“Baby Bucks” Benefit New Moms

It’s truly a win-win situation for everyone involved.

New and expectant first time mothers learn important health-related information about their newborns, the infants get needed supplies, San Diego County employees and community groups put their gently used baby items to good use and the Health and Human Services Agency’s public health nurses (PHNs) strengthen their relationship with the new moms.

As part of HHSA’s Nurse-Family Partnership program – where PHNs make home visits to work with first-time mothers – the annual Baby Boutique event in El Cajon allows families to spend “baby bucks” to purchase new and gently used baby items donated by County employees, community agencies and local churches.

“We give the baby bucks as an incentive for the new moms when the nurse visits their family,” said Martha Bartzen, PHN manager at the East Region Public Health Center. “One of the goals we have as PHNs is to teach families independence, sustainability and financial management.

“The Baby Boutique teaches them money management, and at the same time provides them with much-needed supplies.”

Nurses hand out one or two bucks at each home visit and mothers earn additional baby bucks as incentives for providing a healthy, nurturing environment for their newborns. They get rewarded for such things as making sure their baby gets immunized, someone in the home quits smoking, breastfeeding or other healthy behaviors.

“They save up their bucks for the whole year in anticipation of the boutique,” said Bartzen. “Some come in with $40-50 to spend and they get quite a few items for their babies.”

At the event, families can spend the bucks on clothing, diapers, shoes, books, toys and even larger items such as bassinets and strollers. Most items are priced at just a few bucks. Bartzen said it’s a group effort at the Public Health Center with nurses tapping into their sources for the donated items, including unclaimed toys from Child Welfare Services’ holiday toy drives.

“They can get a lot of items for their baby and it’s definitely something they appreciate,” said Bartzen. “It’s a nice thing we can do for them.”

Tom Christensen is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact