The art of motherhood largely gets passed down from generation to generation or looked up on the Internet.
But health care groups in Wichita want to better inform expecting moms with a new educational program called Baby Talk.
The Baby Talk program consists of six two-hour classes taught by nurses and physicians to expecting mothers.
The classes are free and work as stand-alone courses, so mothers can complete them in any order.
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The program targets mothers at-risk for pregnancy complication, but is open to any expecting moms.
It started in reaction to Sedgwick County’s infant mortality rate — the death of a baby before the first birthday.
Sedgwick County’s infant mortality rate is higher than the state and national averages.
7.2 Sedgwick County infant mortality rate per 1,000 live births in 2014
6.3 Kansas infant mortality rate per 1,000 live births in 2014
5.8 National infant mortality rate per 1,000 live births in 2014
In some parts of the county, the rates are more than double the state and national averages.
And it’s a racial issue.
Black mothers in Sedgwick County have three-and-a-half times the infant mortality rate of white mothers in Sedgwick County.
Molly Brown, program director of Baby Talk, says the issue is significant — and not just for moms.
That’s because infant mortality is an indicator of overall health in the community. It can reflect problems with chronic disease, tobacco drug and alcohol use, physical exercise, nutrition, mental health and racial and economic disparities.
Infant mortality can reflect community health factors: chronic disease, tobacco drug and alcohol use, physical exercise, nutrition, mental health, and racial and economic disparities.
“Community health and infant mortality are very, very connected and affect one another,” Brown said.
“We just need to help start bridging that gap and making that connection more clear.”
What moms can learn
Rosie Rumback, a 25-year-old mother who recently completed Baby Talk, had an emergency cesarean section with her 4-year-old son, but gave birth to her daughter Feb. 4 without any complications.
“I was overly cautious for my first pregnancy, which is funny, because that one ended in a C-section,” she said.
She said she learned things in the class that she didn’t know about the first time around and was reminded of things from her first pregnancy that she had forgotten.
Some medical advice, she said, has changed in the four years since her son was born.
She said she learned how to communicate better with her doctor during the course. The Baby Talk classes teach moms how to advocate for their health and baby’s health and encourage the moms to prepare questions ahead of time for each doctor’s appointment.
“For a long time, I’d go see my doctor and just listen to what she had to say,” Rumback said. “And I’d come out, and people would be like ‘How did it go?’ ‘How big is she?’ And I’d be like, ‘I don’t even know, I didn’t even ask her. I guess everything’s fine. If there was something wrong she would have said so, I think.’”
I’d come out, and people would be like ‘How did it go?’ ‘How big is she?’ And I’d be like, ‘I don’t even know, I didn’t even ask her.’
Rosie Rumback, a 25-year-old mother
With her son, she said, she often felt she was failing as a mom or that he didn’t like her.
During the class, she watched a video called “Happiest Baby on the Block” about a swaddling technique that makes the baby feel like they’re in utero.
The doctor in the video, she said, would pick up babies who looked inconsolable, swaddle them and put them right to sleep.
“That would have saved me a lot of tears myself and a lot of sleepless nights,” she said, referring to her first son. “When they’re new like this, it’s really easy to take it personally that ‘It’s me failing this baby.’”
She said she felt comforted to learn about newborn crying phases, which begins about two weeks after birth and increases gradually until a peak period around two months before crying decreases.
“It’s hard not to think it’s me,” Rumback said. “There’s something wrong with me, or there’s something wrong with the baby.
“It’s not me, it’s not the baby and it’s going to end.”
It’s hard not to think it’s me. There’s something wrong with me, or there’s something wrong with the baby. It’s not me, it’s not the baby and it’s going to end.
Rosie Rumback, a 25-year-old mother
How the program came about
The Maternal Infant Health Coalition — a group coordinated by the Medical Society of Sedgwick County — came up with the idea for Baby Talk at an infant mortality summit it hosted a year ago in Wichita.
The University of Kansas Medical School-Wichita submitted a grant application to the state in March and was awarded a one-year grant of $342,615 in June.
Brown started as program director in August, hired site coordinators in September and hosted the first class in November at Via Christi, Wesley and HealthCore Clinic.
Baby Talk had served about 100 moms by the beginning of February. Brown said she hopes Baby Talk reaches 375 women by the end of June.
Free items for baby
As an incentive to take the classes, Baby Talk gives a free car seat or portable crib to moms who complete all six classes and gives a free breastfeeding pillow or diapers to moms who complete four classes. The gifts are paid for with grant money.
Christin Good, a 20-year-old first-time mother who gave birth to her son Feb. 18, said her doctor gave her a Baby Talk pamphlet at one of her appointments.
“Going into it I thought, ‘Well it’s a free car seat, and I’ll learn something here and there,’” she said.
“When I first started going, I was very shy and kind of embarrassed I had to take a parenting class,” she said.
“But going to it has helped to calm my nerves and helped me feel that much more prepared. And now I can be excited instead of nervous.”
Good said she is fortunate to have a close, supportive family, but said when it comes down to it, they’re not medical professionals.
“I love my grandma, but some of the things she tells me are just wives tales,” Good said.
I love my grandma, but some of the things she tells me are just wives tales.
Christin Good, a 20-year-old first-time mother
Bobby Lamb, Good’s mother, said she’s been thankful that Baby Talk provided up-to-date information about pregnancy.
“So much has changed since I had kids,” Lamb said.
One change is the push for breastfeeding.
“She probably wouldn’t have done that because I didn’t, and none of her aunts did, but now she’s decided she’s going to,” she said. “And that’s a big deal.”
Lamb said she also thinks the class prepared Good for the realities of parenting.
“The class gave her the ability to be realistic in what she’s looking at,” Lamb said. “Not every day is going to be great.”
Good said the class helped her calm down.
“Never having had kids of my own, it’s nice to know that it’s OK to be super-frustrated if you’re not doing everything right,” Good said. “And that sometimes they’re just going to cry whether you can do anything about it or not.”
She said she became pregnant while taking birth control.
“You think you’re being super responsible and taking all the right precautions,” she said. “And well, then suddenly you’re pregnant.”
The class about after pregnancy, she said, taught her about the effectiveness associated with different forms of birth control and about the kinds that are safe to use while breastfeeding.
“Being this young, it’s not a favorable situation, but you have to take advantage of your resources …” Good said. “At least now I’m more prepared to be the best mom I can be and I think that’s really important for new moms.”
Learning to ‘Count the Kicks’
Sapphire Garcia, the Baby Talk site coordinator for Via Christi, became involved with the program because of personal experience.
When she was pregnant in 2013 with her second daughter, she noticed that her baby wasn’t moving as much as she normally did. She went to the doctor, and left thinking everything was fine.
A few days later, Garcia gave birth to her stillborn daughter.
“We had a funeral for her, and the day I came home from my funeral was one of my lowest points,” she said.
Out of despair, Garcia said she searched all night for information about stillborn births. She came across a study about counting kicks as a method to prevent stillbirths.
From that study, she found a group of women in Des Moines, who created an organization called Healthy Birth Day to teach women about fetal movement. They called the public health campaign Count the Kicks.
Three months after she had lost her child, Garcia drove to Des Moines for training as a Count the Kicks ambassador.
She came back to Wichita, armed with knowledge, and taught providers how mothers can “Count the Kicks.”
The program teaches moms to count how many movements their baby makes in a two-hour window, or to measure how long it takes for their baby to reach 10 kicks.
To “Count the Kicks” moms count how many movements their baby makes in a two-hour window, or measure how long it takes for their baby to reach 10 kicks. If the baby’s movement changes, moms seek medical attention with a history of kick-count data.
If the baby’s movement changes significantly from baseline, the women know to seek medical attention and will have a history of kick data to show changes over time.
Count the Kicks is part of the Baby Talk curriculum and is now widely shared by providers in Wichita.
When Garcia then became pregnant with her son in 2014, she documented the number of kicks each day.
It paid off.
She said she woke up one morning and realized his movement had lessened.
She went to the doctor and found out her son was in fetal distress at 36 weeks — less than a month before her due date.
She went into delivery, and he was born healthy later that day.
“I can’t tell you how it felt leaving the hospital with my baby this time,” she said. “It was amazing and knowing it could have gone the other way again.”
I can’t tell you how it felt leaving the hospital with my baby this time.
Sapphire Garcia, the Baby Talk site coordinator for Via Christi
She’s pregnant with another baby boy due in April.
“I’m in my third trimester, and doing kick counts every day,” she said. “And I anticipate things will go well this time.”
During her pregnancy with her stillborn daughter, she said, she had a false sense of security about her pregnancy because she didn’t have any health complications the first time around.
“No matter how well-versed you are, or how educated you are, there’s always something to learn,” Garcia said. “Baby Talk is a good foundation of knowledge for moms — whether they’ve had one child or seven.”
Healthy tips for women
Some pregnancies are unplanned. So even if you’re a woman not planning to conceive, here are some healthy tips to follow that could help your future baby:
▪ Take a prenatal vitamin everyday — even if you’re not planning to get pregnant
▪ Take a folic acid, which comes in a prenatal vitamin — it helps prevent brain and spinal cord birth defects
▪ Maintain a healthy body mass index — measured by height and weight
▪ Exercise regularly
▪ Control any chronic health problems
▪ Do not smoke or use tobacco
▪ If you’re trying to conceive, it’s recommended you don’t consume alcohol
Source: Zachary Kuhlmann, clinical professor of OB/GYN at KU School of Medicine-Wichita
Apps and websites for expectant mothers
▪ Mayo Clinic on Pregnancy: guides mothers through development and birth of their child
▪ What to Expect: guides mothers through pregnancy day-by-day based on due date with personalized information and the latest parenting news
▪ I’m Expecting - Pregnancy App and Baby Guide: day-by-day guide with pregnancy videos, articles and tips
▪ Count the Kicks Kick Tracker: keep track of your baby’s kicks, rolls or pokes to monitor the baby’s health
▪ Full-term Labor and Contraction Time: keeps track of contractions during labor
▪ LactMed: database of drugs and dietary supplements that could affect breastfeeding
▪ MyFitnessPal: tracks nutritional intake and exercise
▪ What to Expect Baby Tracker: keeps track of your baby’s eating, sleeping and growth habits
▪ Healthy Babies: teaches about labor and delivery, baby care and breastfeeding
▪ KanQuit: helps people quit smoking and using tobacco
▪ Good and Cheap: free cookbook that offers healthy meals for $4 a day
▪ Kelly Mom Breastfeeding Information: provides reliable and accurate breastfeeding tips and advice
Source: Baby Talk resources