Reynoso seeks to ‘close the gaps in maternal healthcare’ with Brownsville community baby shower

community baby shower
Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso hosted a community baby shower in Brownsville on April 13.
Photo courtesy of Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso

More than 100 new and expectant parents were “showered” with gifts, resources, and good tidings at a community baby shower hosted by Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso on Saturday. 

The shower, hosted in the Van Dyke Community Center in Brownsville, featured all the usual conventions of a baby shower — games, gifts, arts and crafts — as well as educational workshops and the opportunity to talk with experts from across the fields maternal healthcare and baby care.

game at baby shower
The shower started with games and activities. Photo courtesy of Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso

“When I became Borough President, I promised Brooklyn that addressing disparities in maternal health care for Black women would be a top priority,” Reynoso said in a statement. “For too long, our systems have deprived new and expecting parents of the essentials that they need to start a family. Community baby showers like this are part of a new way forward that Brooklyn is building for growing families.”

In 2022, during his first year as borough president, Reynoso allocated his entire capital funding budget to maternal healthcare programs across three different public hospitals. The same year, the beep launched a public education campaign surrounding maternal healthcare and mortality and started the “Born in Brooklyn” pilot program, which gave parents leaving Brooklyn hospitals with their newborns a box full of baby supplies and resources. 

According to the latest data from the city’s Department of Health, the Maternal Mortality Rate in New York City, at roughly 51 pregnancy-associated deaths per 100,000 live births, remains much higher than the rate across the U.S. — an estimated 32.9 deaths per 100,000 births (though the way the Maternal Mortality Rate is calculated in the U.S. is currently under dispute, and may be as low as 10.4 deaths per 100,000.) Black birthing people in New York City are four times as likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than their white counterparts — in 2020, of 51 people who died from a “pregnancy-associated” cause, 23 were Black and just eight where white. 

woman getting resources at baby shower
Community orgs tabled with supplies and resources for new and expecting parents. Photo courtesy of Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso

The same year, Brooklyn had the second-highest pregnancy rate of the five boroughs – and the second-highest number of pregnancy-associated deaths. East New York and Brownsville reported among the highest infant mortality rates in the city. Per the city’s Summary of Vital Statistics, infant mortality is greatly influenced by the prenatal care and overall health of the mother before birth — as well as the care the newborn receives and factors like safe sleep and breastfeeding. 

Two workshops at the community baby shower tackled some of the most-common issues faced by new babies and parents: safe sleep for babies and postpartum mental health. 

Dozens of local organizations supported or tabled at the event: The Met Council, the Brooklyn Diaper Project, the Brownsville Multiservice Health Center, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Maternity Hospital Quality Improvement Network, and more.

a child reads a book at a baby shower
A little one dove right in to a new book. Photo courtesy of Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso

“The Brooklyn Diaper Project has distributed over 400,000 diapers to NYC families to date,” said Rachel Sachnoff of the Brooklyn Diaper project, in a statement. “As we work toward providing 1 million diapers to those in need, we recognize that there’s no end in sight to this urgent deficit. With 1 in 2 families experiencing diaper need, leaders and diaper banks must work together to secure lasting justice, dignity, and independence for families–beyond temporary distribution efforts.”

Attendees left the shower with diaper bags packed full of diapers, wipes, baby blankets, postpartum pads, baby books, bottles, cocoa butter, and more. 

backpack with baby supplies
Attendees went home with bags full of baby and postpartum supplies. Photo courtesy of Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso

“By celebrating the exciting journey of parenthood for new parents and providing resources to raise our newest Brooklynites, we’re proving that we can help close the gaps in maternal healthcare through community, celebration, and love – the Brooklyn way,” Reynoso added. “Congratulations to all the new Brooklyn families, and a huge thank you to the many partners who joined us to make this joyous day possible.”