A free health text massaging service, text4baby, got a boost in users after the Department of Public Health and Human Services partnered up with Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies to raise awareness about the service, aimed at expecting and new moms.

Text4baby users receive three messages per week about topics like healthy eating, car seat safety, exercise and fitness, safe sleep, smoking cessation, prenatal care, product recalls, labor and delivery and breastfeeding.

The service also has an interactive component that allows users to answer questionnaires and receive phone numbers and links to resources like CHIP or WIC. Each text corresponds to the user’s due date. The texts stop after the child’s first birthday.

“Our general overall message is prevention, so this partnership was a no-brainer,” said Jon Ebelt, public information officer at the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services. On Sept. 25, DPHHS utilized its database and mailed invitations to 7,000 pregnant Medicaid recipients in Montana, encouraging them to join.

Marci Williams, tex4baby coordinator at Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies, said the service can be particularly valuable to Medicaid recipients because they often move and lose touch with resources, since their cellphones move with them. But anyone can use the service.

Nicole Winkley, a busy, working mother did not use the service with her 4-year-old, but signed up when she was six months pregnant with her second child, who is now 8 months old. She said this week she got a text4baby reminder that her baby needs a flu vaccination and a text telling her 8-month-olds enjoy peek-a-boo. It also helps her remember appointments she has already made.

Williams said there are currently 2,563 users in Montana and 631,978 nationally. She added that 12,000 babies are born in Montana each year. The program launched nationwide in 2010.

“Because Montana is such a rural state, text4baby is a perfect fit,” she said. “We can all help each other raise healthy babies.”

To sign up for the service, an individual can text BABY to 511411 or visit www.text4baby.org. Then, enter the baby’s due date or the baby’s birthday and ZIP code.

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