Motherhood is an exciting time. For some though, especially first-time mothers and those with limited resources and support systems, the experience is immensely overwhelming and stressful. Although new mothers receive some guidance from providers in doctors' offices and healthcare facilities, home visits allow nurses to offer in-depth support throughout the pregnancy and into the first few years of parenthood.
How Can Nurses Help First-Time Mothers?
Nurses interested in working closely with new mothers should consider employment with an organization that coordinates a home visiting program. One such organization, the Nurse-Family Partnership, connects nurses with low-income, first-time mothers early in their pregnancies. Nurses perform regular home visits with the program participants until the child's second birthday.
What Happens During New Mother Home Visits?
Because home visit programs begin early in pregnancy, nurses are able to provide a wide range of services for both the expectant mother and her child.
Maternity and postpartum care. Throughout the pregnancy, nurses advise participants on maternal health, nutrition, and the physical, mental and emotional changes to be expected. They also offer postpartum support to facilitate healing and the transition to parenthood.
Parenting skills. Besides teaching program participants how to feed, bathe and care for their newborns, nurses share vital information such as safe infant sleeping positions, age-appropriate disciplinary techniques and tips for recognizing illnesses.
Life and career planning. Becoming a parent impacts virtually every facet of your life. Nurses help mothers envision how parenthood will impact their life and assist them in making goals and plans to improve their situation. These might include moving to a new location, finding employment, or enrolling in college or a vocational program.
Mental health and self-care. Pregnancy is not only physically demanding, but it can also be emotionally taxing. Routine home visits are instrumental in teaching mothers self-care techniques and giving ample time for them to discuss any fears, concerns and worries.
Resource location. Depending on the state of residence, income and other eligibility factors, there are sometimes additional programs available to new mothers. From the Women, Infants and Children program (WIC) to housing assistance, nurses often relay this information to participants and help with completing paperwork and applications.
How Do New Mother Programs Benefit the Child?
The goal of home visiting programs, like the Nurse-Family Partnership, is to ensure that low-income, first-time mothers have access to the information and resources necessary to make informed decisions during the pregnancy and throughout parenthood.
By having direct access to a nurse capable of answering questions and offering critical guidance and support, program participants are more likely to establish a stable household and make better parenting decisions, both of which substantially benefit the children. According to the Nurse-Family Partnership, children involved in the program experience 48 percent fewer incidents of abuse and neglect and 39 percent fewer injuries. While boys garner more long-term benefits, both sexes achieve cognitive and behavioral improvements and a decreased likelihood of teenage arrest.
Maternal Support System
For low-income, first-time mothers, pregnancy is frequently fraught with worry and uncertainty about the future. Home visiting programs give nurses the opportunity to relay information and advice about nutrition, self-care and parenting. In addition to creating stability and support for the new mothers, the programs generate lasting benefits for the children as well.
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