Over the last few years, a spotlight has finally been placed on the Black maternal health crisis, and the reality that Black mothers are three more times likely to die from pregnancy-related issues than their white counterparts. There is the Black Maternal Momnibus Act introduced in Congress earlier this year and the Biden administration’s plans to increase investments in the training for health professionals and in protections for moms of color related to reducing maternal mortality and morbidity.
But well-known brands and businesses are also stepping up to do their part. Unilever’s personal care brand for babies, Baby Dove, has created a fund to support Black moms. On August 24, the brand announced the launch of the Black Birth Equity Fund. It will provide immediate financial access to doula services for expectant moms. Doulas are advocates for mothers, have been proven to help decrease birth complications, and can see to it that moms receive the best care possible throughout pregnancy, when they deliver, and postpartum (the “Fourth Trimester”). This game-changing fund has been created in partnership with the Black Mamas Matter Alliance (BMMA).
“All birthing people need the resources, opportunities, and support that enable them to protect their human rights to health and life and to make the best decisions for themselves and their families. Doula support during pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period reduces rates of cesarean deliveries, prematurity and illness in newborns, and the likelihood of postpartum depression,” Angela D. Aina, Co-Founding Executive Director at BMMA, tells ESSENCE. “Doula care also improves the overall satisfaction with the experience of childbirth care and increases breastfeeding initiation and duration. Doulas provide health education and counseling, helping women to manage chronic diseases and reduce the risk of complications in childbirth.”
She adds, “They are often members of the communities they serve, and may be physically and culturally accessible in ways that other providers are not. Doulas are essential to the team of providers, along with Midwives and OB/GYNs, for Black people throughout the pregnancy journey, and we must continue to support and uplift these champions in the fight to improve Black maternal health.”
Aina sees Baby Dove’s commitment, which will be a long-term one, as a major move that other brands could learn from following the racial reckoning that was experienced throughout the country in 2020.
“Last year we saw a lot of brands take a stand on social media for racial and social justice. However, it’s so critical that these corporations back up this public support with meaningful investments in creating change at both the individual and systemic levels,” she says. “I see this as a step in the right direction when brands actually take action in following through on their commitment to addressing social injustices; in this case, offering funds to support Black birthing people in receiving necessary doula care as a solution towards combating maternal mortality. This is a significant endeavor as it showcases how other corporations can support their consumers who are impacted significantly by a public health issue like maternal death in the United States.”
The fund is a $250,000 offering and Baby Dove will be donating 100 percent of profits from their limited edition product gift sets to the cause. Each grant given to a mom (available to apply for now) will be $1,300 to cover the cost of doula services. The brand’s aim is to issue more than 190 of them within the first six months of the fund’s launch.
“For too long, Black moms have not received the care they deserve throughout their pregnancy journey and the consequences are significant,” Sally Brown, Global Brand Director at Unilever tells ESSENCE. “As a brand born to provide care to new families, we believe we have a responsibility to take direct action, utilizing our platform to amplify awareness of this crisis. By consulting with a number of experts and leading advocacy groups, like BMMA, during the Black Birth Equity Fund’s development, we were able to better understand the scope of the needs and where we can make immediate impact.”
Baby Dove is also looking out for Black babies, too. They’ve launched a Melanin-Rich Skin and Curl Nourishment Collection for infants and toddlers of color and with coils, curls and waves. The products, with natural ingredients ranging from coconut and almond oil to oatmeal and more, are meant to help replenish the skin and aid it in retaining its natural moisture, as well as moisturize and care best for curly strands. It’s being made available at Walmart and Walmart.com beginning this month.
As for the Black Birth Equity Fund, the launch follows Dove’s creation of the CROWN Coalition to tackle hair discrimination, and is yet another step in the brand’s commitment to playing a part in calling out and working against systemic racism. These efforts are not new, and are commitments Dove doesn’t plan on slowing down with anytime soon.
“For decades, Dove has been committed to creating a more inclusive, diverse, and equitable world – and that’s why we’re continuously evolving our work with ongoing support and new initiatives that champion racial equity,” Brown says. “Since its launch in 2017, Baby Dove has worked to broaden how society defines parenthood. Today, Black expectant mothers face significant disparities in care leading up to, during, and after childbirth – creating a world where Black women are dying at 3-5x the rate of white women. We view our role of driving change as an extension of our responsibility as leaders in the beauty industry.”
Take a look at the new Melanin-Rich collection below and learn more about the fund over at Dove.com.