I was so fortunate to meet these 2 dynamos – Sarah Steinhardt and Juliet Fuisz. During their pregnancies they became acutely aware of the enormous financial, emotional, and physical toll that pregnancy and the transition to parenthood can take on a new mom. So many in our community cannot afford all that it takes. Their nonprofit, Welcome Baby, provides low-income pregnant women with a package containing everything she’ll need for her newborn’s first month of life. This box is not only filled with all the essentials a new mom would need for her baby’s health and hygiene in that critical first month, but it also alleviates some of the anxiety, stress, and unknowns that come along with the miracle of bringing a new life into the world.
Tell me about your nonprofit, Welcome Baby.
Welcome Baby provides pregnant women living near or below the poverty line with one package containing all the essential items an infant needs in the first four weeks of life. This includes 220 diapers, 240 wipes, a baby carrier, thermometer, wash and moisturizer, rash creams, onesies, pajamas, pacifiers, leggings, swaddle blankets, bottles and more. These are the basic necessities every mother needs to give her infant a healthy and hygienic start to life, and yet they are still completely out of reach for so many families.
What is the mission?
Welcome Baby’s mission is twofold. We believe every single infant deserves a healthy start to life, and we believe no mother should struggle to provide basic necessities for her baby while she herself is still recovering from the physical and emotional upheaval that comes with giving birth. Our packages contain items that are essential for infants’ health and comfort but we know they know they alleviate a huge financial burden for new families and offer women peace of mind as they navigate new motherhood.
Who are you helping and how do you reach these women?
Welcome Baby packages are given to women and infants who are living near or below the poverty line. The packages are distributed by hospitals, healthcare providers, and community health organizations that we have partnered with in New York, Ohio, and Connecticut. Hospital social workers and trained community health workers determine which women have the greatest need and distribute the Welcome Baby packages accordingly. In less than a year we have given out more than 230 packages and give out at least 35 more every month. Our longest running partnerships are with NYU Langone Hospital, Mt. Sinai Hospital, and Northern Manhattan Perinatal Partnership, in New York City. The response from recipients as well as program administrators has been overwhelmingly positive.
What motivates each of you to work on this particular cause?
Sarah: Here are some stark facts: 5.3 million American babies live in low-income families. 43 percent of New Yorkers live at or near the poverty line. Tens of thousands of families must choose between diapers and groceries. A baby crying from being in a dirty diaper is more likely to be a victim of Shaken Baby Syndrome. These facts motivate me to address the massive void in care of infants and women during the postpartum period.
We spend so much energy and time focusing on prenatal care that we often forget that the real challenges begin once a baby is born. I am intensely passionate in my belief that all babies – and all women – should have the basic, critical, essential items that allow for a healthy, hygienic start to life. It’s incumbent upon all of us to help level the playing field for newborns, and a simple way to achieve this is by providing these basic necessities.
Juliet: My father was critically ill during my pregnancy and passed away when my daughter was 6 months old. While I was beyond grateful and thrilled to have a happy, healthy baby, my daughter suffered from colic, and as a result, I got little to no sleep for several months. On top of that I was also constantly traveling back and forth to the hospital to care for my father and support my mother during the scariest time in our lives. I found myself on the front lines of life’s beginning and end simultaneously. More than two years later I have not found the right words to fully explain the stress, exhaustion, and emotional turmoil I experienced. At the time, I was extremely lucky to have paid maternity leave and exceptionally supportive bosses at CNN who cared about my wellbeing. So many women lack this type of critical support. And, I was very fortunate to have the ability and financial resources to purchase all of the supplies I needed and have them delivered directly to my house. I kept asking myself: what would have happened if I was truly struggling to afford and obtain the basic necessities I needed for my baby? Every woman – and every baby – deserves to have this critical piece of the puzzle as she transitions into motherhood.
What separates you from other charities helping women and babies?
Welcome Baby is quite unique in that we’re very focused on a particular moment in a mother and baby’s life where both woman and child are at their most vulnerable. We believe every single baby deserves a healthy start to life regardless of the financial circumstances his or her family is experiencing. While many charities give away certain baby supplies, Welcome Baby is a one stop shop. We offer pregnant women – many of whom may be physically and emotionally overwhelmed – a comprehensive package of necessities so there is no need to go back and forth to different organizations to get different items. The burden of procuring all of the basic necessities for this period of time is lifted. It’s all there in one box. Welcome Baby is part of a diaper bank network and we buy our supplies in bulk, thus reducing the cost of each item. We are therefore able to put together each package for $135. If a woman were to buy these items piecemeal at retail prices she would pay close to $300. As is the case far too often, the people who can afford the least end up paying the most.
What has surprised you most along the way?
We have been thrilled by how strongly and immediately our mission resonates with other moms. Mothers we talk to are immediately drawn back to the weeks after giving birth and share with us the joys of welcoming a baby, but also the many difficulties. The overload of emotions, the challenges of taking care of such a tiny baby while also trying to physically heal from delivery, the fear and even panic that accompanies being responsible for your little one’s ability to survive and thrive. The idea of navigating all of this while not being able to afford basic hygiene supplies for the infant you love so much is a position we don’t want any mother to be in. Every woman deserves to have these items within arm’s reach, particularly because leaving the house to buy these items can be extremely difficult if your delivery has left you physically impaired or with reduced mobility. We receive donations and messages from women we have never met saying they heard about our cause and felt so strongly about helping other moms because they remember how hard those first few weeks were. It’s an amazing feeling to know that our message resonates and hits home with so many people.
How can the Stacy Knows community help?
If you are moved by our cause, we’d love for you to consider making a donation on our website: welcomebabyusa.org. Every single dollar we receive goes directly to buying supplies for the packages, so you can rest assured that your donation is going directly to help the women and babies who need it the most. We are actively applying to grants from corporations and family foundations and we are always looking to partner with brands and companies that make the products in our packages or feel passionately about helping women and babies. If any readers know of opportunities that might be a good fit, we’d love to know about them. You can reach us via email at email@example.com. We’d also really appreciate everyone’s help in spreading the word about our organization. If you like what we’re doing follow us on this journey on instagram and facebook @welcomebabyusa and tell your friends and family to do the same. If you have other ideas on how you’d like to be involved we’d love to hear from you as well!
If you’d like to learn more about their work or donate, please visit www.welcomebabyusa.org.