Jennifer Gutiérrez: New York City Could Make Being A Parent Easier

Out of all the milestones in which a person could use support navigating throughout life, becoming a parent is objectively the most important. How often do we hear from parents that “There is no handbook on parenting,” or “The first one is always the hardest”? What is known as the “fourth trimester” is real, and the needs of the parents don’t magically disappear when the child is born, they only increase and, often, parents can’t meet those needs. 

Unfortunately, New York City doesn’t make it easier to be a new parent, which is why I’ve introduced the “Newborn Navigator Act,” which would provide resources and support for new parents who don’t know where to turn. The idea for the legislation came from my longtime District Director, Angelica Colon, who had a traumatic birth experience, and despite working for the City Council for many years, did not know where to access the resources she needed, or ones she didn’t even know she would need. I had given birth two months before being sworn in as a Council Member. Suddenly, not only did I have an entire district to take care of, I now had an infant. Even with my decade of experience working in city government, I was overwhelmed with the task of being a new mom. 

So we wondered, what if there was a simple way to provide new parents with information about the local resources available to them and their newborns? What if there was a simple, searchable resource that helped you navigate caretaking for a child in New York City: from vaccine appointments, to childcare, to lactation specialists, and mental health services.  For some, it  is a matter of life and death. 

Some parents are fortunate enough to already have the financial support they need, or social support from their employer, families, friends, and partners – but for those who do not have such support, the risk of infant and maternal mortality nearly doubles, according to the New York State Department of Health.

Along racial lines, 75% of pregnancy-associated deaths among Black mothers, and 65% for Latina mothers, were preventable. The leading causes of death include cardiovascular events, hemorrhage, embolism, suicide, and overdoses. Many of these tragedies could be avoided if people have easier access to resources and their community. If the majority of these deaths are preventable, and many of the resources to help already exist, why wouldn’t we do everything in our power to save lives by making this information easily accessible?

Providing informational material is a straightforward and impactful step toward addressing these disparities. My bill would make sure these resources are accessible and shared, not just in hospitals, it would create a searchable 21st century database that could be used by parents, as well as providers and caretakers, who want to easily refer patients to other means of care. This could be everything from essential child care items, child safety, breastfeeding and nutrition, available social services programs, postpartum care resources, support groups, vaccination schedules, anti-discrimination laws related to pregnancy, and workplace accommodations. 

By ensuring that all parents, regardless of their background, have immediate access to vital information, we can help bridge the gap in the care and support that many new families face.

The Newborn Navigator Act was heard in a New York City Council committee hearing earlier this week, along with other maternal health-related bills, and you can watch the full hearing here. Next up, we will be advocating for this bill to be considered for passage by the city council to become a law.

Jennifer Gutiérrez represents New York City Council’s 34th District, which includes parts of Bushwick, East Williamsburg and Ridgewood.

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