubert, RN and Kallie Hoogendorn, RN; and the supportive team of Family Practice physicians who deliver babies at NSHC.
Following their designation, the team plans to continue auditing the prenatal and postnatal care provided, in order to ensure compliance with Baby-Friendly standards. “We will continue to find new ways to provide education to our prenatal moms in a group setting. We hope to see moms breastfeeding for longer, and with more confidence” Carol stated.
Congratulations to Norton Sound Regional Hospital! Thank you for all your efforts to support Alaska Native mothers in breastfeeding.
CHEER Champion of the week
Each Monday (besides public holidays), we will recognize a CHEER Champion for all the work they have done for CHEER (Center for Health Equity, Education, and Research)/CHAMPS (Communities and Hospitals Advancing Maternity Practices).