LAKEPORT, Calif. – New babies come with new worries. “Parents leave the hospital, head home, and suddenly realize they’re solely responsible for caring for an infant” said Jackie Rad, R.N.C., M.S.N., nurse manager of the Sutter Lakeside Family Birth Center. “On top of sleep deprivation and recovery from childbirth, many families in our area experience income and housing instability, which can result in unsafe conditions for newborns.”
To help parents set-up a safe sleep environment for their newborn, Sutter Lakeside Hospital launched an innovative countywide campaign called “Smart Start” in July, 2017. Thanks to a new $111,600 three-year grant from the First 5 Lake County Commission, Sutter Lakeside Hospital can now expand its effort to ensure babies born in Lake County and their families have the very best chance at a healthy, happy start in life.
Free Safe Sleep Seminars – open to all expecting moms in Lake County – have been at the center of the Smart Start campaign since its inception. Led by experienced Sutter Health Family Birth Center registered nurses and representatives from Tribal Health Rural Clinics, Partnership Health, Mother Wise and Easter Seals, the one-hour classes teach parents how to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and prevent suffocation deaths, as well as where to turn for help in the community during the stressful first year of parenthood. Each mom-to-be who takes the class receives an education and resource binder of materials compiled by the experts at Lakeside Family Birth Center along with a Smart Start Baby Bundle to help them put the lessons from the class into practice.
The Smart Start Baby Bundle includes a First 5 New Parent Kit, digital thermometer, pacifier, diapers, wipes, baby clothes, a Pack-n-Play (soft-bottomed portable playpen), a sleep sack (wearable sleep-safe blanket) and other essentials that support a smooth transition home and a safe sleep set-up for baby. A Pack-n-Play free of blankets, pillows and other soft objects meets the American Academy of Pediatrics criteria as a safe place for babies to sleep and is essential for many families who cannot afford a new crib or bassinet.
With the First 5 grant, Sutter Lakeside Hospital can cover the cost of the monthly Safe Sleep Seminars for the next three years, and expand the follow-up activities that engage families after the Seminar.
“The First 5 grant application process is highly competitive with many excellent funding opportunities brought fourth each year,” said Carla Ritz, Executive Director, First 5 Lake County. “After careful consideration, we selected the Smart Start program, in part, because it demonstrated alignment with the Strengthening Families™ Protective Factors Framework, which prioritizes parental resilience, social connections, knowledge of parenting and child development, concrete support in times of need, and the social and emotional competence of children.”
Sutter Lakeside Hospital has routinely called families that completed the Safe Sleep Seminar about a month after their delivery to check-in, ask it they were following the safe sleep strategies they learned, screen for post-partum depression and offer coaching and resources. But one call was not always enough. The new funding will allow Sutter Lakeside to offer a new option: families can choose to have a bilingual Family Resource Navigator contact them throughout the first year of parenthood. The navigator will check-in on new moms to screen for symptoms of postpartum depression, ask if they have a safe sleep environment for baby or need supplies not included in the baby bundle, and make referrals to other assistance and community resources as needed.
“As any new parent can attest, a new baby means major changes for your life and your family” said Dr. Derrick Barnes, obstetrician and Medical Director of the Sutter Lakeside Family Birth Center. “No new parent should be alone without support just when they need it most. We are excited to build on our experience caring for local families and continue to address infant health risk factors so that every child born in Lake County has a Smart Start in life.”