Mother-to-Mother changes lives in the Bootheel

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This month, Bootheel Babies & Families is very pleased to feature Melinda Sweeney, Executive Director of the Regional Health Foundation. Melinda has been an active part of Bootheel Babies & Families’ Community Steering Committee for years, and her organization’s Mother-to-Mother program is a current Grantee serving women and babies in Stoddard, Dunklin and Pemiscot counties.

Regional Healthcare Foundation is very proud of its Mother-to-Mother (M2M) program, which offers a hand up…not a hand out… to expecting or parenting young women.

The M2M program began in Dexter in 2002 when a group of very special women worked out of the trunks of their cars to provide mentoring and support to young first-time moms. The primary goal of the program is the prevention of child abuse and neglect.

Today, M2M serves close to 50 young Stoddard County women and their families. M2M moms meet with their mentors, attend social and educational activities, earn “baby bucks” to spend in the Baby Boutique, partake of the food pantry and receive educational and career counseling.  Recently the program has been able to extend its educational and career counseling services to significant others as well.

A young woman is eligible to enroll in the M2M program if she lives in Stoddard County, is expecting a child or already has a child under the age of one, is 24 years old or younger, has or is in the process of earning her high school diploma or HSE certificate and has no legal issues.

M2M’s Multi-Phase Approach

M2M is a multi-phase program with different expectations of the participants in each stage.

 

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As a Missouri Foundation for Health Infant Mortality Reduction Initiative grantee, M2M has been able to offer our Best For Baby educational program to moms through the health departments in Stoddard, Pemiscot, and Dunklin Counties. Our nurse educator offers three sessions: Prenatal Care, Keeping Baby Safe and Healthy and Coping After Baby’s Birth. Because Safe Sleep is a primary focus of the Best for Baby program, participants who complete the Safe Sleep lesson are given a safe sleep kit, and those in Stoddard and Dunklin Counties are given to opportunity to receive pack n plays. They must agree to allow a nurse educator to come to their homes and help set up the pack n plays and evaluate the safety of their babies’ sleep environments.

Mother-to-Mother continues to grow and change as our young moms and their families face new challenges.  Substance abuse in general, and the opioid crisis in particular, have and will continue to negatively impact our community. The Mother-to-Mother staff is looking at providing substance abuse prevention activities as part of our educational activities.

During the past four years, I have seen many M2M “success stories” write themselves. The biggest successes are evidenced by young women who…through their hard work and determination, and a little help from M2M, have nurtured healthy, happy, safe children. Many of these young women have graduated high school and college. They are teachers, nurses, insurance agents, physical therapy assistants, and the list goes on.

Many of these success stories are still “in progress.”  The M2M staff, Teresa, Chris, Rachelle, Nancy, Linda, Sherry and Kellie, are helping to write those stories. I am very proud of them and all the M2M moms and their families.

Want to get involved? Find out how you too can make a difference in the lives of Bootheel babies: Contact Us 

About Melinda:

Melinda Sweeney is the Executive Director of the Regional Healthcare Foundation (RHF) in Dexter, Missouri.  She was originally hired in 2014 as a member of the Mother-to-Mother staff.  Mother-to-Mother is one of two flagship programs at RHF. Melinda is a member of the Bootheel Babies and Families steering committee, and the Mother-to-Mother Program is a past and current IMRI grantee and BBF partner.


Why you should keep your baby’s crib blanket free

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Have you ever woken up to realize you’re so tangled in the comforter you can’t move? It takes a few seconds of kicking and turning before you free yourself.

Now imagine you can’t kick or roll over, and the blanket is blocking your nose and mouth. You’re trapped.

This is a very real possibility for an infant who is covered by a blanket during sleep – with the wrong move, he or she cannot breathe. That’s why it’s best to keep blankets out of your baby’s crib.

Blanket-free sleeping may seem impractical during Southeast Missouri winters. After all, you must ensure your baby stays warm. Here are some blanket alternatives to keep your little one toasty and comfortable without increasing his or her risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS):
Sleep sack – This wearable blanket is designed so your infant will not become tangled. When choosing a sleep sack, make sure your baby has plenty of leg room to kick and stretch.
Swaddling – For infants less than two months old, this way of snugly wrapping babies can calm them and promote sleep. Learn more about safe swaddling.
Sleeper – This soft, warm garment – basically a onesie with legs and sleeves – keeps your baby cozy without a blanket.

Other uses for baby blankets

Even though keeping blankets in a crib is not safe, do not get rid of receiving blankets and baby quilts just yet. They are perfectly fine to use for play mats during tummy time or to put on the floor while your baby moves around. Just keep a careful eye on your infant, and move him or her to a safe sleep surface if he or she gets tired.

For other tips on how to ensure your baby sleeps safely, click here.

Disclaimer: If your baby has a fever or other symptoms, or you have concerns about the growth and development of your child, always seek care with your healthcare provider.