Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies

November 17, 2023

Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies, The Montana Coalition's mission is to improve the health, safety, and well-being of Montana families by supporting mothers and babies, aged zero to three.

Over the past 39 years, the work of Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies (HMHB) on behalf of moms, babies, and families across Montana, has depended on one key thing: relationships. When it comes to supporting and advocating for families with children ages zero to three, we approach each interaction with patience and respect. We strive to listen with curiosity and to keep our connections to our partners, our co-workers, and the families we serve at the heart of all we do. It is the fuel that keeps this fire burning bright.

When we reflect on the partnerships we’ve developed with other caregivers and providers across the state, we are so grateful. Just as no parent should ever have to raise their child alone, no single entity – no matter how passionate, can serve the needs of families on their own. Together with our partners, we’ve been able to focus on prevention, workforce development, and monitoring health and health-related services through a variety of programs and, as a result, we’ve seen systems improve and lives change.

One way we can reach families is by offering car seats and pack ‘n plays through our Essentials for Baby Program. This program provides these essential items to families while connecting them to family support providers in their community. The seats and pack ‘n plays are sent to resource hubs like public health departments and community-based nonprofits, to spark a connection, provide education, and connect families with other available resources. The hope is that new parents and caregivers feel confident and supported from the get-go. Sometimes, these seemingly small relationships can make all the difference when a new need arises.

We also launched our Native American Initiatives Program this past spring. The initiative is led by Dr. Amy Stiffarm who specializes in Maternal Mental Health issues in American Indian communities. Amy is a member of the Aaniiih (White Clay) Tribe of the Fort Belknap Indian Community and is also a descendant of the Chippewa Cree and Blackfeet Tribes of Montana. Amy’s combination of lived experience and research in the area of Indigenous Maternal Health is incredibly valuable. It has helped care providers deepen their understanding of the strengths of Indigenous culture and implement best practices in caring for Native American women and families. Our focus on relationships in this work has opened many doors and is offering insight, hope, and more quality care for every mother and birthgiver across the state.

The Native American Initiative Program was created to continue the work initiated by the LIFTS in Indian Country project where HMHB worked with Tribal Communities across the state to build the Reservation-specific resources for the LIFTS Online Resource Guide. Communities shared feedback on the resource guide and what they saw as the greatest needs for families. HMHB was able to translate this generosity of knowledge to more entries and categories listed in the resource guide to better serve the needs of Native families in Montana. The resource guide now lists more than 3,500 resources for families, and those who care for them, to rely on when they are ready to ask for help.

Throughout November, we are celebrating Native American Heritage Month by hosting some of the most powerful leaders in Indigenous Maternal Health on HMHB’s Mother Love Podcast. These women share their wisdom and speak about what it’s like to work directly with families and providers and advocate for policy changes on a national level. Together with our guests and listeners, we celebrate and acknowledge the culture, traditions, and achievements of the nation's original inhabitants and of their descendants. One of the most powerful ways to change is to simply listen. This series is only the beginning of our intention to help Indigenous mothers and families share their stories on the Mother Love podcast. You can find these interviews and many other powerful stories here or by searching “Mother Love” on your favorite streaming platform.

Our work continues and we are eager to build and strengthen relationships with those who are working to improve the lives of families in Montana and we encourage you to reach out to connect with us.