While home visits by health care providers tend to be a thing of the past, the Champaign Health District believes there is a segment of the population that benefits from an in-home checkup – new mothers and their little bundles of joy.
Stacey Thomas, director of nursing for the health district, said the first few weeks of a baby’s life can be a taxing time both mentally and physically for mom.
“It’s hard to be a new mom under the best of circumstances,” she said. “You can have 10 really good days, but it’s that one bad day that we have to watch out for.
“Also, while recovering from the delivery, moms tend to worry about baby before mom. We want to make sure they are paying attention to their own body and that they are healing,” Thomas added.
To help make sure new mothers countywide are taking care of themselves and to ensure infants throughout the county remain as healthy as can be, the health district on Feb. 16 relaunched its Newborn Visiting Program.
Thomas said the program came about years ago as “kind of a brain child of the mental health board to screen for postpartum depression,” and it grew from there.
Funded through a grant from the Mental Health, Drug & Alcohol Service Board of Logan & Champaign Counties, the Newborn Visiting Program had became an afterthought locally due to staffing and training issues, Thomas said.
“There was never an official stop date,” she added. “The program just phased out to the point where we weren’t really doing them. We took the opportunity of not doing them to rewrite the program.”
The biggest change to the rebirth of the Newborn Visiting Program centers around the eligibility requirements.
Previously, Thomas said, the criteria for the free program was kept pretty tight as it was only made available to teen moms, first-time moms, or moms with a history of depression.
“We don’t want to say that just because you are 20 years old and not 19, that you don’t deserve this service,” she added. “It doesn’t matter if you are a teen mom, a first-time mom, or if this is your fourth kid. It’s still hard to be a new mom. We want to include everyone, and once we get there, we can decide if mom needs a lot of resources or just a visit.”
The only criteria now standing between new moms and a free home visit from a county-employed nurse is the mother must reside in Champaign County and the baby must be less than 6 weeks old.
Taking care of mom
When a new mom registers in the Newborn Visiting Program, she will receive a visit from one of the following public health nurses trained to provide the in-home services – Thomas, Cari Landers-O’Neal or Amanda Byrd.
“What we do is we perform a health screening on mom and baby,” Thomas said. “We let Mom pretty much guide the visit as far as what her needs are. Maybe it’s advice on feeding, someone to talk to, or what type of resources are available to her within the community. We just kind of let her tell us what she needs. If we don’t know, we will figure out the answer very quickly.”
To make sure every mom who participates in the program is aware of any and all help available to her, the majority of the planning stages for the relaunch of the program was spent compiling a lengthy list of mom- and baby-related resources that the nurses will share with every mom during the in-home visit.
In addition to sharing information on local resources, moms who register in the Newborn Visiting Program will undergo a postpartum depression screening along with a physical assessment.
“We just like to check in and make sure that physically mom is doing well because we know she’s not paying attention physically to (whether) she’s doing well,” Thomas said.
Landers-O’Neal added that even if mom is getting adequate sleep and eating properly, there are times when she just needs to speak with someone who has been through what she’s experiencing.
“Sometimes it just helps for other moms (all three nurses in the program are mothers) to come in to talk to them to let them know we all kind of go through this in some degree because women just don’t give birth, leave the hospital, and everything is all sunshine,” Landers-O’Neal said.
Baby checkup, gifts for mom
Along with making sure each mother is doing well so she’s able to care for her newborn, the visiting nurse will do a basic physical assessment of the baby, checking its vital signs, reflexes, and measuring its weight, length and head circumference.
“We also go over their feeding schedule and their potty habits with mom to make sure everything is how it should be and to review any questions mom might have as well,” Thomas said. “Mom’s concerns might be something that’s perfectly fine, but she doesn’t feel like it’s perfectly fine.”
Thomas added, one common issue new moms face is worrying whether or not their newborn is getting enough to eat, so each nurse comes armed with breastfeeding tips and resources.
“We are able to assist with both breastfeeding and bottle feeding, which can be quite a big help,” she said.
All moms who participate in the Newborn Visiting Program will receive a parting gift from each nurse, made possible by donations from the Urbana Rotary Club and the United Way of Clark, Champaign and Madison Counties.
The gift includes a teddy bear outfitted with a baby hat and sleep sack. Inside the sleep slack is numerous baby-related items including diapers, wipes, droppers, a first-aid kit, a burp cloth, a onesie and a board book.
Mothers with an infant less than 6 weeks old who would like to schedule an in-home visit can do so by contacting the health district at 937-484-1671 or email@example.com.
“We are really proud and excited for this program,” Thomas said. “We worked hard on this one to just try and get everything together. We feel like this resource is one of the best kept secrets around here.”