Appreciative mothers and their young babies attended the official launch of the Middlesex-London Health Unit's Nurse-Family Partnership on Friday.

It's a home visiting program for young, low-income first-time mothers that matches them with a public health nurse.

The nurse develops a partnership with the mother before the birth of the baby and the support continues until the child reaches the age of two.

Before she entered the program, Emily Berryhill said she had no idea how to deal with pregnancy.

"I had no idea what to expect, and all throughout those six months (the nurse) has been with me, I've learned so much," she said.

Nurse there to help baby, and mom

Berryhill's daughter, Octavia, is a happy, healthy three month old infant. Berryhill said her nurse, Becky, helped the new mom cope with the baby's crying and gave feeding advice. But the nurse helped Berryhill out just by being around to listen.

"What Becky does with me is she just has like half an hour of time just to talk about anything, if you need to vent."

"We begin early in pregnancy because we find there's a magic window of opportunity when a young mother is open to making changes in her life, and we continue until two years of age, so we can impact on child growth and development," said Jennifer Proulx, who manages the NFP for the health unit. 

Jennifer Prouxl coordinates the program

(Gary Ennett/CBC)

Proulx said the program also helps young mothers with self sufficiency, "as far as perhaps returning to school, gaining employment and things like that."

There are currently 42 women enrolled in the program, and 11 of them have had their babies, so far. Proulx said each mother's situation in unique.

"All of the women in our program experience some form of complex challenge in their lives, but I think the one unique aspect is that all of these moms really just want to be the best moments that they can be."

The Nurse Family Partnership started in the United States and through randomized control trials, it has been shown to improve pregnancy outcomes and have a positive effect on child development.

The Ontario government invested in a trial of the program in London with a $351,000 grant from the Local Poverty Reduction fund in 2015. Deputy Premier and London North Centre MPP Deb Matthews attended the official launch of the program Friday. She said she's pleased that the local outcomes will be shared across the province.

Expectant mothers can apply to the program through their family care provider or by calling the Middlesex-London Health Unit.

Emily Berryhill heartily recommends it.

"I very much love this program and if I could do it again, I would."