Do you remember when you brought your firstborn home from the hospital? I do, and 15 years later, the memories are as fresh as the hour we were discharged. One word sums up how I felt: overwhelmed. Sitting in the back seat of our car with firstborn in his infant seat, I cried and I wasn’t sure why. Even though I had a good support system – husband, mother, friends, colleagues who are nurses, our pediatrician – I still felt overwhelmed and a little helpless. What am I supposed to do with a new baby? How do I know what he wants or needs when he cries? Why is he throwing up so much after he eats? Is he getting enough fluids? How do I know he’s not dehydrating in the heat of July? When will he sleep through the night? When will I get to sleep? Why do I feel like crying all of the time? On and on the questions went.
I could have used a home visitor with expertise in caring for a newborn, recognizing the signs of dehydration and maternal depression and what to do when he cries. I managed to find answers amid the lack of sleep, but many new parents don’t. Many new parents need extra support from someone who has experience with babies to help them understand how to interact with their newborns and toddlers.
The Child Abuse Prevention Fund’s Home Visitation Program, provides grants to agencies that do just that. And we are starting to get proof that home visitors are making a difference for these families. Parents are learning the importance of early bonding and parent-child interaction.
This is one of the incredible ways we can help families at risk of abusing their children. Home visitors help them understand the importance of talking to their babies, reading or describing picture books and responding to their babies in a caring, compassionate way when they cry. These are some of the things home visitors help new parents learn so they can better bond with their babies. Home visitors also help at-risk parents find a medical home – a pediatrician or family physician that can provide medical care and immunizations.
We are making a difference. Visit the Child Abuse Prevention Fund’s Home Visitation Program to learn more about how home visiting makes a difference for babies, toddlers and parents. Help us to give new parents a chance to be the best parents they can be.
The Child Abuse Prevention Fund is a fundraising initiative of Children’s Hospital and Health System. Since 1988, the organization has distributed more than $9.2 million to support community-based child abuse prevention initiatives throughout Wisconsin.
Read more blog posts by Jennifer Hammel.