A Most Welcome Visitor

Ruby Morua was worried.

As a young woman in her first pregnancy, she was concerned about her breast milk.

“It wasn’t coming out like regular milk,” said the 19-year-old from Palmdale. “I asked if it was normal.”

The answer – “Yes” – came from a home visitation professional with the Welcome Baby program who had come to check in on her.

“I was so relieved,” Morua recalled. Several weeks later, she gave birth to Mia Genesis Morua. And she stays in touch with her Welcome Baby coach with phone calls and regular visits. “They are really nice. They check if I’m okay. If the baby is okay. I feel safer and that somebody cares.”

That feeling is spreading in the Antelope Valley. Since December, Antelope Valley Partners for Health, or AVPH, has enrolled more than 200 women in Welcome Baby, First 5 LA’s voluntary home visiting program.

AVPH partnered with First 5 LA, Antelope Valley Hospital, Black Infant Health of Antelope Valley, and Children’s Bureau of Antelope Valley to provide the universal home visiting program for pregnant and postpartum women within First 5 LA’s Lancaster and Palmdale Best Start communities.

The program provides free support and information to pregnant women and new mothers at the hospital and in their home; provides primary health prevention and parent education; and introduces families to support services and resources in their community. It is offered to all families residing in Los Angeles County regardless of risk factors or socio-economic status.

“The Welcome Baby program is an important step in our effort to support and strengthen Antelope Valley families to raise children who will grow up healthy, safe and ready to succeed in school,” said Kim Belshé, executive director of First 5 LA. “First 5 LA is delighted to be part of a collaborative partnership with Antelope Valley Partners for Health, Antelope Valley Hospital, Black Infant Health of Antelope Valley and Children’s Bureau of Antelope Valley.”

AVPH anticipates the program reaching about 40 percent, or 2,400, of the families giving birth at AV Hospital in the first year – and 80 percent, or 4,800, in the second year. The program preferably would like to enroll women while they are still pregnant so they may receive the most education and skills available.

“AVPH is thrilled to receive this funding from First 5 LA and excited to be a part of the Universal Welcome Baby Program because it will allow us to offer services that will provide a healthy start for the babies of our community,” said Michelle Kiefer, executive director of AVPH. “The partnership with First 5 LA is invaluable in our campaign to promote overall health and increased child safety in the Antelope Valley. We appreciate not only the funding from First 5 LA, but also the expertise and technical support they are continuing to share as part of this initiative.”

All families delivering at participating hospitals will receive a Welcome Baby hospital visit at the time of their baby’s birth. Families residing within a Best Start community will be eligible for up to nine Welcome Baby engagement points: three times prenatally, once at the hospital, and up to five times after the baby’s birth. During the visits, a member of the Welcome Baby staff provides services including:

– Observing and evaluating infant feeding and providing breastfeeding advice

– Observing parent-infant attachment and infant behavior

– Assisting families in establishing a medical home, following up on well-child visits and identifying health insurance coverage, if necessary

– Educating parents about the parent-child bond and how it can build confidence and success

– Screening mothers for postpartum depression and, if needed, referring them to services

– In partnership with parents, performing a screening to assess child development milestones

– Referring families to their local Best Start community activities

First 5 LA has approved strategic partnerships with 24 targeted hospitals to expand Welcome Baby throughout L.A. County with 13 already enrolling families. The 24 hospitals serve 80 percent of all families within Best Start communities and more than half of births countywide.

Morua believes other mothers in the Antelope Valley will benefit from the new program.

“They can help you with things you don’t know,” Morua said. “There are moms out there that can get frustrated really easy. I recommend moms go with Welcome Baby.”