New-parent support program helps strengthen families

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Montse Ramirez
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Without a baby owner's manual or a network of friends and family close by, new parents need all the help they can get.

The New Parent Support Program, a free Family Advocacy program here, designed to help expectant and new parents meet their new roles as mother, father and family.

Mae Hertig, an Air Force Global Strike Command member and 509th Medical Operations Squadron Family Advocacy nurse, provides personalized home visits, telephone calls and information by e-mail to military families who are expecting a baby or have a child under the age of three.

"We understand the impact a military life can have on expectant and new families, including deployments and separation from family and friends," said Mrs. Hertig. "We want to help minimize as much stress as we can."

NPSP services are tailored to each family's circumstances and can help with adaptation to ‎‎military life, preparation for parenthood, enhancing parenting skills, understanding growth and development, couples communication and stress management.

"Our main mission is to strengthen military families and prevent maltreatment," said Mrs. Hertig.

By being part of the program, parents can expect more confidence on becoming a parent. They learn knowledge and skills new parents need to form healthy relationships and to provide safe, nurturing environments for families.

"Mrs. Hertig is great at helping parents baby proof their homes to ensure the safety of the child and ease parents' fears when bringing home a new born," said Senior Airman Jennifer Halko, 509th MDOS mental health technician who assists Mrs. Hertig with the program.

Soon-to-be parents receive information in emotional and physical changes of pregnancy, preparing the nursery, breastfeeding education, basic infant care and infant sleep patterns.

Parents are also told about infant development, toddler discipline, toilet training and stress management.

Mrs. Hertig said families not only receive information, but also participate in role-playing activities. She said she usually brings a mechanical baby who cries continuously for about five minutes to the home to see how the family pet reacts, and in turn, see how the parents-to-be respond to the situation.

For the fathers-to-be, she brings an empathy belly that shows them what the mom is going through. With it on, she makes the fathers perform every-day tasks such as getting up from the couch to pick up the phone, get the dishes out of the dishwasher or carry laundry.

"With the program, I have seen people grow and have a more positive outlook on life as a parent," said Mrs. Hertig. "I am excited to see these parents become so strong and resilient by overcoming their own struggles for their children."

For additional information, call Family Advocacy Program (660) 687-4342 or Mae Hertig (660) 687-4589