The Rise of Community Baby Showers

Photo by Tim Bash via Unsplash

The U.S. is the most expensive country in which to deliver and raise a baby. A 2013 study estimated that it cost a minimum of $30,000 to give birth in a hospital and $10,000 for a family with modest means to raise a child in their first year.

Moreover, an infant mortality rate in South Carolina of 6.7 per 1,000 ranks the state worse for infants than Serbia, Bosnia, and Cuba. Roughly one-quarter of infant deaths occur due to mothers who have had little or no prenatal care.

Community Baby Showers in North Charleston
In the spirit of “It Takes a Village,” organizations all over the country are hosting community baby showers that invite new mothers and pregnant women, usually from high-poverty areas, to learn about prenatal and post-partum care, connect with community resources, win prizes and prepare their babies for a healthier future.

One such organization is the North Charleston Police Department, which was shocked by a report revealing a 2017 spike in the infant mortality rate within the city. Last year, Captain James Hill established “Baby Changes Everything: Educating, Engaging, Equipping;” a baby shower that drew 40 mothers and pregnant women, along with some fathers, parents and other caregivers.

The department held a second baby shower in June, which drew 50 mothers and mothers-to-be. The half-day event provided breakfast and lunch, information about prenatal care and free community resources, access to local early child and health care community service organizations, and gifts such as cribs, diaper bags, strollers, and infant sleepers.

Attendees who were not signed up for Medicaid were directed to do sign-up on-site, at the event.

“Infant mortality is all of our responsibility,” said Capt. Hill. “Being a community-oriented police department, we want to take the opportunity to educate citizens on healthier lifestyles.”

Wellcare Health Plans Inc., a Medicaid insurance provider, has jumped on board, offering its own baby shower on July 17 at the Trident United Way building on Rivers Ave. in North Charleston, and plans more baby showers in conjunction with the Charleston County Public Libraries in the fall.

Wellcare Community Relations Specialist Garry Bonesteel says the games and giveaways make the baby showers fun, but they serve a crucial role in connecting new moms to the resources they need.

“There is no single place where they can get information about member benefits from all the Medicaid plans,” he said. “People get Medicaid and don’t know they’re eligible for benefits or don’t know the full range of benefits.”

Lowcountry Graduate Center’s Involvement
Dr. Nancy Muller, director of the Lowcountry Graduate Center, a public health educator, and former executive director of a non-profit health care organization, represents the LGC on the Maternal and Infant & Child Health Committee of Trident United Way’s Community Health Initiative.

She applauds these efforts, particularly by the police department saying, “That the people who protect our campus and safeguard us all would take the initiative to tackle the shockingly high infant mortality rate in high-poverty areas is highly commendable. These types of efforts will pay off in healthier children and communities in the Lowcountry.”

The Lowcountry Graduate Center provides diaper changing tables and private lactation rooms for new mothers attending classes (or teaching them!) on the North Charleston campus.