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First comes leave, then comes baby

Posted: March 3, 2013 - 1:16am

FAIRBANKS — First comes re-deployment, then comes babies.

It’s been a pattern as long as there have been soldiers returning from wars: About nine months after the soldiers return, there’s a spike in new births.

In the case of Fairbanks and the return of more than 4,000 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division soldiers last spring, it means Bassett Army Community Hospital is preparing for an influx of infants with March birthdays.

Medical staff at Bassett Army Community Hospital started predicting a busy spring when on a single day of lab tests returned 90 positive pregnancy tests. March in particular seems to be the peak month, with 110 due dates scheduled, a big increase from the usual rate of 40 births per month, U.S. Army Medical Department Activity Commander Col. Dennis LeMaster said.

To prepare, the hospital has doubled its usual number of beds for expecting mothers to 20.

On Thursday, it launched Diaper Daze, a baby information fair in the hospital lobby. Diaper Daze will take place monthly through the heart of baby season and will slow down to once per quarter this summer.

“There’s lots of folks who have been buttoned up all winter long. They don’t know what’s out there to make parenting easier,” LeMaster said.

At Thursday’s Diaper Daze, Maritza Velez, of Chicago, was one of several expectant mothers getting a bingo card signed by visiting different tables. Participants who filled out a line in their bingo card received a chance to win a crocheted blanket, stroller or car seat.

Velez, who is married to a Stryker brigade soldier and works at the hospital in information technology, has two children and is expecting a third this spring.

She’s in the market for a new car seat, and because her next youngest is 12 years old, she said she wanted a refresher on infant care.

“It’s basically starting over all again,” she said. “I want to see if there’s any new things that I need to know.”

More than two dozen hospital staff and members of baby-oriented nonprofit organizations set up tables. At a pediatrics table, hospital staff gave out their list of most frequently asked new parent questions, and at a Red Cross table, a volunteer used an empty toilet paper roll to demonstrate what size object is small enough to present a choking hazard.

Army Community Service, a Fort Wainwright garrison service, was giving out a soft toy designed to cover shopping cart handles slobbered on by teething infants.

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Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com

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