We’re rounding up the month that we celebrate all things “mom.” We sat down with Kaila Tang, one of our Nurse Family Partnership nurses who works with moms prenatally and through their babies’ second year.
Kaila, can you tell us a little bit about your work?
My job is to support first time moms throughout pregnancy and the first two years of parenting. I visit my clients in their homes or in the community, whenever and wherever it’s convenient for them to meet. In a typical day I drive all around South Seattle and spend time visiting with two or three clients, who may be pregnant or parenting an infant or toddler up to the age of two. My goal is to improve pregnancy outcomes, improve child health and development, and improve the economic self-sufficiency of the mothers I work with.
What is a typical day on the job like?
My clients are varied so a typical day might look very different from one client to the next. All my clients are low-income and first time moms, so the struggle to provide for themselves and their growing families is always a constant. Finding time for school, getting and maintaining a job that pays a living wage, securing quality childcare, meeting basic needs, fulfilling family obligations, addressing mental health and substance use issues, homelessness and lack of education are all issues my clients have faced. Many of my clients are very busy trying to make ends meet, so it can be a challenge for them to think about providing a developmentally appropriate and stimulating environment for their child all day every day – but that is certainly a major goal.
Can you tell us about the importance of developmentally appropriate and stimulating environments?
Babies’ brains are rapidly developing during their first five years of life. By building children’s brains from the earliest ages, you’re actually shaping the foundation for future learning. At the center of every stimulating environment is the child’s caregiver, whether that’s mom, dad, another family member, or a child care worker. We know that it’s the connection between the child and the caregiver that facilitates learning.
Developmentally appropriate activities and expectations are key, because unrealistic expectations can easily create frustrations for both the caregiver and the child.
It’s never easy to be a new mom. Do you have any tips from a nurses’ perspective?
My not-so-secret tip is a resource called Vroom. I actually learned about it from my sister when my son was four months old. I really like the free app you can download on your phone. I love it for several reasons. First of all, it’s a fun and convenient way to get some new ideas about age appropriate things to do with your child. Use it when you’re bored at home. Use it when you’re out and about. It’s all about maximizing teachable moments.
Secondly, it’s based on the latest science, it’s quick and easy to navigate, it’s fun to earn badges, and the response that parents get from their kids when they do the activities is always positive, which reinforces the use of the app.
Vroom suggests activities based on age, and the brainy backgrounds provide explanations consistent with the child’s stage of development and why the activity helps build the child’s brain.
I also like that it doesn’t require expensive toys or accessories. All you need is your baby and a moment, and Vroom gives you the knowledge to turn that moment into an opportunity to encourage development in an age appropriate and enjoyable way.
How do you use Vroom?
I have the app and the cards, but my experience has been that the app is the best way to reach clients. They are on their phones all the time, and the app brings child development to them where they are, in a quick, convenient, and fun way.
Yesterday I was visiting a teenage mom whose infant is two months old. We downloaded the app together and the Daily Vroom was about using a sing song voice to talk to baby. The client tried it with her daughter, and the baby’s eyes lit up, she focused intently on her mother’s face, and then gave her the most beautiful smile. The baby’s reaction reinforced the value of the app. I know my client will continue doing daily Vrooms, because every mother loves to see her child’s smiling face gazing up at her!
For more information about services available through our Nurse Family Partnership program, call 206-477-6262. To find resources and information about Vroom, visit joinvroom.org or contact Devon.Love@KingCounty.gov.