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All Posts By

Emily Clewis

Supporting Mothers in the Postpartum

By Archives, birth, Breastfeeding, Feeding Baby, Maternal Mental Health, Parenting, Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders, pregnancy, Published Work

Written by Emily Clewis on behalf of Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies and the Maternal Mental Health Task Force of Helena.

In honor of May as Maternal Mental Health Month, Helena’s Maternal Mental Health Task Force, in partnership with Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies, would like to highlight ways that communities can support moms during the postpartum period.

While holding a new baby is exciting, it’s the birthing person that truly needs to be held, loved and supported in this golden but vulnerable time. Their body and mind will have run the ultimate marathon and they will need support. If the mother is well supported during this time, she can care well for the new baby. If you’re visiting in the first weeks, remember you are there to support the parents. Remind them they don’t need to host you and that you are there to help.

Always ask parents before coming to visit. In the blur of the first few weeks, flexibility is best! Remember: new babies have no sense of night or day, so parents may be sleeping with their little ones at noon after being up all night. If they say they are welcoming visitors, when you get to their house, wash your hands well and keep your face away from the baby. Babies are vulnerable to common illnesses. Offer to bring by healthy snacks or a ready to heat nutritious meal! New moms, especially those breastfeeding, will be hungry often as it takes much energy to care for newborns. If they feed the baby while you’re there, help her put her feet up and offer to get her water or a snack (then, maybe do the dishes).

Look around the home for things that need to be done; laundry, dishes, taking out the trash, etc. If there are older children in the house offer to watch a movie with them or take them on a walk. Always ask the parents if it’s okay to hold the baby. If they say yes, encourage them to take a shower or quick nap while you’re there. Ask new parents what they need, they will likely tell you! Finally, don’t overstay. Parents during this time are heavily exhausted, and even well-meaning company can make parents feel the need to entertain. An hour or so is plenty in those first few weeks, unless the parents ask otherwise!

Keep in mind that the No. 1 complication of birth is postpartum depression. One in six Montana mothers will experience it. Knowing the signs and symptoms of mood disorders in the postpartum period increases the likelihood of treatment. Some things to look for include sadness, guilt, inability to make decisions, poor self-care, low self-esteem, mood swings, appetite changes, excessive crying and more. While only a health care provider can offer treatment, if you, or the new mom in your life, is experiencing any of these symptoms, encourage them that it’s not their fault they feel that way, and that help is available through their OB or primary care physician.

Finally, the COVID-19 pandemic may have made the experience of having a little one more nerve racking. Families may have varying feelings of comfortability having multiple visitors during this vulnerable period of recovery. Ask parents what precautions they may be taking and if they are up for visitors! If they aren’t, you can still support them by dropping off easy-to-heat meals, or sending a gift card to DoorDash, Grubhub or their favorite restaurant.

Families in the postpartum, or fourth trimester, thrive with healthy community support. Additionally, moms are less likely to suffer from perinatal depression and babies have better health outcomes. Together, we can ensure that parents have a positive postpartum experience!

Published in Missoulian 

Published in the Billings Gazette 

 

 

Supporting Montana Families During the Pandemic and Beyond

By Uncategorized

Have you wondered what it would be like to be a baby born during the pandemic? How about a mother giving birth alone or nearly so? New parents and their babies are facing greater risks than ever.

Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies (HMHB-MT) knows the greatest impact of stress on the human brain is when still developing in the womb. And the first five years of life are critical, setting the foundation for a stable and healthy life. This pandemic has brought enormous amounts of stress to parents and other caretakers. Workplace changes, child care shortages and a loss of the natural web of social support. Nothing looks or feels familiar. Surveys of Montana parents during the COVID-19 pandemic tell us that parents are struggling to meet their children’s basic needs and provide them with safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments. Brain development of infants and young children can suffer without these supports.

Fortunately, we know that there are ways to help combat this added stress. HMHB-MT is providing families the support they are asking for during this time, just like we have been for the past 36 years. We use data from the parent surveys and state need assessments. We activate our state and local networks built by years of programming, advocacy and policy work for pregnant moms and families with young children. We apply best-practice solutions to complex social challenges to ensure that our work aligns with prevention science and protective factor research.

During this pandemic, HMHB-MT has leveraged resources to support resiliency in families. We launched the Safe Sleep Campaign with a message that parents still have the ability to keep their baby safe when asleep, even though so many other factors are out of their control. We helped meet basic needs by distributing essential items: cribs, car seats, diapers, wipes, formula, breast feeding supplies and more to every reservation and 24 counties. We continue to provide training on postpartum depression so moms will have access to care they need. HMHB-MT hosted its 3rd Annual Perinatal Mental Health Conference, virtually, in November with over 150 participants from across the state. And we helped advocate for an additional $50 million dollars of CARES act funding designated to help support childcare.

We find ourselves facing many great challenges. HMHB-MT is here to make sure that as a state we never lose sight of the fact that what happens today will impact our smallest citizens in the largest way. We all have an enormous responsibility to act with them in mind.

We hope you will join us and donate today to ensure that families have what they need to be resilient through this pandemic and beyond. Although our work and our lives may be stressful and look different, coming together to make a difference still looks the same. It is generations to come that are depending on us to get this right.

This opinion was signed by Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Montana Executive Director Brie MacLaurin, RN; board chair Kelly Minnehan-Galt; and board member David Lechner, M.D.

 

Opinion Column posted in the Helena IR December 24, 2020 

Lt. Governor Cooney, DPHHS announce Safe Sleep Initiative

By Uncategorized

Lt. Governor Cooney, DPHHS announce Safe Sleep Initiative

1500 Pack ’n Play cribs distributed; new educational materials created

Lt. Governor Mike Cooney, Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) Director Sheila Hogan, Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies-MT (HMHB-MT) Executive Director Brie Oliver, and several public and private partners announced today the launch of the Safe Sleep Initiative to promote safe sleep practices for all Montana babies.

“Montana’s children deserve the best start in life possible, and promoting safe sleep practices is crucial,” Lt. Gov. Cooney said. “This effort is designed to provide parents, grandparents and anyone in care of an infant with the best information possible when it comes to safe sleep.”

Lt. Gov. Cooney said the Initiative is the result of meetings with stakeholders from across the state and focus groups of Montana families. “Their insight into the current landscape of safe sleep information, real-life sleeping practices, and recommendations for public messaging were critical to creating a unique message for Montana,” he said.

The effort includes information on evidence-based safe sleep practices for infants and provides educational materials to families all across Montana through new materials provided through the Safe Sleep: Learn, Plan, and Provide education and media campaign materials. The campaign doesn’t ignore the realities of bedsharing and instead promotes open conversation and tips for reducing risks associated with unsafe sleeping situations. It also respects cultural differences in traditional sleep positions.

Focus groups and stakeholders agreed the public message should be focus on harm reduction methods of safe sleep. “The reality is, co-sleeping happens, and so this really examines how to promote safe sleep practices in the best possible way to give parents the information and tools they need to keep their children safe,” said DPHHS Director Sheila Hogan. “This approach to safe sleep aims to open the gates of honest communication between families and their providers, resulting in safer sleep and a reduction in infant deaths within sleep environments.”

In addition to the public messaging efforts, HMHB-MT has distributed 1500 cribs since December 2018 to Montana families in need of a safe place for their baby to sleep. The crib comes with education about safe sleep, a book, sleeper, and fitted sheet.

Oliver said many times these cribs are delivered to the home by a public health home visitor, which is an added level of support and often leads to helping families access other supports during this vulnerable time.

“It’s important that we support and provide new parents with the materials and information they need to be successful, and to ensure all children are given the best start in life,” Oliver said.

The Pack ’n Play cribs were purchased with public and private funds from DPHHS, Montana Children’s Trust Fund, and HMHB-MT.

Oliver is encouraging other interested organizations to join the cause. “We are thankful to all those who have made generous contributions to this effort,” she said. “It’s amazing to know there’s so much support for Montana families, and we hope to continue this effort. It’s our goal to have more partners join the Safe Sleep Initiative to give infants a safe and healthy start.”

Safe Sleep is the third pillar under the DPHHS overarching First Years Initiative that was launched three years ago. The initiative was born after analysis showed children under two comprised most child deaths in Montana, and the majority of those fatalities involved infants in unsafe sleep environments.

The First Years Initiative focuses on providing targeted resources, education, and services during the early, critical period in the lives of children and their parents—pregnancy, the weeks and months after birth, and extending through the first years of a child’s life.

Oliver said her organization already distributes the Pack ’n Plays year-round on a limited basis. However, she noted this new funding quadrupled their current efforts. For HMHB-MT, the initiative spotlights a very important issue. “This is a significant investment in the lives of newborns all across Montana,”she said. “This is not just a basic need item, but a crucial one. It not only increases safe sleep, but also leads to better family outcomes.”

The 1500 cribs have been distributed to various locations throughout Montana, including local Child and Family Services Division, Women, Infants and Children (WIC) clinics, Tribal health programs, home visiting locations, American Indian reservations and other partner organizations. The cribs were distributed with other safe sleep materials, at no cost to families in need, through referrals made to local public health departments or early childhood specialists.

Oliver noted that cribs are proven to provide a safe sleep environment for infants. She said that by providing them at no cost removes a barrier for many new parents, plus they’re portable. “They can easily be transported, so where a baby goes, the crib can follow,” she said. “This is especially convenient when friends or family are caring for a child but may not own one themselves.”

Organizations or individuals interested in partnering with the Safe Sleep Initiative are encouraged to contact Stephanie Morton, Program Manager at HMHB-MT, (Stephanie@hmhb-mt.org) or call the office at (406) 449-8611. HMHB-MT also maintains a list of locations where cribs are available.

 

Date: June 24, 2020
Contact: Jon Ebelt, Public Information Officer, DPHHS, (406) 444-0936, (406) 461-3757, jebelt@mt.gov

Chuck Council, Communications Specialist, DPHHS, (406) 444-4391, (406) 461-8367, hcouncil@mt.gov

Independent Record’s 20 Under 40 – Brie Oliver: Executive director, Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition

By Uncategorized

Research professor Brené Brown said, “We don’t have to do all of it alone. We were never meant to.”

Brie Oliver, executive director for Montana’s Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition (HMHB), reiterates the same message daily to mothers in the Helena community.

A Helena native, 37-year-old Oliver pursued a nursing degree from Montana State University. During her clinicals, Oliver observed the epidemic of chronic health care needs. She decided then and there that she wanted her future work to focus on preventative health care. More specifically, she sought to apply a “multi-generational approach” by focusing on achieving healthy pregnancies for moms and healthy early childhoods for babies.

Since stepping up as director, Oliver admits learning a lot and broadening her scope into the larger statewide system.

“I became aware of the system problems in the community that kept families from being successful,” said Oliver.

While she has only been in the director role for about a year, Oliver has been hard at work. From advocating for the health and wellbeing of children and mothers, facilitating statewide conversations to improve resources and support systems and securing funds to make those resources a reality, she’s left her mark on the community.

“She is adept at bringing people to the table to facilitate how we can uplift the most vulnerable in our community,” said Sarah Crowley, home visiting program supervisor for Lewis and Clark County.

“She is a fierce advocate for family wellness and is a shining light of hope for families in need,” said Katie Bevan, a home visiting nurse for Lewis and Clark County.

According to Trina Filan, community impact coordinator for United Way, Oliver was responsible for the founding of the Home Visiting Task Force and Maternal Mental Health Task Force. Oliver has also worked to coordinate opportunities for early childhood coalitions across Montana to join efforts for shared funding, expertise and advocacy.

For Oliver, the reality of her accomplishments thus far comes down simply to building relationships — among experts in the field, and between mothers bringing new life into the world.

“By building a community of mothers who have themselves experienced postpartum depression and connecting them with supportive resources, we are taking the layers of shame and blame off,” said Oliver. “I want to make sure the next mom is nurtured and supported in a way that allows her to know that she will get better.”

“We all come into motherhood at different places of support and resources,” shared Oliver. “There’s always room to learn from each other.”

Written by LACEY MIDDLESTEAD For the Independent Record

Photo by Thom Bridge

BCBSMT AWARDS $50,000 GRANT TO HEALTHY MOTHERS, HEALTHY BABIES

By Archives, Published Work
Aug. 14, 2017

Montana chapter to partner with three communities to help create safe and nurturing environments

Helena, MT – Research demonstrates that for children to thrive, they require safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments. That’s Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies’ specialty, and it’s why Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana (BCBSMT) is entrusting the national nonprofit organization’s Montana Coalition with a $50,000 Healthy Kids, Healthy Families grant.

“I am thrilled. I am shaky with excitement, and I cannot wait to get started on this work,” Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Executive Director Brie Oliver said after being surprised with the grant Monday, Aug. 14 at BCBSMT’s Helena headquarters. “I know how much women in Montana agree this is a needed project.”

 

Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies aims to improve the health, safety and well-being of Montana families by supporting mothers and babies, ages 0 to 3. With the money from the grant, organizers intend to partner with three communities to better link parents of new infants to supportive community resources to help more children live in safe and nurturing environments. In each of those three communities, Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies will partner with local organizations to build a network of support for these new families, which evidence supports reduces the likelihood of abuse and neglect. These efforts by Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies fall in line with HKHF goals.

 

“Blue Cross and Blue Shield (of Montana) is a huge partner in this for us,” Oliver added. “The fact that they are touching so many lives with health care and their concern for prevention is huge, and we’re just thrilled to go with them on this journey.”

 

HKHF is a signature program of BCBSMT and part of an ongoing commitment to invest in and partner with nonprofit organizations that offer sustainable, measurable programs to reach children and their families in the five following areas: nutrition, physical activity, disease prevention and management, supporting safe environments, and suicide prevention. The $50,000 HKHF grant is one of four BCBSMT awards each year.

 

“Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies is an incredible organization that provides critical support systems in our communities,” said John Doran, Divisional Vice President of External Affairs and Chief of Staff at BCBSMT. “They provide the stable foundation that young mothers and their babies need to live a healthier, happier life.”

 

Officials with Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies say the grant will round out the organization’s work that focuses on prevention of childhood maltreatment and parental substance abuse by improving the screening and treatment of Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders, while connecting new parents to community and support resources.

 

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana (BCBSMT) is a division of Health Care Service Corporation, a Mutual Legal Reserve Company and Independent Licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. BCBSMT is the largest and longest-standing statewide, customer-owned health insurer and full-service health benefits administrator in Montana. BCBSMT believes that Montana consumers and employers deserve the best of both worlds — access to quality, cost-effective health care and superior customer service from a company that focuses solely on members. BCBSMT has provided high-quality health insurance plans and administrative services to Montanans for nearly 77 years. BCBSMT is committed to ensuring its members — no matter where they are on the health spectrum — achieve maximum health. BCBSMT’s mission is to stand with its members in sickness and in health. BCBSMT’s website is www.bcbsmt.com.

 

Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies

Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies, The Montana Coalition, Inc. (HMHB) was founded in 1984 by a pediatrician and a group of health professionals. It was based on the national Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies model and has worked for over 30 years to improve maternal and child health in Montana. Throughout the years, HMHB has developed allied organizations such as the Montana Children’s Alliance, The Montana Council for Maternal and Child Health, and more recently the Montana Early Childhood Coalition. HMHB is widely known throughout Montana as the advocacy voice for mothers and infants. HMHB was created to be the leading state-wide non-profit to improve pregnancy and early childhood outcomes and it remains in that role, as the sole non-profit with a zero (includes pregnancy) to three focus in Montana. HMHB’s website is hmhb-mt.org.

Great Falls Tribune: Hospitals give $80,000 to shaken baby prevention program

By advocacy, Archives, Parenting, Published Work
Written by Amy Beth Hanson

HELENA (AP) – Hospitals around the state are donating more than $80,000 to Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies so the organization can continue an education program aimed at preventing shaken baby injuries and deaths after a state board decided not to renew its funding.

Clementine Lindley, the vice chair of the Montana Children’s Trust Fund board, said board members voted unanimously in June not to renew the contract with Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies to implement the Period of PURPLE Crying education program. The goal of the program is to educate parents and caregivers about an infant’s crying, ways to avoid frustration and the dangers of shaking a baby.

Lindley said the board has decided to see if the work can be improved under another program before awarding the funding.

“PURPLE is one of the best evidence-based programs in America,” said Judy Edwards, executive director of Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies, The Montana Coalition. She noted the Department of Public Health and Human Services was part of the decision to use the program.

There were several issues with the grant application, Lindley said, including failing to achieve promised outcomes and not proposing a sustainability plan.

Jen Shaw, program manager for Healthy Mothers Heathy Babies, said Thursday the program went from reaching over 60 percent of the hospital births in Montana to over 90 percent after adding three major hospitals to its network. The organization did propose a sustainability plan, which included continued funding from the Montana Children’s Trust Fund along with fundraising and pursuing other grants, Shaw said.

“We want to have a positive relationship with the Children’s Trust Fund” and continue working to help children, Shaw said. “We’ve been trying to keep that the focus.”

State law requires there to be an education program to prevent shaken baby syndrome. The trust fund is required to support child abuse and neglect prevention programs.

DPHHS will meet the law’s education requirements while a new program is being considered, agency spokesman Jon Ebelt said.

Meanwhile, Healthy Mothers Heathy Babies will continue its work with the help of $10,000 donations from hospitals in Helena, Great Falls, Bozeman and Kalispell along with both hospitals in Billings and both in Missoula. The donation from St. Peter’s Hospital was made to the organization Thursday morning in Helena.

Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies, The Montana Coalition works with 23 hospitals to provide PURPLE education, Shaw said. The program uses the letters of the word PURPLE to inform families that the “peak” of a baby’s crying is around the second month, it can be “unexpected,” it “resists” soothing, a baby can look like they’re in “pain,” the crying can be “long-lasting” and that babies may cry more in the afternoon and “evening.”

Edwards said she first contacted St. Peter’s Hospital President and CEO Nate Olson about Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies’ loss of funding. He said he emailed other hospitals and they soon had pledged $80,000 to help fund the program.

“The children of our community are too important to sit back and allow these preventable tragedies to continue to happen,” Olson said in a statement.

Edwards said she’s not aware of any hospitals that have been contacted by the state about a change in providers for the shaken baby education program.