While babies bring us lots of joy and happiness, the first couple of weeks after a baby has been born can be hectic and confusing, especially for a new mother. There is a lot of on-the-job-training – from feeding and bathing to changing diapers and changes in sleep schedules. It can be a bit overwhelming and negatively affect both mother and baby.
To help mothers and babies make the most of those first few weeks, the Knox County Health Department is offering a home visit by a registered nurse for all new babies in Knox County. Ideally, the visit should take place within the first two-weeks after the baby arrives at home, but can be made up to a month later.
The visits last about two hours and are done with the consent of the parent.
“These visits give parents an opportunity to ask questions and learn how they can best take care of their newborn,” said Lindsay Davis, RN, who will be making the visits for the health department. “By teaching parents the skills related to infant care and safety, parents feel more confident and the child’s growth and development are stimulated. It’s a win-win situation for both the mother and the baby.”
There is no cost for the visit. Any woman living in Knox County who has a baby is eligible for a visit, regardless of income or where the baby is born. Even if she has had other children, the mother and newborn are eligible for a visit.
Davis, a mother with two small children, knows first-hand the joy and challenges of being a new mom. Before the birth of her own children, she worked as a service coordinator with the Help Me Grow program and was a nurse with the Bureau of Children with Medical Handicaps (BCMH) program. Both programs are coordinated by the health department.
“Every child is different and none of them come with instructions,” joked Davis. “Some things can be attributed to maternal instinct, but there’s a lot of things that you just have to learn from someone else.”
Unfortunately there’s not always someone else around. “We don’t always see the family support systems to help new moms that used to be in place,” explained Davis. “There are an increasing number of single moms, and moms without family or friends to help out when the baby arrives.”
The one-time visit by Davis involves an infant and maternal health assessment. “By asking certain questions, we can determine areas of need and identify issues that may need addressed,” said Davis. “It sounds simple, but sometimes a mom may not realize she needs help until someone asks the right question.”
Part of the visit also involves learning some of the developmental stages of a newborn. “It’s important to know what to expect from your newborn,” explained Davis. “If a child is not responding in a certain way, it could indicate a developmental delay. If it is identified early on, the mother can make adjustments and correct the situation.”
To receive a newborn nursing visit from Davis, referrals will be made by hospitals and midwives involved with the birth of the child. If a mother initially thinks she does not want the visit, but later changes her mind, she can request it directly by contacting the health department.
The practice of nursing visits for newborns has been around for a while and the benefits of the visits are well documented. “Some of the information and education that we provide during the home visit is sometimes provided at the hospital,” said Davis. Yet, research has shown that postpartum women are not physically or emotionally ready to listen to presentations regarding self or newborn care while in the hospital. “The home visit reintroduces or reinforces the information that is taught in the hospital.”
Studies have shown that during a home visit, a nurse can determine the knowledge, skills and learning needs of the mother in order to individualize the education, support and level of need. “The visit gives mothers the opportunity to ask “How do I do …” and “Is this normal?” said Davis. “The end result is that mothers have increased confidence and competence, including a feeling of being more in control, when they know how to take care of themselves and their baby after they get home from the hospital.”
In addition to the one-on-one visit, mothers will receive a welcome home bag with items needed during a child’s first year including: fever strips, a sippy cup,
electrical outlet covers, bib, etc. Educational materials on topics such as SIDS,
Shaken Baby Syndrome and the importance of reading to a child, also will be included.
The home visiting program for newborns is made possible through a grant from the Knox County Family and Children First Council with funding provided by the Ohio Children’s Trust Fund. The visits are being coordinated through the Help Me Grow (HMG) program at the Knox County Health Department. For more information or to request a home visit, contact Ann Fisher, HMG program director at 392-2200, ext. 2274.