Nurses partner with new mothers for positive outcomes

Jane Henson with Nurse-Family Partnership weighs 6-month-old Natalia with help of her mother, Nora, during a nurse partner home visit. Enlarge photo

Courtesy of Jane Looney.

Jane Henson with Nurse-Family Partnership weighs 6-month-old Natalia with help of her mother, Nora, during a nurse partner home visit.

Sitting on the floor of her apartment, Nora is completely at ease with her baby girl. She gently slips off braces from Natalia’s feet while still conversing with her nurse partner, Jane Henson. Nora is comfortable in her role as mom and confident in her ability to care for a growing 6-month-old who wears braces 23 hours of every day.

One year ago, Nora was in a different place – pregnant, relatively new to the community and confined to strict bed-rest for almost four months.

Fortunately, her doctor referred her to the Nurse-Family Partnership program at San Juan Basin Health.

“How awesome a nurse comes to my house,” Nora said. “She’s helpful with pregnancy and baby information, but it’s also good to have someone to talk to about how I’m doing and where I’m going.”

Her nurse is Henson, the program supervisor. Henson oversees five other nurses in the program that serves Archuleta, Dolores, La Plata, Montezuma and San Juan counties.

“First-time moms have so many questions about pregnancy, a new baby and being a good parent,” Henson said. “They’re in school or a job or may not be expecting the pregnancy. We don’t have our extended families as close by anymore. Sometimes, we have moms in crisis who don’t have a maternal figure.”

A research-based program, NFP has experienced documented positive outcomes for more than 20 years. The program’s founder, Dr. David Olds, believes the bond created between mom and nurse partner leads to better outcomes: less smoking, increased breast-feeding, less violence in home, changes that improve their life and that of their new child such as pursuing an education or getting a job.

“Giving moms a feeling that they can do it empowers them to be the expert in their own life and make positive life-long changes,” Henson said.

Natalia was born with a club foot. Six weeks later, she had an operation to correct it and now wears braces. Nora was understandably very nervous about the procedures and what her baby would go through.

Henson helped her think about how the child could crawl with braces and be a normal baby. During this visit, Henson answered feeding questions; recommended a doctor visit for suspected thrush; discussed early teeth and gum care; reminded Nora to not let the baby fall asleep with her bottle; weighed Natalia; talked about concept of quiet distraction instead of saying “no” so often; and asked what Nora was doing for herself.

At each bimonthly visit, Henson will provide age-appropriate guidance and resources like Reach Out and Read – a program providing free books and emphasizing reading to babies.

When Natalia turns 2, she and her mom will join other “graduates” of the NFP program.

“It’s so amazing to see young women with few resources and many barriers overcome challenges and come through this program with such success,” Henson said. “They literally do partner with you.”

For information about Nurse-Family Partnership, call Henson at 335-2081 or visit sjbhd.org/nfp.

Jane Looney is the communications director for the San Juan Basin Health Department.