Breastfeeding, Motherhood, and Family: It Takes a Village

Ebonie Bailey CD (DONA) / July 2022

Authored By:

ebonie bailey headshot

Ebonie Bailey CD(DONA)

Ebonie Bailey CD(DONA) founded Naturally Ebonie Doula Services in 2015, after experiencing firsthand the transformative support and care of a doula throughout her birthing journey with her third child. She believes that birth work is soul work and, as a doula, she has channeled her natural gift of nurturing into support for women and families before, during, and after the miracle of birth. Ebonie has given birth to five children of her own and has helped countless others to navigate labor, delivery, and their postpartum experiences.

In addition to her work as a mother, doula, and business owner, Ebonie now fights for expanded access to holistic birth care as the co-founder and President of the Iowa Black Doula Collective. At the time of its founding in 2020, Ebonie and the co-founders of the Collective were among the first certified doulas of color in the state of Iowa, amidst increasingly disproportionate rates of fertility, pregnancy, birth, and postpartum complications among Black mothers. Subsequently, IBDC’s mission is fostering “birth work centered in blackness,” and the Collective takes an integrative approach to meeting the needs of Black bodies, families, and communities. Mothers and families engage with the Collective via educational resources, mentorship, and support groups, while the Collective simultaneously seeks to diversify the doula workforce in Iowa via training and funding for aspiring doulas of color. 

Ebonie acts as a mentor to these doulas, connecting birthing families throughout Iowa to their services and fostering their passion for holistic reproductive health as they contribute to the work of the Iowa Black Doula Collective. She is an advocate for compassionate, affordable health care in Iowa, having attended her first healthcare legislative forum in 2011, and she is currently in training to become a Certified Lactation Counselor. 

Ebonie is an Alumna of University of Arkansas Pine Bluff and St Ambrose University. She resides in Georgia with her husband and five children.

Parenthood Can Sometimes Take a Village - and That's Okay!

An old and very familiar Igbo and Yoruba proverb says, “It takes a whole village to raise a child.” Now while this proverb exists in many forms in many African languages, each iteration is the same. That is, that child rearing is, indeed, a collective effort.

I have always been a strong believer in this communal responsibility — with a strong belief that we are not intended to journey motherhood alone. This belief, that I’m sure is shared by many other women, has unfortunately taken a new direction amidst this ongoing and unfortunate formula shortage.

Helping Moms in Need Through Breast Milk Donation

I am a mother of five children, ranging in ages from 19 months to 16 years old. While breastfeeding after the birth of my last three children, I became regularly gifted with an oversupply of breast milk. Having no need to keep it all to myself, I was always more than willing to help families in need. Whether the families needed lactation support or by supplying them with my oversupply, I did whatever I could. That was then and unfortunately times have changed so drastically in recent months that this — is our now. This current need for lactation support has become so much greater amidst the ongoing formula shortage. Many families, for an array of reasons, are simply unable to breastfeed and the lack of access to infant formula is making it a struggle for many parents to keep their children properly fed. I racked my brain for ways to support them for a bit, and was concluded that the simplest thing I can personally do is start increasing my own breast milk supply. Is it challenging? Yes. It takes a village though, and this is no different. 

This all became even more real to me when the effects of the formula shortage were knocking at my front door some months back. My niece and nephew came to stay with us at our family home. Their seven-month-old, Josh, had been drinking formula as his main source of nutrition since birth but because of the shortage, they had no access to his specialized formula. When the formula they had ran out, I turned to my deep freezer where I held my back-up stash of breast milk. It was with this surplus that I was able to keep him fed for just over two weeks. In those two weeks, I was allowed the time to once again ramp up my supply. We knew that finding that formula was going to be a challenge but, most importantly, we also knew Josh had to eat.

Donating My Breast Milk With Medela's Support

Though I have stepped up to meet this need while still breastfeeding my own then-18 month old child, I have not done this alone. I have been so fortunate to have Medela as a part of my village. They’ve been essentially important in my ability to increase my lactation. I have received breast pumps and supplies that have allowed me to explore which equipment works best for me. While running my household of five kids in addition to three businesses, I have still managed to find time to pump and donate my breast milk. I’m also now able to actively help my nephew in one of the most developmentally crucial times in his life.

I believe this is what the “it takes a village” philosophy demands of me. I am in a unique position to assist families struggling to nurture and feed their children right now, and I am grateful to Medela for helping me give back.

Want to Know How You or Your Patients Can Get Involved and Help?

Though donor breast milk primarily serves babies in the NICU, some families also use donor milk for their full-term well babies. Because of the current shortage, milk banks nationwide are experiencing a 20% uptick in demand right now, with that number expected to continue rising each day.

Medela wants to empower families to support each other through and we’re doing that by kicking off a pump-a-thon and educational campaign to support moms and families who are uniting to help address this national crisis. If you or your patients want to get involved today, here’s how you can start:

  • Join Medela’s #MomsUnite4Milk pump-a-thon and donate your breast milk to HMBANA or a local milk bank. Medela will provide 1,000 moms with breast milk storage bags if they agree to donate their milk to a nonprofit milk bank! E-mail your name and address to to let us know how you’ll support.
  • Make a direct monetary donation to HMBANA. Medela is also making donations benefitting nonprofit milk banks across North America (up to $25,000) to elevate the important role donor milk can play in this issue, find more milk donors, and increase capacity at their locations. Nonprofit milk banks in the U.S. or Canada can contact by July 31st, 2022 for more information – Support will be provided on a first come, first served basis.
  • Check out and share all the helpful resources found here!
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