Thank you for tuning into this episode of MomTalks with Christa. Today, we have a very awesome guest on the show we have Kayla Bitten from The Postpartum Clinic. Kayla’s been in the birth industry for about 10 years now. She was a doula, a birth doula, a fertility doula, does a lot with birth education and now she's finding herself a little more in lactation and postpartum. So, when everything kind of shut down due to covid, she took this as her opportunity to open the postpartum clinic. She really saw a need in community that she works in Birmingham, Alabama. Really having some a place to go with accessible healthcare that would represent her community, they offered tons of support for their clients from educational courses, they work with same-sex couples and donors, they also have therapists on staff for perinatal mental health. It's just an amazing one-stop shop for postpartum health and it was just so cool to hear about all they do, so here's my interview with Caleb.
Christa: Just to get started, can you just tell us a little bit about you and we'll kind of go from there.
Kayla: Well hi, my name is Kayla bitten. I am currently residing in Birmingham Alabama. I have been in the birth world for I think we're knocking on 10 years now so you know between birth field work, birth education, fertility doula work, and now really honing in on what does the long-term goal really look like and so now it's all things lactation and all things postpartum, but I decided to open the clinic just a few months ago. After leaving a very secure job, I saw the need and the necessary access that needed to be created for us and a lot of folks of color especially during this pandemic and so that's kind of how that clinic got started. I’m not a mom yet, but we are trying to conceive it's a little harder when you're doing the whole donor route and all of that, but hopefully soon but that's just a little bit about me.
Christa: Awesome. I love that, so I love that because of everything going on with the pandemic, you took it as your time and chance to open up this clinic, because that was going to be one of my questions was. How has your business kind of changed because of this pandemic going on, so you kind of just because of the pandemic you made this you know into your business so that's awesome, so just tell us a little bit about the postpartum clinic. What do you kind of offer? What support do you offer for moms?
Kayla: Well, originally the idea was to create the clinic to be a physical space but as the days went on, I realized that this may need to be a virtual lactation of postpartum space right? so essentially it came to me in a way where it's a space where families can come that are maybe not have insurance, but not may have enough money to pay for a service when usually they do, or maybe sometimes they don't but could come to a place where they knew that they can get lactation and postpartum care and support. So that means offering lactation appointments, postpartum visit appointments, even postpartum education classes, breastfeeding classes and those things. When I created the clinic, and really thought about envisioning what it would look like, it was for it to be accessible for all bodies all pockets, but with the center of what mostly, what most of the population here in Alabama looks like which is families of color, and so that was really important when it came to the imagery that I used, when it came to the marketing that I used, and it became really important when I created and crafted these classes. I know some lactation spaces really try to push really breastfeeding like putting babies at breast and I totally 100% that is the number one way to provide the best nutrients possible, but because of the population that I lived in, I wanted to know what would a clinic look like that really meant diversity, that really meant inclusivity, and so that meant creating appointments kind of like a lactation appointment. it's an appointment about your formula, are you feeding the baby? correctly how do you do it the correct way? and that includes education classes, helping same-sex couples who are looking for donor milk. We have a partnership with our mother's book bank a.l here and I’m so excited to go to their own facility soon when Kobe does a little bit better but all those things were really important to me, so I kind of jam-packed all of that into a virtual space and that's how the website came out to the way that it is, that's how memberships came out the way, that it is as well don't have insurance, but you can pay a one-time fee and you get you know 12 months’ worth of appointments lactation and postpartum and so it's mostly just learning education checking lactation and things like that. You know, growth spurts things that are normal that you come in contact with, but no one tells you don't get that one-on-one face time with it but hey, get a membership and you just get an appointment once a month and you can talk about all these things so that's kind of how it came about. The physical portion of the clinic came about because of community, community agreed and said this needs to happen, it's necessary, it's black owned we're talking about what real diversity inclusivity really looks like and helped crowdsource literally most of the money, I think we're 200 bucks before all of it is done and that's how the physical pace space came into reality but yeah.
Christa: I love that because we were just talking about like as our team of Mommy Knows Best with all these changes, a lot of moms are you know, after having a baby especially during the pandemic, normally they're you know have more of these checkups or more in-person visits and so I think a lot of the postpartum you know, check-ins aren't always available right now, so I think this is so important that you offer this virtual space and can people also come in person to you too? or is it kind of like a mix of both? or is most of it virtual?
Kayla: a mix of both so what has been happening is that it's been a virtual thing, of course because of now and or in home very rare but that's an option, so even you know as we start to clear the dust in the air right with covid and we begin to get into our opening happening in January. You'll have options to come in it'll just be more strict with the scheduling and appointments just because of coverage until we're again the air is clear but yeah it's a mixture of virtual, in person that includes our group classes, our group meets all of that, there's an outside space so we're really trying to navigate in that way but it is a mixture of all three: in home, in clinic, and virtual.
Christa: I know I’ve seen a lot of my friends that have had babies over the pandemic. Their doctors are saying you know, if you know if you seem good then we probably just do it virtual or you don't need to come in, and so I think a lot of moms are kind of putting that postpartum care kind of on the back burner when it's so important. So, I love that you're doing this. I love that you saw a need in your community and are doing it so that's awesome as you're seeing these moms, what do you think the most moms could use support with postpartum?
Kayla: Oh my gosh period of mental health, period. That's it, it's period of mental health. I don't know how, I don't know why it was a brain fart it had to be, but while creating the clinic, I was like I need a counselor, I need a counselor or therapist, psychotherapist, a psychiatrist, someone that I could have on my payroll in a way that's kind of like a consultant, because I have the parent mental health you know the certification situation you go through with psi, but that still doesn't replace an actual therapist or counselor it helps with the screening process and it helps stop it, not stop it necessarily but to recognize it before it gets to a certain point. Don't get me wrong, it's been an amazing tool especially when you post while you're postpartum planning helping the postpartum player. You also can like, let's do a screen because it should happen during pregnancy. Anyways, parenting mental health is the number one thing getting a counselor contracted with the clinic, was the single most best decision I ever made. I didn't realize how big of a thing it was and of course, I had to because I took the certification, took the webinar to the classes, and all that but until you're really in there and you're in a space where you're solely focused on postpartum lactation and then you realize how that can have an effect on mental health as well on top of just hormones in general doing postpartum, is insane and so a lot of my research behind the clinic is breast related, of course but also parent elements are health related how to just look at that differently and why it's important to make that part of the care team and kind of part of the care plan you know maybe might need to change some protocols when it comes to certain things but that's yeah, paranoid meant to health during the postpartum period. If you can get anyone that's appearing in a mental health person that's able to screen, you can keep your screening if you want, take it into someone who's able and then they're able to refer you out to a counselor that can take cash that's not that expensive, or that's covered by your insurance because once they recognize you apparently the mental health, or some type of having little complications or difficulty. They'll cover it that way as well but yeah, a lot of folks don't know their options when it comes to that, and they don't know what to call it.
Christa: If someone comes to you and they're like, I want to come in for my you know postpartum, appointment, they're not really sure which angle, or what they really need at that point. what does a normal appointment kind of look like?
Kayla: So it depends on where we are on the spectrum. You can get a membership right before you give birth, you can get a membership in the middle of you know the process of postpartum, or you can just tap into just a regular appointment. It really just depends but usually it's where you are. So three months there's a process, there's steps, there's certain things that will happen at a certain moment. Kind of the same with baby development basically, and so it just depends on where you're at with that and then from there, we go from there. So for instance, if I am chatting with someone who just recently gave birth and I’m chatting with them, I’m also doing a follow-up when it comes to baby, latch, all of that I’m doing a follow-up with them and so it's kind of like how are you feeling? where are you now? what's going on with your nipples? because if you're first starting to breastfeed and we're probably I’m probably seeing you maybe two or three weeks after the fact, then the main concern is how are you healing? and how are your nipples? so we're talking about that educating you on breastfeeding and while also doing my own little appointment with baby, okay let's check latch, check no transfer, how was your birth? tell me the story, let's unpack it, so that's kind of what it looks like when I’m towering between the two during an appointment.
Christa: Awesome, yeah that's really great. Let's kind of talk about pelvic health, I know you kind of talk a little bit about this in your post, I thought it was so interesting so what should moms know, and be aware of when it comes to their pelvic health, and is this something they should bring up in postpartum visits to the doctor?
Kayla: You definitely should bring it up any concerns, even if you know we tell you oh there's nothing, that's actually, it's not abnormal. I still say bringing up, I always say whatever makes you feel better in your intuition and your good talk about it that may stem from the maternal race that's happening or may just stem from because that should just be common sense. I don't know, people make us feel crazy all the time but I’m like if it doesn't feel good, it doesn't matter what, no matter what it tells you, tell them to check it out. But pelvic health is really important, I think it's really important to get any type of public health education that you can I try to give as much as I can depending on again where we are on the spectrum of postpartum with our appointments, but any education with when it comes to public health in the beginning is perfectly 100% should happen. You can give, I usually try to give out little pdfs or documents when it comes to like when I give them packets and things like that. Just have a basic review of what pelvic health is, what you can look out, what the different things are, and then I also have a referral list of some folks that are really local here that took some time on researching. I remember researching for two months of who was the best, Who was the best in all the mom groups, and then having a personal conversation with some and then finally found the ones that I felt like, okay I can use this, I can have it be a referral. Because a lot of moms, I think don't realize that they talk about how oh going to the bathroom is just it happens at any time now, or oh trying to you know, intercourse for that first time and I’ve been cleared I mean, I’m not healing anything, to heal, I just don't understand why it's so painful and that's not things are different. Don't get me wrong but when it's just not so, I try to really let them know anything that you're feeling to let me know once you get six weeks, I still say how are you? how are you recovering? I s full blown say hi sex life? What do I need to? I’ll just I just send you a referral, it's fine we don't have to talk about it if you don't want to talk about it totally, but just to let you know we're just going to go ahead and talk about the differences between this and we're going to go ahead and bring out my pelvic model and we're going to talk about what your floor probably looks like right now like we just go into it without them having to really tell me too much, because sometimes it gets a little but that's what I want everyone to know that get education as much as you can, anyone gives you a referral totally, get your referral. If you can get into any type of public health, or pelvic exercises, or in with anyone that's pelvic health specialist, or whoever beforehand, please do I promise you it's going to be the best decision you've ever made. best decision, that is a health best decision.
Christa: Okay, so now, something that you are so passionate about is the inequality when it comes to breastfeeding and you know people of color when it comes to. I know you talked about how families of color. When they leave hospitals, the chance that they keep up with breastfeeding, it decreases. So let's kind of talk about that a little bit like what are the issues we're currently seeing and what can we do to help what can people watching this do to help and how can we you know become more aware of it?
Kayla: So, the issue I’m currently seeing is a couple of things. One is the initiation rate so it's latched. We latch, we get them to latch, usually how we get the latches up for debate, nipple shield whatever the case may be, but the latch typically happens honestly in the hospital setting and then once you know, folks of color leave the hospital within six weeks, maybe they decided they no longer want to breastfeed anymore, and I find that really interesting when it comes to comparative percentages just to other races. So, when I say people of color I’m specifically talking about non-Hispanic black folks, and black books so that's the one thing I’m noticing. And then the other thing I’m noticing is access right. I have a love relationship with spaces like wic, but I have a hate kind of relationship with it as well because I know that these spaces become so overcrowded, which is another thing to happen to but these places become so overcrowded and we honestly just want baby to be fed, and let's just do this thing and so we usually push things without realizing we're pushing things, including from the hospital setting. They latch but there's still a wick consultant in there that stays sometimes longer than the actual consultant to talk to you about how to sign up for a wig, here you are, here's his full of things, or whatever the case may be, so I have this relationship with it. I’m not really sure where I want to go with it but that's what I’m finding. The push-on formula is completely different the percentages is way huger and the initiation rate is there, but once we leave it tremendously drops and so I’m finding again that it's accessed so here in Alabama there are a lot of holes right there a lot of spaces that doesn't have a lot of access to a certain type of care in a lot of different ways, but we're talking about medical right now you know, care when it comes to women, and women's health, and infant health, and so access to care something like the postpartum clinic or something as simple as a clc working on our own as a doula or what have you it's very rare and it's especially rare if that person is of color and that person can understand the race, and why it's so important to go into certain neighborhoods? or so important to have certain conversations? it's so important to use certain language, it's so important to use certain marketing. Those are the things that's happening, those are things I’m noticing. The access here is just not as great as it. Probably should be and that goes for a lot of things, but that's what I’m noticing. That inequalities is really unfortunate to me. In my humble opinion, just an opinion y'all, because we want to do what's best for our children, we want to do what's best for our kids, we want to do what's best for us, but oftentimes again, I’m going to keep repeating it, access it's not available so that means support is not available that means that community is not happening and when those things aren't happening, how are we really uplifting our women? how are we really you know, pushing for women to become healthy? pushing for healthy infants? how are we really combating the things that us working in? you know, maternal mental health or maternal health in general are trying to combat so that's what's happening, that's what I’m saying. I’m working really hard though again with the research and working with other folks, trying to figure out ways where maybe we can change some protocols, maybe we can help with the education of providers, and help with popping up some clinics, or something to help the majority. Again, I can only speak from Alabama, but help with the majority of Alabama who happens to be folks of color.
Christa: Yeah and you also in regards to that, you do a lot for low-income families as well and give them lactation support. So what do you kind of do in this realm? and how do you know bring it to their attention? and kind of like, I guess market to them I don't know if that's the right word but you know let people know what you're offering.
Kayla: Market could be a word I guess it just all depends on what context you're using it, but it could be the word. How I started out really paying attention and honing in on communities that were lower with income. It's actually I started out helping out with a support group located in north Alabama called coloring between the lines and that support group the amazing birth worker and woman that was running it at the time. Decided this is too much for me, there was a lot of racial impact for her and so I said, okay yeah sure I’ll take it and take it over and so I kind of created it into a nonprofit and that's kind of how it's starting right now and so basically I found that A from those women and then B because of the pandemic because it's kind of maybe a few months, no when I say maybe, close to six months before the pandemic hit, I took over and really shifted the way that things were happening. I started to notice that I really didn't have to market. All I need to do was create the access. All I needed to do was create the space, a space that didn't feel like it was a little corner, a space I didn't feel it was a little section within some of these non-profits that were for black folks. If I just created the access and created the space just like it was anything else because it should be and it is. it'll just, it'll reach the people that needs to reach we're up to 200 plus women now, that we help when it comes to education and so we do that through support groups, of course everything has been virtual literally for almost a year everything has been virtual. I don't even let them come out of house during winter break. Winter break. During winter, because I don't want anyone coming out of the house during winter because of flu, because babies, because breastfeeding all that, so we usually do all virtual during that time once it's a special pop-up or something anyways, but because of all this we have been virtual over the last year so support groups monthly, support groups monthly, mommy meetups, monthly community, breastfeeding classes, and they're just basic classes where I give you basic information. Sometimes it changes up, sometimes it doesn't. It really just depends you have a jet class, noir class, and an onyx class and those are all different ways to say the word black and there are all different classes based off of where you are your breastfeeding journey. So when you create a space that feels like you, I didn't wear my shirt to say what it says my lactation counselor is black. Imagine what someone could think and how they would feel if they're not used to seeing you and then they see you and then you create the space where it's like, oh yeah and people were so excited they were like, oh yeah I want to take the onyx class. When you just make a space feel like a space that's accessible and it's warming and inviting and you don't feel like you have to be in the corner of that breastfeeding class in the hospital because you're the only black person, it really does wonders so that's kind of how I stayed into helping low-income folks when it came to lactation. Started when I was in California when I was helping low-income foster youth as a birthday volunteer, first doula, so it started then that was years and years and years ago and I saw what was happening there which was really interesting to me. it was through the joy of birthing foundation, they're still they're still thriving to this day and I’m like, yes but that's how all that started and then it just kind of trickled into coming here and doing it with the more lactation foundation.
Christa: So if someone is listening to this and they would like to make an appointment with you or just kind of get more information about what you do, where can they go, and what do you kind of recommend for people to kind of get started with?
Kayla: They can definitely visit the postpartumclinic.com. If they're not sure what it is that they need where they are, they know they want lactation but they don't know how you can totally take our lactation quiz. It's actually on the front of the page and that goes for postpartum as well. I don't know where I am, I don't know what to say, but let me just fill out this form it usually helps a bit, and so from there we'll kind of craft some things with you and set up a free 30-minute consultation and then you can set up a free 30-minute consultation. If you just want to chat and figure it out but you can definitely go to the postpartum clinic.com for that and you can also find us on Instagram at the postpartum clinic. Everything is at the post program planning.
Christa: Perfect, I love that you have like a quiz for them to take to kind of understand, because I think a lot of times moms might be feeling something or they might be concerned about something, but they don't really know which direction to start or what to address first so I think you've really covered a lot of key things that you know. A lot of moms kind of go through I think that's just amazing the work you do and this is kind of just off the cuff but what and what really inspires you to keep going? and do the work you do and to help the women around you?
Kayla: My family not because they're heavily you know, not because they heavily want to be midwives like me, or anything but because of all the things that they've experienced during either their childbearing years, or what they're dealing with now, or wanting to have children now no matter their age, of course there's difficulties as you get older but it's just certain things that they're dealing with that I knew at a young age, I told myself I would never and it was just based off of education support access that includes folks who are still in my family and folks who have transitioned. it's just certain things that I said that I just didn't want to deal with and somehow from there learning all these things educating folks and all of that has inspired them so in return. It's inspired me to kind of continue the work hearing them say you know, I wish I had something like this when I was going through this, or hearing and saying, oh I had a midwife just find out things you never knew, and so it inspires me that way just my family that includes my partner's family and you never know what folks are going through, but I know especially from this in the south it's a thing being folks of color and having issues with pcos of fibroids breastfeeding and things may be very taboo so it inspires me to kind of comeback that. Let me show you what we can do go, from there.
Christa: So I always like to and these interviews what I call them fun thinking questions, and I think this because of the work you do and everything you do things this will be a fun one, but if you could have a billboard made today, where you could share one tip with moms everywhere? what would you have it say?
Kayla: It would say literally and I want my face on there with my hand on my head saying, this ain't me, it's not new, this ain't there, you know we've mom shame a lot. I feel like there's even a huge part of what it is that you do, what it is I do, that probably wouldn't exist if there wasn't so much negativity and acting like it it's new and it's not now. So that's what I would put it ain't new, that's it, period. In black and white I don't need no pretty colors, nothing, just it ain't new, period on the bottom is two moms everywhere that's it.
Christa: I love it. I love it, that's great. So again for everyone that's listening and watching where can everyone find you on Instagram? and get more information about the postpartum clinic?
Kayla: You can find us on Instagram at the postpartum clinic and you can find more information on us and everything that we're doing at thepostpartumclinic.com
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