‘Baby and Me’ program provides incentives for mothers to quit smoking

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Baby and Me — Tobacco Free is a grant-funded program provided locally through the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association. The program is designed to motivate women to quit smoking during and after pregnancy. For more information, call VNA prenatal coordinator Hope Cook at 871-7622. To learn more about Baby and Me’s national presence, go to http://babyandmetobaccofree.org.

— This fall, six women graduated from “Baby and Me — Tobacco Free,” a program to keep women from smoking during and after pregnancy.

Funded by a grant and led locally by Hope Cook, the prenatal coordinator for the North­west Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, the program gives expecting and new moms incentive and motivation to quit smoking and stay smoke-free.

Missy Chotvacs was one of Cook’s fall graduates. She learned about the program through other VNA services. Chotvacs, 21, quit her 1 1/2-year smoking habit when she learned she was pregnant and has been smoke-free since. Her daughter, Mya Chotvacs Chase, is 13 months old.

Potential hazards to child development, keeping second-hand smoke away from her daughter and cutting the expense of cigarettes from a single parent’s budget were among Chotvacs’ reasons for entering and completing the program, she said.

During the program, participants get a monthly carbon dioxide screening, Cook said. If that screen is negative — meaning the woman isn’t smoking — the participant gets a $25 voucher to buy diapers at Walmart. Any woman who makes it through a full year of negative monthly screenings graduates from the program and gets a free family pass to Old Town Hot Springs.

“Most of these women come in here motivated that they want to quit smoking and that they want this to be the time that they quit forever,” Cook said.

To attract program participants, Cook leaves fliers at area obstetrician offices and explains the program to doctors there. Many participants learn about “Baby and Me” when they come to VNA to file for insurance assistance during their pregnancy, Cook said.

“Baby and Me” started in New York in 2002, spread to Colorado a few years ago, and came to Routt and Moffat counties in 2008. So far, 25 women have enrolled in Steamboat Springs, and 36 have enrolled in Craig, Cook said.

Cook uses various methods to encourage women to stay away from smoking, from handing them educational material about the health effects of smoking to encouraging them to chew sunflower seeds or straws — anything to calm the craving, Cook said.

Chotvacs said regular visits and support from Cook were as helpful as any smoking cessation technique. And the $25 monthly diaper voucher came close to covering that expense completely for a year, she said. Cook said she offers as many encouraging words as possible to program participants.

“I just encourage them, jump up and down, and say, ‘Wow, you’re doing such a great thing for yourself and your child,’” Cook said. “And I think they get that. Once they start on the path of not smoking and enter that world of nonsmokers, they think it’s a nice place to be.”

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