Becoming a new parent is never an easy thing. No matter your walk of life, whether you are a first-time parent, or a parent of four, caring for an infant can be extremely overwhelming. The Children’s Council of Watauga County recognizes that during this challenging transition, parents and babies need a tremendous amount of support that is not always available. To help fill this gap, The Children’s Council developed the Nurtured Beginnings Program.

The Nurtured Beginnings Program is a home visiting program available to all new mothers and their partners who have a baby up to three months of age, regardless of income or insurance. The program was designed to provide every new parent support and education and to be an advocate for parents and babies.

The program consists of three free home visits. At the first visit the new parent can expect a homemade meal and a gift bag complete with a handmade blanket, a pack of diapers, a new Halo sleep sack, a brand new sleeper, self care items and much more. There is also a folder of information included in the bag that the Nurtured Beginnings home visitor will discuss and go over. The information includes handouts on safe sleep and ways to prevent SIDS, car seat safety, baby’s growth and development and several other important topics. There is also information given about the many other services that the Children’s Council provides such as free support groups for parents and the diaper bank which provides two free packs of diapers a month to any family in Watauga County.

The home visitor will also discuss other community resources that are available to new moms and their families and can help the mom access these resources if needed. During the visit the Nurtured Beginnings home visitor will discuss and screen the new mom for postpartum depression and anxiety, which is something that one in seven women will experience, and can make a referral to a free support group if needed. During the visit, the home visitor will also discuss the baby’s eating and sleeping habits and can help answer any questions and concerns that the new parents might have.

The second and the third visits are very similar in that the home visitor will come to help answer any questions, offer guidance and to make referrals to needed resources when requested. The Nurtured Beginnings home visitor will also provide information about what to expect in the months to come as the baby grows and develops.

Several studies have been conducted to show the benefits that home visiting can have for new moms and babies. According to the American Association of Pediatrics, home visiting programs with new mothers and infants can increase the utilization of community resources, decrease the risk of child abuse and neglect, decrease the number of visits to the emergency room needed during those first few months of an infant's life, as well as increase parental knowledge of child development and appropriate discipline.

Many of the moms who have participated in the Nurtured Beginnings Program also agree that having someone come into your home to offer support and education can be very beneficial. According to surveys conducted in 2017 and 2018, 100 percent of the families who participated in Nurtured Beginnings felt like it was a valuable program and 99 percent of participants agreed that it increased their knowledge of community resources.

“The Nurtured Beginnings program is such a valuable program for supporting new moms," said Jessica Yates, who participated in the Nurtured Beginnings program shortly after giving birth to her daughter. "It was something that I didn’t even realize I needed until the home visitor was there. This really made a difference for me and my daughter.”

Katie Miller also participated in the Nurtured Beginning Program and felt that “it is an invaluable program that provided a listening ear and a pair of helpful hands during the first weeks after birth.”

The Children’s Council of Watauga County strongly believes in the adage that “it takes a village to raise a child.” The Nurtured Beginnings Program serves as a way to put that proverb into action. By providing new parents with support and resources, this program highlights the “village” available in Watauga County to help ensure that new parents and babies have the most nurtured of beginnings. For more information, contact Megan Hudson at (828) 262-5424 or megan@thechildrenscouncil.org.

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