The first few weeks after giving birth can be an overwhelming time for new mothers. Worry, anxiety, sleep deprivation and, of course, those out-of-whack hormones can easily plunge moms into postpartum depression. But it can be incredibly difficult for moms to find the help and support they need when they’re laser-focused on caring for a newborn.
A new program in New York City is aiming to address that problem. The New Family Home Visits initiative will send mental health professionals directly into the home of first-time parents to offer care, support and guidance. This is amazing, as the current model of postpartum care in America isn’t working, but other countries have seen measurable benefits when moms are provided with professional, in-home help.
It’s hard to give an exact estimate of how many new mothers deal with postpartum depression—since so many cases go unreported—but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the number could be as high as one in five. With as many as six home visits, New York City moms will be in a much better position to cope.
The home visits program has a budget of $43 million and is spearheaded by New York City’s First Lady Chirlane McCray, who says she was inspired by her own difficult experience as a first-time mother. McCray says she hopes the programs’ benefits will be far-ranging. “Home visits are proven to strengthen bonds between parents and their babies, lower the risk for maternal anxiety and depression, and support healthy brain development during a crucial time,” she explains.
While the program’s main focus is on mental health, it’ll also offer far more than anxiety and depression screenings. Visits can also give parents tips on feeding, safe sleep, help navigate programs like WIC and SNAP, and even offer doula services to eligible moms.
The program starts this spring in Brooklyn. It aims to have all Brooklyn families covered by 2021 and will be fully implemented across NYC by 2024.
New York’s program will be the largest of its kind, according to the New York Times, joining cities like Chicago and Durham, N.C. in offering home visits. Having a trained professional available to offer support could be a game-changer for moms starting out on the most challenging journey of their lives—here’s hoping more cities follow suit.