Organizational History

Organizational History

MCH Champion Awardee

Award recipients for Maternal-Child Health Advocates and Activists at the 2017 Birthing Justice Forum & Human Rights in Childbirth Summit Los Angeles, California, hosted by AWMNH and Black Women Birthing Justice (photo by Ani Tsourian).




In 1993, two midwives and Cordelia Hanna, an  apprentice midwife and childbirth educator, founded Wholistic Midwifery School of Southern California (WMSSC) as a 501 c3 non-profit community charity in Los Angeles, California.  As licensure for  direct-entry (non-Mom & Daughternurse) midwives had just been codified in the California Business and Professions Code in 1994, our .original intent was to open a  direct-entry midwifery school to provide an alternative to lengthly apprenticeships for student midwives to become California Licensed Midwives and Certified Professional Midwives. We also envisioned a  opening a freestanding birth center accepting Medi-Cal  serving low-income families. The birth center would be a training site for student midwives pursuing licensure, under the supervision of Licensed Midwives. We were years ahead of the trends.


In 2010, with a grant from The Laurence H. Tribe Charitable Trust,  the DBA Association for Wholistic Maternal and Newborn Health (AWMNH) was established, with the same mission, but a different focus.  Also this year,  we  received a 2-year grant from The California Community Foundation.   

By 2011,  our mission had  evolved and changed. However, we remained committed  to promoting  the Midwives Model of Care and  integrating  client-centered, wholistic maternity care into maternal health programs. We focused our outreach efforts to promote this model in clinics, hospitals and public health departments. 

Due to lack of insurance and Medi-Cal reimbursement for professional labor support, our work focused on providing Community Doula Services through a volunteer program which allowed new graduate doulas the opportunity to provide labor support for certification requirements, while giving low-to-moderate-income families a much needed service that was unavailable. 


With funding received by The California Community Foundation for Nursing Education and Hospital Improvements in 2010 and 2011, we launched the Mother-Friendly Childbirth Initiative of Los Angeles County, a policy and hospital improvement initiative based on the five principles (normalcy of birth, empowerment, autonomy, do no harm, and responsibility) and ten steps of the Mother-Friendly Childbirth Initiative,  developed by the Coaltion to Improve Maternity Services.  From 2011 to 2015, we  hosted several conferences bringing together professionals not usually at the same table such as physicians, nurses, doulas and midwives,  to discuss ways to collaborate and provide evidence-based, respectful care for all birthing persons and their infants. That year, we won an award from The Coalition for Improving Maternity Services for our activism. We helped at least one Los Angeles hospital and a public health clinic, and numerous perinatal providers  become “mother friendly” and increased awareness of the Mother-Friendly Childbirth Initiative (MFCI) as a recommendation to improve birth outcomes.


The Human Rights in Childbirth US Summit & Birthing Justice Forum, California Endowment Center, 2016. Sponsored by AWMNH, Human Rights in Childbirth, Black Women Birthing Justice, and others.

In 2010, we conducted our first course, Childbirth Education for Health and Human Service Workers for home visitors working at  Maternal-Child Health Access on the  pilot project Welcome Baby! Program  funded by First 5 LA.

In 2011, we launched The Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Training and Certification Program.  Hired by The Center for Health Promotion at UCLA, we  conducted a training Community Health Promoters  working the Neighborhood Mother-Mentor Program, a program based in the Pico-Union neighborhood of Los Angeles, which was part of a translational research project at UCLA directed by  Dr. Mary Jane Rotheram-Borus, Ph.D.

From 2015 to 2019, we were funded by Esperanza Community Housing Corporation to deliver our  Perinatal Support Specialist Doula Training to their Community Health Promoters (Promatores de Salud); giving them the knowledge and skills to provide maternal care and  perinatal and lactation education to pregnant women and new mothers living  in South Los Angeles, California.

In 2020-2021, we trained maternal-child mental health staff working at  Wellnest Emotional Health and Wellbeing. “Wellnest’s Socially Integrated Service Model is designed to address the whole child, from 0-25, the entire family, and the communities they live in” (Wellnest, 2021).  The company invested in staff  perinatal training, completing our Perinatal Support Specialist TrainingChildbirth Educator Training and Postpartum Doula Training, enabling them to provide comprehensive perinatal support services for their clients in South Los Angeles.

So far, 255 persons have graduated from our training and certification programs. Many of them have gone on to become midwives, lactation consultants, medical students  and public health professionals.


Happy Mama Healthy Baby Alliance offers community health education on topics related to pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding. A grant provided by Prolacta Bioscience/Athari Council (2021), enables us to provide community perinatal education free of charge for low-income families (Medi-Cal does not reimburse us for these services).Here are some of the classes we offer:

Empowered Birth Choices  

A 4-Week Series of group classes for pregnant persons and their partners

This class helps expectant parents to:

  • Prevent Premature Birth
  • Cultivate Trust in Birth
  • Make Informed Decisions
  • Know Their Birthing Rights
  • Understand the Birth Process
  • Make Informed Choices
  • Cope with Labor and Birth
  • Breastfeed Successfully
  • Bond with their Newborns
  • Smoothly Adjust to Parenthood

We do not turn anyone away for inability to pay, because we know how important childbirth education is in improving birth outcomes. Childbirth education is a very under-funded public health resource in LA County, so we are filling a gap,  by offering these classes free of charge to community members.  We delight in helping pregnant people cope with labor,  and have safe and satisfying birth experiences.

Breast Is Best 

Breastfeeding education class for pregnant and parenting persons

This class covers the basics about how to get breastfeeding started right,  make it work, and cope with common problems. Breastfeeding support by Breastfeeding Peer Counselors and referral to International Board-Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLC) is also available.


Since Medicaid  does not cover doula services in California, doula program has been serving low-income families with volunteer and donation-based labor and postpartum doula services since 2011, filling a gap in  access for low-income families to have  professional doula support  (As of 2022, doula support is now a Medi-Cal benefit; though no mechanism exists for reimbursement) Our Doulas are BIPOC persons and are from the neighborhoods and communities they serve. Click here to meet our doulas.

In 2019, AWMNH received a grant from Health Net, Inc. to develop the first doula  pilot community-based doula program ever undertaken by a health plan.  The Health Net Community Doula Program’s goal was to lower cesarean rates among Health Net’s African-American members for 150 African-American families. In just 6 months (n=30) we succeeded in lowering  Health Net’s cesarean rate among their African-American members from 70% to 10%. Our premature birth rate was 5%, far below the national average for African-American infants.

In 2020, we established the DBA Happy Mama Healthy Baby Alliance reflecting our expanding interest in the domain of maternal and infant mental health recognizing  its long term impact on child health.

A program evaluation (Roger, 2021) of our Happy Mama Healthy Baby Community Doula Program (n=15) showed that we have achieved our goals of lowering cesarean sections (25%) and increasing vaginal births (75%), especially among African-American women who have the highest rate of cesarean in Los Angeles County and the USA,  reducing premature births (0%) and Low birth weight (0%),  maternal deaths (0%), increasing  exclusive breastfeeding initiation (100%), and identifying mothers with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (45%) and making needed referrals for treatment. 

With pandemic-relief monies received in 2020, we hired community doulas to provide virtual  labor support to anxious mothers giving birth during the first months of COVID-19. We used the slogan “we are still here, and we care”.

In 2021, we worked with Venice Family Clinic to establish a pilot doula program at their clinics; the first Federally-Qualified Health Clinic (FQHC) in Los Angeles County to do so.

Also this year, we established our company in Ghana, West Africa, positioning ourselves to work on Safe Motherhood Initiatives  through our Birth Worker Cultural Exchange Program.

In 2022, we became one of the programs of Heluna Health. They support us in various ways, helping us to achieve our mission and reach more mothers and families in need. 


In 2020, we established the DBA Happy Mama Healthy Baby Alliance to reflect our evolving work as a training and advocacy organization, and our expanded focus on maternal  and infant mental health, which is reflected in our slogan “Happy Mamas Growing Healthy Babies”. Happy Mama Healthy Baby Alliance provides training and mentorship opportunities for the perinatal professions, opportunities for networking and learning; bringing professionals from across various  disciplines together to promote maternal-infant health to work on strategies to reduce perinatal health inequities and disparities, improve maternity care quality, reduce maternity care expenditures, increase access to midwives and doulas, and promote evidence-based, respectful maternity care. 

Our main program is the Happy Mama Healthy Baby Community Doula Program. The Community-Based Doula Model is an innovative approach to address seemingly intransigent ethnic perinatal health disparities through advocacy, health education, and physical and emotional support.

 Our trainings and  classes are trauma-informed, evidence-based and culturally aware, promoting social justice in health. We have continued to offer community-based doula support to low-income, mostly BIPOC families; because we believe every family deserves a doula.


  • Design community-based initiatives and strategies, engage and mobilize stakeholders to improve maternal and child health in their jurisdictions.
  • Create networking and continuing education opportunities for perinatal professionals: seminars, conferences, webinars, panel discussions, film screenings, etc.
  • Provide free and low-cost doula, lactation support and childbirth education for low-income pregnant women and adolescents. 
  • Implement programs to improve maternal and infant health through consulting with ministries of health, health plans, clinics, hospitals, non-profit/non governmental programs, with the goal to provide evidence-based, mother and baby-centered, holistic and respectful maternity care programs aimed to address perinatal and child health inequities and disparities.
  • Provide training and certification programs in maternity care for health and human service providers and community members.


Our trainings include Community  Birth Doula Training, The Perinatal Support Specialist TrainingBreastfeeding Peer Counselor Training, Heart and Hands Postpartum Doula Training, and a Childbirth Educator Training for Health and Human Service Professionals.


We receive fee-for-service income from our professional training programs, conferences, webinars, and classes. We have worked with dozens of agencies including:

  • Heluna Health, City of Industry, CA
  • Venice Family Clinic, Venice, CA
  • Scripps Hospital Power Moms Project, San Diego, CA
  • Wellnest Emotional Support & Wellbeing, South Los Angeles, CA
  • Pasadena Public Health Department Black Infant Health Program, Pasadena, CA
  • Black Women Birthing Justice, Oakland, CA
  • Prototypes Black Infant Health Program, Pomona, CA
  • Prototypes Health Right 360, Pomona, CA
  • Human Rights in Childbirth, Portland, OR
  • Therapeutic Play Foundation, Pasadena, CA
  • Esperanza Community Housing Corporation , Promatora de Salud/Community Health Promoter Program – Los Angeles, CA
  • UCLA Center for Health Promotion, Neighborhood Mother-Mentor Program – Pico Union Neighborhood of Los Angeles. CA
  • Maternal Child Health Access, Welcome Baby! Pilot Program, Los Angeles, CA
  • Health & Human Services Association of Martin & Faribault County, Blue Earth, MN

    Perinatal Support Specialist Training. Esperanza Community Housing Corporation, South Los Angeles, CA (2017)


  • Nile Sisters Development Association, San Diego, CA
  • Fremont County Breastfeeding Coalition, Canon, Colorado
  • El Nido Family Services, Los Angeles, CA
  • Pacific Clinics, Los Angeles, CA
  • Childcare Resource Center, Los Angeles, CA
  • Human Services Association, Bell Gardens, CA
  • Health Net, Inc. – Los Angeles, CA
  • Fresno Department of Public Health, Fresno, CA
  • University Muslim Medical Association (UMMA)  Clinic – South Los Angeles, CA
  • Pediatric Therapy Network , Torrance, CA
  • Community Health Alliance of Pasadena (CHAP) Clinic, Pasadena, CA
  • Benevolence Industries Inc. Central Medical Clinic, Crenshaw District,  Los Angeles, CA
  • All Care One Health Center Inc.,  San Fernando Valley & East Los Angeles, CA


Trainings and Certification Programs

Our trainings include Community  Birth Doula Training, The Perinatal Support Specialist TrainingBreastfeeding Peer Counselor Training, Heart and Hands Postpartum Doula Training, and a Childbirth Educator Training for Health and Human Service Professionals.

Conferences and Events

Our conferences and events include The Mother-Friendly Childbirth Symposium, The Birthing Justice Forum, The Maternal-Child Health Champion Awards Ceremony, and our film and discussion series where we provide a forum to discuss tough issues such as racism in maternity care and the lifelong impact of maternal stress on fetal development and child health.

Speakers at our conferences include renowned experts including:

Dr. Sarah Buckley (researcher and physician, author of Hormonal Physiology of Childbearing).

Dr. Christine Morton, Ph.D. (Sociologist/Researcher at California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative at Stanford University)

 Dr. Chinyere Oparah (Editor and Co-Founder, Black Women Birthing Justice)

Dr. Robbie Davis-Floyd (Medical Anthropologist and author of Birth as An American Rite of Passage).

Hermine Hayes-Klein, JD (Human Rights/Birth Justice Attorney and Founder of Human Rights in Childbirth).

Paula X.Rojas, LM, CPM (Co-Founder of Mamas of Color Rising).

Ena Suseth Valladares (California Latinas for Reproductive Justice).

Dr. Sayida Peprah, Psy.D., Perinatal Psychologist


Healthy Mama Happy Baby Alliance is a DBA of Wholistic Midwifery School of Southern California, a public charity. We are exempt from federal income tax under section 501 (c) 3 of the IRS code. Contributions to our organization are tax-deductible under section 170 of the code. We are qualified to receive tax-deductible requests, devises, transfers or gifts under section 2055, 2106 or 2522 of the code.

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