Expectant mothers often feel overwhelmed as due dates approach — stepping into parenthood can be an unnerving experience. Fortunately, a team of experts is ready and eager to help new moms, at no cost.
Since 2013, MemorialCare Miller Children’s and Women’s Hospital Long Beach has offered prenatal and postnatal assistance to residents of Los Angeles County through its Welcome Baby Program. Funded by First 5 LA, Welcome Baby gives families a wealth of free resources, regardless of income, insurance, or immigration status.
Program Supervisor Lynnette Bello has worked with the MemorialCare Welcome Baby team for the past seven years. She said it is an honor to help families with newborns feel connected and supported as they navigate parenthood.
“Many first-time parents have no idea what to expect,” Bello said. “We educate them on what’s normal and what’s not and provide them with resources.”
These resources include a team of experts. Each family in the Welcome Baby Program is assigned a Nurse and a Parent Coach; these professionals help parents handle life with a newborn. The duo provides information on topics ranging from how to have a healthy pregnancy to how to baby-proof a home. Their guidance includes suggestions on baby care, like bonding and breast feeding, and adult care, like managing stress and recognizing the signs of maternal depression.
When needed, the team can help parents coordinate insurance coverage, find a job, enroll in WIC and CalFresh, and find public housing. The Welcome Baby Program can also help families find community linkages to child-care providers, lactation clinics, and various support groups.
In addition to guidance, Welcome Baby also provides tangible items, like a parenting book with detailed descriptions of childhood milestones. Families also receive a health safety kit, baby-proofing equipment for the house, a nursing pillow, and an assortment of toys for their child.
"To be able to participate in the Welcome Baby program was the best decision I made as a mother,” said new mom Ana Olivas. “The program helped me feel more confident knowing my baby was growing healthy. From the first nurse visit to my personal parent coach visits, I was always learning new things.”
Before the pandemic, Welcome Baby teams visited homes at regularly scheduled intervals. Now, however, visits take place virtually, by phone and computer. Bello initially thought the stay-at-home orders would cause a drop in Welcome Baby participants, but said she has found the opposite to be true. According to Bello, various factors have caused increased enrollment in the Welcome Baby Program.
“Some families are socially isolated; before COVID-19, they had thought grandma would be able to help them,” she said. “Some families have increased anxiety about the virus. Other were okay before, but now they don’t have a job and they need assistance.”
Anyone who lives in Los Angeles County and plans to deliver a child at MemorialCare Miller Children’s and Women’s Hospital Long Beach is eligible to join the Welcome Baby program. For more information, go to www.millerchildrenshospitallb.org/birthcare-center/welcome-baby-program.