Making a Difference - One Baby at a Time

Tara, the public health nurse, arrived for her first home visit with Sherri, a brand new mom. Sherri is 21 years old, lives with her parents, and is a new single mom. Her baby was born full term and healthy. Sherri claims to "know nothing about babies" but glows with that enthusiasm (and rush of adrenalin) mother nature bestows on new parents.

Tara glances down at her forms from the health department. Wow, there is so much that could be covered at this important first visit. Do you have enough oil for your furnace? Do you know about back-to-sleep? Did you start your birth control pills? Did you know that babies can see your face? Tara's head spins as she wonders where to start.

Last week Tara completed The HUG continuing education class at her health department and is excited to integrate this information into her already busy schedule. She remembers that the teacher, Jan, said, "If you ever feel confused about what to do next, just See and Share." Jan explained that Seeing the baby's behavior and Sharing that behavior with parents can create an important connection with new parents.

But first, Tara must "See". She worked hard at the workshop to gain new knowledge and skills in observing and interacting with newborns. She glances over at Sherri's son, Freddie, and remarks, "Oh, I see he's in the Ready Zone. He looks ready to play with us."

Tara's right. Freddie's eyes are bright, his body is rather still, and his breathing is calm and regular. As his mother reaches for her Diet Coke, Freddie follows her with his eyes.

"Oh, I see that he is watching you right now," Tara exclaims. Sherri notices what Tara means and quickly joins the game. She tilts her head slowly in the other direction, and Freddie tracks right after her. "You nosey little man!" Sherri laughs as she picks up her son.

About that time Tara notices Freddie start to change. His eyes drift down, away from his mother's face, and he gets a bit pale. His chin tremors and his body stiffens a bit. "Oh, do you think I've bored him already?" Sherri asks.

But Tara is quick to remember what she just learned from class. "Oh, no," she gently explains. "Freddie is just showing a little SOS, or Sign of Over-Stimulation. That's really normal for new babies. Hey, let's swaddle him a minute and see what happens."

Sherri had become an expert on swaddling in the hospital, so she confidently wraps her little one up. She is surprised to see that in this swaddled position, Freddie is able to look back toward his mother; he even turns in her direction when she whispers his name.

"Wow, you're so smart! I'm going to take take super-good care of you!" she giggles. Sherri cuddles her baby as Tara covers a few of the important questions on her form. Seeing and Sharing this baby's behavior created that kind of teachable moment that every nurse longs for!