TORRINGTON – With every new bundle of joy comes a degree of uncertainty – recovery from delivery, the adjustment of adding a little life to the household, a probable lack of sleep – all combine to create a whirlwind of diapers, feedings, and concerns.
But never fear, the nurses at Goshen County Public Health and its Best Beginnings program are here to help.
Even before the baby arrives and for years after – the free program is available to all pregnant women and families with children under three – Best Beginnings provides one-on-one interactions with nurses in order to improve pregnancy and birth outcomes, strengthen families, improve child health and developmental outcomes, and promote family stability and economic self-sufficiency.
Welcome Home Visits take place soon after the infant and mother are released from the hospital, and include information on breast and bottle-feeding, growth and development, safety, immunizations, community resources, and other health guidance.
In addition, Goshen County Public Health offers financial assistance for children with special health care needs, maternal high-risk and newborn intensive care for clients who are financially eligible and have a qualifying medical diagnosis.
“It’s more education-based rather than clinically based,” Melissa Johnson, RN, said of the program. “It’s just an opportunity to have another form of support during pregnancy (and after the child is born).”
Johnson has 18 years of experience with Goshen County Public Health, fellow nurse Cindy Wright has 19 years, and the newest employee, Manon Strong, while only two months into her career at the local organization, has more than two decades of home care experience
in Goshen County.
“A lot of times, we catch things that may not have been caught,” such as high-blood pressure, breastfeeding issues, if a child is jaundiced or losing weight, and more, Johnson said.
“We weigh the baby before and after breastfeeding – we weigh the baby in grams, so mothers know how much breast milk they’re getting,” she explained. Other services include helping mothers with personal goals, from quitting smoking or other substances, to furthering their education.
The nurses also administer an ages-and-stages questionnaire to ensure children are meeting developmental goals, and screen mothers for depression, connecting them to services to address mental-health issues, if necessary.
“We try to talk about their delivery and difficulties they might have had, weigh the baby, do all the assessing, check the mom for temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, take her vital signs, ask if there’s any problems with breastfeeding or other feeding issues, and address those issues,” Johnson said as to what a first Welcome Home Visit might look like.
The nurses also talk about safety in the home, and have access to recalls in furniture, food and medication.
“We bring gifts,” Johnson continued. “We have a lot of community support from donations from churches or women’s organizations, and our program … we have educational and developmental toys, sleep sacks, diapers, and even car seats to those who qualify, clothes, blankets.”
“We can help them apply for Medicaid if they’re pregnant,” Wright added. “They will have Medicaid (coverage) that same day if they qualify – it’s called presumptive eligibility.”
Although it offers several invaluable services and is free-of-charge, the nurses said many mothers do not take advantage of the Best Beginnings program.
“We would like to see more people take advantage of it – I think part of it is they don’t know it’s here,” Strong said. “It’s the beginning of getting a team to cheer you on as a new parent. Honestly, it’s a relationship, that’s what I see these gals doing – you’ve got your own cheering team here.
“It’s a partnership to raise this new child and have them be as healthy as possible and give the parents all the necessary tools to do that.”
“You have your own person that you can go to for whatever,” Wright agreed. “We’re not biased … babies don’t come with instructions.”
Residents do not need a referral from a physician. Call Goshen County Public Health at (307) 532-4069 or stop by 2025 Campbell Drive, Suite No. 1, for more information.
“I never tire of this program,” Wright said. “I’ve been doing it a long time – it’s very enjoyable. How can you not enjoy going out and meeting
a new baby?”