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Giving birth is only the start. I’ve known this for some time now. In my previous professional “chapters” as a prenatal massage therapist, yoga teacher, and doula, daily interactions with my clients and students afforded me insight into the needs of  RVA’s prenatal and postpartum communities. In those roles, I often served as an informal resource hub for pregnant or postpartum people seeking support for specific issues that needed immediate attention: mental health referrals, breastfeeding challenges, stillbirth. That experience led me to Nurture, and the goal of creating more centralized, robust, and accessible systems of support for ALL of Richmond’s childbearing families. 


A Call for Help

Two weeks ago I received a call from a colleague who works in one of our city’s social service agencies. A friend of hers had just had a baby and was having some breastfeeding challenges. Could I help her friend find the resources she needed?

I started to make a referral to a couple of lactation consultants, but my colleague asked, “Will there be a fee for this?” “Very likely,” I said, at which point she chimed in, “That won’t work.” Her friend did not have the financial resources to pay for this.

I suggested she have her friend call me directly so that I could help her find the resources that best served her needs. Her friend left me a voicemail message the next day, and after a couple more days of phone tag, we talked in person on a Friday. By then this new mother had been experiencing sore nipples for nearly two weeks, starting a couple days after her child’s birth. Though she had an appointment the following Monday with a lactation consultant at her pediatrician’s office, two weeks is a long time to go with sore nipples.

I asked if she’d been given any follow-up info by the hospital where she’d delivered. She thought so, but it was lost among the papers she’d brought home. While I had her on the phone, I searched the web for lactation support at her hospital. After multiple dead-end searches within the hospital’s website, I was able to find a phone number for lactation services that looked valid. I also gave her the contact information of another lactation support provider that I knew offered services on a sliding scale. I hung up with fingers crossed that she’d get support before the weekend hit, as sore nipples can be an extremely difficult challenge: for some this could be a breastfeeding deal breaker, especially so early in the game.

An Abundance of Resources That are Difficult to Access

Richmond is blessed with many outstanding resources for pregnancy, birth, and early parenting. But in my years of working within this field, I’ve heard repeatedly from parents and providers, in both the public and the private sectors, how difficult it is to identify and access resources when you need them. In the words of one respondent to Nurture’s 2016 Community Needs Survey, there is a need for “
something that’s organized. There is so much info and nothing leads to direct information. You have to research a lot.

Just like my acquaintance with the new baby and sore nipples.

Community Directory Project

Having heard the call for an “organized”  resource from multiple stakeholders, Nurture has been working to develop a web-based, searchable directory of pregnancy, birth, and early parenting resources in the Richmond Metro Area. Over the past two years, several volunteers have made significant contributions to this project. Our goal is to create an easy to use directory that serves as a central gateway through which childbearing families can access community resources and providers can refer their clients. As the community of providers contributes to the directory, its database will also serve as the basis of an asset-mapping process. 

We have identified the technical platform and are very close to our first beta test of the directory. When it is fully functioning, local service providers and organizations will be able to input their own information into a system that is searchable by category and location, and can be filtered by specific terms.

Now we need your input before we go further.

First: help us create a truly useful and comprehensive list of searchable categories. Our volunteer webmaster says the clearer we can be on our categories before we go live, the less backtracking we’ll have to do later. We’d love your feedback on this initial list of resource categories. If you’re a parent or provider, what kinds of services are you typically searching for? Would you be able to find them within the categories listed below? What are we missing? Click this link to provide your input!  

Proposed Listing Categories

Second – we want folks to be able to drill down to services that are relevant to their needs. We’d love your input on a list of qualities through which people can filter their searches of the major categories. So far we’ve come up with:

  • Accepts Insurance
  • Accepts Medicaid
  • Free Service
  • Multi-lingual
  • Sliding Scale Offered
  • 24/7 Support

What other suggestions do you have for this directory – as a parent seeking access to resources? As a provider wishing to refer to resources? Click this link to provide your feedback.  Your input will help make this directory as useful and relevant as it can be.

Returning to the situation of the young woman outlined at the beginning of this blog post: what if, when she had first encountered a breastfeeding issue, she had been able to access an on-line directory and look up “breastfeeding support,” filtered by “24/7 Support” and “Sliding Scale” or “Free Service.” She might then have been able to quickly identify any resources offered at the hospital where she gave birth, as well as other local sources of support (perhaps closer to her geographically or culturally) that could provide guidance with how to deal with her problem.

And perhaps down the road, in addition to an on-line directory, there will be a 24/7 call center that helps direct people to appropriate resources in real time. But that is a story for another time. . .

Thank you for your help!

Leslie Lytle,
Executive Director of Nurture. Photo credit © Kim Schmidt Photography



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