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Sep 9, 2010
By Emily Brainard, Army Flier Staff

FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- September is National Baby Safety Month, and parents have plenty of free on-post resources to help them better care for and raise their infants.

Army Community Services New Parent Support Program assists parents from pregnancy through the time their children are age 3, said Stella Davis, ACS Family Advocacy Program manager.

NPSP staff offers a variety of services, including home visits. Licensed clinical social workers and registered nurses visit with Families in their residences and teach parents how to care for babies, handle behavior issues like biting and temper tantrums, offer potty training advice and teach how to manage misplaced stress.

"Get involved and learn about appropriate parenting skills," Davis said. "It's important for military Families to know where (their) support network is (locally). Reach out for resources."

Successful home visits require the participation of all Family members, especially fathers, even though they may not be the main caregivers. Involving both parents and older siblings "makes them aware of the importance of the safety of children," Davis said.

Home visitors work on Families' schedules, and provide services after business hours and on weekends if necessary.

Spc. Joshua Prieto Ruiz and his wife, Cristina, became parents two months ago when their first child, Caleb, was born. Since then, they've utilized the home visiting service to settle in to their new lifestyle.

NPSP Home Visitor and Registered Nurse Jennifer Connelly visits the Family regularly to assist them with tasks and answer questions. She also provides them the emotional support they lack after leaving relatives behind in Puerto Rico.

"It's our first child, so we want to raise him right," the D Company, 1st Battalion, 13th Aviation Regiment Soldier said. "We have no Family here. Jennifer's our Family."

Cristina said Connelly has taught her about breastfeeding and nutrition and demonstrated helpful exercises to help Caleb develop.

"They do such a good job (as parents). Every time (I visit) they ask for different information. They're hungry for knowledge," Connelly said.

Another free NPSP resource, the Baby Bundle program, educates mothers and fathers on what to expect with their newborns and provides infant supplies. Families within a 30-mile radius of Fort Rucker can receive this service.

All programs are voluntary, but Davis advises parents to explore them "to minimize the stressors" many new Families face.

Play groups are also a helpful resource for Families with children too young to be attending school or other social programs.

"(Groups) provide an outlet for parents to come for adult socialization (and) children have social interaction with their peers," Davis said.

Mom and Me: Dad Too! is a play group for parents and their infants up to 12 months old. Meetings are Mondays from 9:30 to 11 a.m.

Tot Time is for parents and their children 13-36 months old, and is Mondays from 1:30 to 3 p.m. and Wednesdays from 9:30 to 11 a.m. and 1:30 to 3 p.m.

Both activities take place at the Early Childhood Activity Center in Bldg. 3705 on Dean Street. For more information, call 255-3815 or 255-3898