Text4baby: A New Way to Ensure Healthy Environments for Our Young

Memphis mothers and mothers-to-be have a new source of information to help ensure optimal brain development during the earliest years of their child’s life. Delivered to their phones in 160 characters via text message, text4baby is a free service that provides information and reminders to pregnant women, and mothers with new babies under a year old. Much of this information is readily available on the internet, in books, and from doctors, but for low-income and less educated mothers, like so many in Memphis, this information has largely been inaccessible due to a lack of resources (internet or computers, low literacy rates, health care coverage, etc.). Text4baby is one solution to bridge this gap, and ensure that mothers of all demographics are well informed. It provides weekly tips on how and where to find a health care provider, quitting smoking, where to buy inexpensive baby supplies and much more. Parents who are unable to access this information any other way can rely on text4baby to provide them with the information they need to provide a safe and healthy environment for their children (NYT, 2011).

Text4baby is available both in English and Spanish, and is widely recommended and promoted by various agencies and coalitions at the local, state and national levels. Government officials are evaluating its success, and planning to translate similar initiatives into other health issue areas, such as smoking and obesity, and partnering with other countries to launch similar initiatives internationally. 

Some Examples Include:

  • Before you take any over-the-counter or prescription medicine or pills, ask your Dr. if it is safe for you and your baby. Call 866-625-6847 for info.
  • For a healthy baby, visit a Dr. or midwife early. Go to all your appointments. You'll hear your baby's heartbest & see how fast she's growing!
  • Get your baby off to a great start! Take a prenatal vitamin each day. It should have 600 mcg (micrograms) of folic acid.

Because the U.S has such high infant mortality rates, and Memphis and Shelby County has even higher rates than the national average (TUCI, 2010), text4baby is one resource that can help parents prevent infant mortality, premature births or low birth weights. Though their causes are still unclear, it has been shown that certain practices increase the odds of women delivering healthy, full term babies. Some of these practices, which include prenatal vitamins, doctors’ visits, and healthy eating, are passed along to mothers via text4baby. Further, text4baby sends information about practices such as breastfeeding, immunization, and safe sleeping habits that mothers can engage in after their children are born to ensure health brain development.

Text4baby has become a widely adopted policy intervention for all families. Rather than becoming entangled in political bureaucracy, it has exceeded expectations and has now been directly helping families across the country for over a year. Its low cost, simplicity, and support from a broad partnership of community health organizations has made it a very popular initiative. Currently, about 135,000 women have signed up, and organizers have set a new goal of reaching one million users by the end of 2012 (NYT, 2010).

The Take-Away:

Poverty, unemployment, and low education rates can have negative impacts on parents’ abilities to provide safe and stable environments. Text4baby is an especially useful resource to our local community to help counter some of these setbacks. Perhaps it is one way to foster better birth outcomes and early brain development in steady environments. To sign up, or get more information, text BABY to 511411 or visit their website https://www.text4baby.org.


The Opinionator: Mothers-to-Be Are Getting the Message. (2011, February 7). The New York Times. Retrieved from http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/07/pregnant-mothers-are-getting-the-message

Text4baby. (2010). She’s One Smart Mom, She’s Got text4baby. Retrieved from https://www.text4baby.org