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Brain Bags: helping to shape the future

Brain Bags
Posted at 4:19 AM, May 04, 2023
Brain Bags: helping to shape the future

Being a new parent whether it is your first or third can be a challenge.

"Of course, everyone has advice," New mom, Megan Lester, said. "It's kind of what advice you want to take; it's always great hearing from other moms."

Lester said advice she did not need to think about was the advice she got from Brain Bags.

As an employee of Ochsner American Legion Hospital in Jennings, Lester was aware of the bags but had never had one.

"For my other two children I did not receive the brain bag, for Wesley we did," Lester said. "It just reminds you to keep simulating the brain development, pick up the book, ready, and engage your other children. In a busy life, it encourages you to take a step back and think of them."

Brain Bags are essentially 'baby steps' into helping with our literacy problem in Louisiana.

Our state ranks 47th when it comes to literacy rates, with 72 percent of people not able to read at or above level.

Statistics show that the first 1,000 days of a baby's life, that is until the age of three, are a crucial window in how their brain will grow.

The more words they know by age three, the more likely they will have the language and skills they will need to succeed in school.

"The whole concept behind the brain bag is to encourage the mom to do the little things, to talk to the child, and to read to the child," Mindy Hetzel, director of philanthropy, said. "The words the child will hear in the first three years will establish their pre-kindergarten readiness and establish their success for the next twelve years."

Hetzel said these bags are conversation starters, not just with new mom's but caregivers.

"The mom may not be the main caregiver in that child's life," Hetzel said. "We send home a QR code that is a video that we ask the mom to store on her phone so she can share the video with others. We also have that QR code in the bag itself. We want to constantly remind anyone in that child's life that they can make a difference by butting the electronic devices down and reading and doing the basic education that starts with birth."

Hetzel said Ochsner American Legion Hospital has had about 150 children born at the hospital since January, they average about 40 babies a month, and the thirst for ways to help baby grow is there.

"They're starving for that knowledge," Hetzel said. "The Brain Bag is a wonderful collection of stuff to be engaged in."

"It includes a milestone book that helps the mom monitor the growth process of that child for the first three years. We're finding that this is so important because the mom is about to document if there is any slowing down in development and discuss that with the pediatrician. In the short time they visit the doctor they may not have the opportunity to make those observations."

"It includes a book about our parish. We have information about everything that is free from our parish library," Lester said. "We've also added a safe sleep book. It is something that you read to your baby but it's also a message to the parents about how to put your baby to sleep safely."

"And we just recently added a texting program, for the first three years we will text the mom twice a week to remind them about the brain bag and the importance of being engaged, not only nine months before the birth but also three years after."

For moms like Lester to have those tools at her fingertips give her the reassurance that she is helping to positively shape Wesley's future.

To help out the hospital as they continue to provide these bags to new parents you can head to https://www.solagivingday.org/