Two weeks ago, I welcomed my son – Lennon – into this world. Being my first child, I must admit that I was less anxious about the actual labor and delivery process and much more anxious about those first few days at home with him and figuring out how to keep this little person alive. While we’re a fortunate family to have both of Lennon’s grandmas living in the same town as us and many supportive friends (including those who are already parents) that we could lean on for support, it still felt a bit daunting to have this little human being completely dependent on us for his survival.
Even with our vast network of support, one of the great things we got to experience on our second day at home with Lennon was a home visit by a registered nurse. That’s right. Though our family doesn’t qualify for any specific home visiting service for more challenged families, the University of Michigan hospital where Lennon was born provides a home visit to all families after they go home. This was such an amazing opportunity to ask the many questions that we were having both about Lennon’s health and well-being as well as my own recovery. The visit provided an opportunity for us to ask about what’s normal infant behavior, offer guidance on nursing, sleeping, and other developmental questions we had about our three-day old baby, and offered guidance to my partner and me as we navigated this whole new world.
As I mentioned earlier, we have a great network of support but having a trained person come to our home to provide guidance and expertise early in Lennon’s life was extremely helpful. It made me think about the evidence-based home visiting services that are available in our state that target the most challenged families. How exciting yet daunting it is to care for a newborn baby. Yes, the love is overwhelming and I know all mothers are willing to do whatever it takes to do the best by their child. But to have other stressors in one’s life may make it significantly more challenging to tend to the needs of a newborn while also recovering from one’s own physical experience of delivering a child. These voluntary home visiting programs have demonstrated improved outcomes for both mom and baby in terms of baby’s health and development and mom’s ability to provide a stable home for baby. Based on the one home visit that I experienced, I could see how they can be extremely beneficial – to have a trained professional to talk about specific baby challenges and to have a support person to lean on when times are rough.
Here in Michigan, the Governor and the Legislature are gearing up to build the fiscal year 2015 state budget. Michigan has high quality home visiting programs that already exist around our state. Unfortunately, these programs are vastly underfunded, only reach a fraction of the families that are eligible for services, and rely far too heavily on federal dollars to support them. At Michigan’s Children, we hope to see these home visiting programs expanded using sustainable state funding, and have been working with key partners towards this endeavor. In the meantime, won’t you talk to your legislators about the challenges that new parents face and how home visiting programs can support our state’s most challenged new parents? Learn more about home visiting programs in Michigan by visiting the Michigan Department of Community Health website.