We’re in the first week of the shortest month of the year already, but SFK members are known not only for their generosity but also for their speed sewing and bargain shopping. We’ll have babies and toddlers dressed in warm sleepers and wrapped up in new blankets all snug in their beds before you know it. We gave everyone a heads up in last month’s blog and some members are already shipping their donations.
Those of you who’ve had children can probably remember the excitement and the feeling of being overwhelmed when you brought your first baby home from the hospital. You were responsible for the care of this new life and they were totally dependent on you to feed and care for them. Most of you probably had a supportive husband and family to help you during the first few weeks and were bringing your new baby to a home that was safe, warm and stocked with everything you would need to care for your son or daughter.
Things are very different on the Rez for new babies. Mothers, in many cases, are young teens with no parenting skills and little or no family support, living in substandard, overcrowded housing with nothing for their baby other than what was given to them at the hospital. Health care on the Rez is nowhere near adequate, there are local clinics in some communities but they’re open only a few hours a day and getting there requires a car and gas. Some women live in trailers or small homes in the outlying areas where they’re isolated from friends and family, caring for the new baby without any help or emotional support and with limited supplies for their baby. Postpartum depression is an issue for many women.
Our project this month is to get clothing and supplies to the babies in Wanblee and surrounding areas, Bright Start in Pine Ridge and the Sacred Shawl Society (women’s shelter) in Martin
In the Wanblee area baby and toddler supplies will be given to women that call Theresa and Jerome High Horse for help. Mary Epps, a nurse working with Families Working Together and living in Wanblee, will hold child care education classes once the community building is finished. She will also be teaching women how to take better care of themselves through relaxation techniques and proper diet and exercise. Presently new mothers and their babies are seen by the public health nurse within 2 weeks after delivery with a referral to a clinic or other resource for special needs.
Mary M., nurse with Bright Start, makes home visits to new moms and babies in certain parts of Pine Ridge Reservation although not the Wanblee area at this time. She gets supplies from donations we send to Kimmie at the shelter but can’t always make the long trip to Martin to pick them up so we’re going to start shipping directly to her. Mary visits moms weekly for 4 weeks after birth and twice a month thereafter until the child reaches their second birthday. We’re hoping the 2 nurses they recently lost to retirement and relocation will soon be replaced. There is a nurse that comes from Rapid City once a week to help, Mary has a long waiting list of moms in need of help. She sent the following note:
“The Bright Start program is a nationally based program to curb child abuse/neglect on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and other inner cities. Currently I have 32 clients and 28 babies ranging from newborn to two years of age. These are “at risk” mothers indicating they are single, have no resources, pregnant with inadequate prenatal care, domestic violence in their lives, and live on the reservation. Their ages range from 15 – 29 years old. We have no incentives to give them. We do give them a pack and play unit when they’re 36 weeks gestation to promote SAFE SLEEP. Sometimes Kim Clausen gives me some infant sleepers and diapers. Those go pretty fast because I share with WIC. I receive referrals from WIC, midwives from the hospital, Department of Social Services, hospitals off the rez, and self referrals. Our main purpose is to provide them with education on how to take care of themselves and their babies. So, any type of assistance you have to offer will be greatly appreciated by the families. Sleepers (newborn-2 years), diapers, and baby hygiene products are in special need. Thank you, Mary”
Kimmie at the Sacred Shawl Society has classes for women at the shelter teaching parenting and many other skills. They take women and children to the clinic for health checks and immunizations and to social services so they can sign up for WIC and TANF if needed. They are provided with clothing, toiletries, etc. and a safe, homelike environment to help them heal from their trauma.
Kimmie also helps women in the Martin area and across the Rez who call at the end of the month looking for formula and/or diapers when their WIC has run out. They may also need baby clothes, toiletries and sanitary items for themselves. Those seeking help must also stay for some educational sessions on parenting, budgeting skills, etc. and are encouraged to go back to school or a training program they can help facilitate. This is a great way to keep check on young mothers in the community, give them support and let them know someone cares about them. SFK members have been so generous that Kimmie’s had enough clothing and other goods to give to Child Protection Services for children taken into their custody. These groups mentioned above and others get together to try to find solutions to these issue thru the Healthy Family Initiative Project -so needed if things are to change.
Here’s how WE can help mothers, babies and toddlers:
- Clothing – In sizes 0-3 months (no NB) through 3T. Fleece sleepers with feet and sleep sacks for winter, lighter of each for warmer months. Onesies and undershirts for layering, socks, pants, shorts for summer. Sweaters ready made or hand knitted or crocheted.
- Blankets – Quilts, fleece blankets, knitted or crocheted afghans, receiving blankets, double or single layer.
- Outerwear – Winter coats, snow suits, buntings, hoodies, jackets, hats and mitts/mittens.
- Linens – Pack n Play contour sheets, hooded/regular towels, washcloths.
- Toiletries and Diapering – Qtips, baby wipes, baby wash, baby lotion, diaper cream, disposable diapers sizes 2-5, changing pads. Wipes are especially needed by moms who have no running water in the home.
- Feeding – Formula such as Enfamil or Similac, glass baby bottles, baby food, spoons, bowls, plates, finger food for toddlers, baby bibs and burp cloths.
- Diaper Bags – Many younger moms may prefer backpacks, either is welcome. Bags can be totes with pockets, something big enough (at least 18 x 18) to hold change of clothes, diapers and other needs.
- Toys – Safe toys and books for babies and toddlers. Activity bags for toddlers, stuffed animals, etc.
- Mother’s Needs – Sanitary items, shampoo, soap, deodorant, hair brush/comb, hair ties/clips, nail polish, manicure kit, small makeup items such as blush, lip gloss, etc., slipper socks, toiletry or tote bag, purse. Anything to help women look and feel better about themselves.
- Books and Craft Items – Magazines, books, adult coloring books and colored pencils, crafting supplies such as beads, art, drawing paper and pencils or other. Postpartum depression is high on the Rez, especially for those living in isolated areas so let’s help occupy their mind with a good book or craft.
Currently the most needed items are things to keep babies warm such as fleece sleepers, sleep sacks, and blankets, of course diapers are always needed. SIDS is a big issue on the Rez but cases have declined with the Safe Sleep campaign. Babies should sleep in the same room as their mother in their own bed for the first 6 months when the risk of SIDS is greatest. Sleep sacks alone aren’t warm enough for babies in colder homes so blankets (used properly) are still needed for babies. Blankets can also be used as a play mat or to cover up in a cold car as most babies don’t have coats.
Mothers are given a Pack n Play crib for their baby which is safer than sleeping in the family bed and also provides a safe place for baby while mom takes a shower, cooks, etc. Pack n Plays only come with one contour sheet, an extra or better yet 2 extra sheets allow for changing if soiled. Doing laundry on the Rez is always a challenge but especially so in the winter, having extras of everything helps keep babies clean and happy.
Safe toys for kids are always welcome as are baby books so mothers can start reading to their children from infancy. Toys provide stimulation for baby and gives moms ways to interact and bond with their children. Children who are read to from ages 0-5 have larger vocabularies and they develop a love for reading. Activity bags for older toddlers are great for learning and working on projects with mom.
Check out the clearance sales for winter gear at department stores for good prices, although they’re getting ready for Spring, it will still be cold on the Rez for a few months. Although it’s not a great time of year for garage sales, thrift stores are always a good place to shop for good clothing at reasonable prices as are your family’s closets. Babies are larger on the Rez so NB size clothing isn’t usually needed, please send 0-3 months through 3T.
We’re so grateful for anything you can do to help babies on the Rez. Another way to help is by donating (any amount!) to our Sew For Kids Fund so we can buy diapers and formula for our donation areas. Shipping addresses for our donations are here. We have a spreadsheet you can add your donations to or send a list to Carol or Janet and we’ll post for you. Please join us on our working group at Sew For Kids Volunteers.
Thank you all from Sew For Kids!