A few rain clouds didn’t keep more than 100 enthusiastic young moms away from attending “A Healthy Start” baby shower on a recent spring day in West Athens.
Great Beginnings for Black Babies, Inc., in collaboration with the Best Start West Athens Partnership and First New Christian Fellowship Church, recently held a resource fair to help connect young parents to resources on child development, breastfeeding, bonding, job readiness and housing. Presented as a festive baby shower, more than 130 community members participated in games and raffles, as well as visited booths and enjoyed lunch together as they listened to educational presentations and learned about programs like First 5 LA’s Welcome Baby.
“It’s so awesome that there are so many pregnant moms, and moms that have had their babies, here. You see these bellies swarming through this building and that’s the important part. We really want to see these prenatal moms, and give them the education and the resources,” said Janna Woods, Welcome Baby Program Director for the Centinela Hospital Medical Center and the Great Beginnings for Black Babies program.
"The big takeaway for everyone attending is not just the information they receive, but that they connect with each other and begin having their own network of other moms to turn to, so that they can come together.” - Natasha Moise
Welcome Baby is a First 5 LA developed and funded voluntary program for pregnant women and new moms that provides pre- and post-natal services, information and support. This includes a personal parent coach; in-hospital and home visits offering assistance with breastfeeding, bonding and attachment; maternal screenings for depression and developmental screenings for newborns; advice on positive parenting, child health and links to other community services.
“The community told us they wanted the information and the resources but they also said, ‘I can do these things on my own with the right training and information.’ So that’s been the most rewarding thing, being able to engage, encourage and empower these young women in having a healthy baby, a healthy start, and teaching them the importance of self-care,” said Dr. Meschellia Johnson, Outreach Specialist for Great Beginnings for Black Babies.
Mothers visited the educational booths and table presentations where informed staff spoke about child development, breastfeeding, bonding and attachment, job readiness and housing. There was also information on how to sign up for the CalFresh program and WIC.
“I really liked all the resources they had here, like breastfeeding workshops and different programs to help parents and families from Great Beginnings for Black Babies, especially from 0 to 5,” said mother Desiree Henderson. “They had different activities. There was one booth that showed you what to do with newborns as far as touch and bonding and attachment. That’s something I wasn’t aware of for my daughter.”
“I’m glad they are offering classes on parenting. It helps a lot with learning to be patient when you have a baby,” said attendee Nirian Quintero.
"The big takeaway for everyone attending is not just the information they receive, but that they connect with each other and begin having their own network of other moms to turn to, so that they can come together,” said Natasha Moise, program officer for the Best Start West Athens community.
Improving social connections and networking with local resources are key components of Best Start’s community capacity building effort and First 5 LA’s mission for all children in L.A. County to enter kindergarten ready to succeed in school and life.
“Our special focus and attention is on young parents because they're the most vulnerable. We want to make sure this conversation continues this day, and the next month, and the next year, as this child and their parents are a vital part of our community,” Moise said.