6 ways Hello Baby website delivers answers to new parents in Pittsburgh

Having a baby is exciting, but it can be overwhelming for parents who aren’t sure about many aspects of caring for an infant or parenting as the child grows.

New parents have lots of questions and may not know where to find answers. Some struggle with specialized needs, such as food, health care or safe, affordable housing, and may not know where to turn for help.

Now, a first-of-its-kind initiative, Hello Baby, makes available resources in Allegheny County that can help babies thrive and relieve some of the stress on parents.

The Hello Baby website is a brainchild of the county’s Department of Human Services, the United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania and Healthy Start Pittsburgh. The website provides information and links to organizations and programs that assist with infant health and safety, parental education, childcare and development, and even texting support.

It includes a live chat opportunity with a family specialist through United Way’s PA 211 call centers. Under the program, 27 Family Centers around the county have been enhanced as hubs for parents to connect, share experiences and learn about available help.

“Parenting is hard for everyone and that’s really the idea of Hello Baby,” says Amy Malen, assistant deputy director in the county’s Office of Community Services. She notes that in a typical year, Allegheny County’s six birthing hospitals report 13,000 births.

“Parents of all of those babies can use some support in raising strong families and healthy children,” says Malen. “Some families have higher levels of need, and through this program, we can reach these families and offer them more.”

So far, the response to Hello Baby has been “really positive,” says Malen, though it’s too early to track what most people are interested in beyond fulfilling basic needs.

“Our hope is that we capture who is participating across the system. The idea really is that ‘it-takes-a-village’ approach,” she says. “This is really about bringing together a lot of partners who do a lot of things for children and families in this region and making it easier for families to access those resources.”

Here’s a look at some of what the project offers:

1. Services for those in need. If your grocery money is limited, some organizations will help you secure baby food or formula. Similarly, help is available if you’re struggling to find and pay for safe, affordable housing. Several transportation services will make sure you don’t miss important appointments for the baby or family. Babies on the Homefront is meant to help military or veteran parents. Immigrant Services and Connections provides community supports for immigrants and refugees.

2. Diapers, car seats and more. In this section of the website, you’ll find information on essential services such as Cribs for Kids, a national organization that provides education about safe sleep and portable cribs; the Western Pennsylvania Diaper Bank with more than 20 locations; and a car seat loan program offered through the Pennsylvania Traffic Injury Prevention Project.  You can even locate community baby showers.

3. Programs for dads. A supportive husband and father can help both mom and baby. Many programs are designed just for fathers — including peer support and educational assistance on how to communicate with, encourage or discipline your child. The website offers links to five local fatherhood programs and tip sheets for expectant dads, new dads and fathers of toddlers. Fathering in 15 offers videos and a free e-book for download.

4. Home visits. Sometimes the best support for parents and their children is to reach families where they live by coming to the home. The county Health Department offers a Maternal and Child Health program, with three options to enroll for home visits with nurses. Other programs include Family Check-Up, Healthy Start, Family Resources’ Reach Out to Families, and the Healthy Parenting Program by A Child’s Place.

5. Texting support. The Text4baby app provides health and safety tips, interactive features, and a way to set up and remind you of appointments. In addition to the app, this website offers videos and information on things such as nutrition and a baby’s development. NurturePA offers texting support through volunteer mentors who are matched with expectant or new moms.

6. Grow with the program. As your child grows, Allegheny Child Care can help you find child care, before and after school programs and summer programs. The Early Learning Resource Center involves children even as infants. If you have questions about your child’s development, several programs offer early intervention services. There are also two local studies promoting development and school success.