Betsy Wadland: Home visits for mom and baby

Betsy Wadland

I remember feeling like someone had made a terrible mistake when they let me leave the hospital with my newborns. I had taken the classes, read a stack of books, been to support groups and all the rest, but these were actual people I was being trusted with. Shouldn't there be some kind of test?

Registered nurse Mary Jackson specializes in Early Maternity Discharge visits at the Natick (Mass.) VNA and sees many new families within a few days of their return home.

"I tell new parents to trust their instincts. You and your baby are both learning how to do this and you'll be just fine. Yes, your life has totally changed, but nerves and sleep deprivation can make you even more nervous."

One of the goals of the EMD visit is to answer questions and offer solutions in your home where the nurse can really see what you are experiencing and guide you through it. Once you are home from the hospital, questions will arise as you adjust. Safety issues, feeding or when to call the doctor are common questions. There can be new challenges with extended family members, siblings and even pets.

"In addition to checking out mom and baby for any medical problems and offering advice on diaper changing, breast or bottle feeding and how to soothe a crying baby, I tell new moms about local resources and supports," Jackson said.

Drawing on her experience as a pediatric nurse, Jackson says, "Most pediatricians are well aware that new parents are nervous and welcome phone calls to answer questions that may seem silly."

Pediatricians will schedule the baby's first visit about two weeks after they are born. "Both parents should attend the first appointment," says Jackson. "Now, more than ever, you need each other's help and support. You're both frazzled and the baby is screaming ... one of you may hear something that the other one misses."

Take advantage of offers of help from friends and extended family. "Make a list and keep it by the phone. When your neighbor calls to see if she can drop in, ask her to stop at the store and pick up a gallon of milk if you need it."

Just remember that literally millions of people have done this before and came through just fine. So will you.

Betsy Wadland is director of development for the Natick (Mass.) VNA, a nonprofit health care organization providing home care to thousands of people each year. For more information, call the VNA at 508-653-3081.