Pregnant mothers living in Harvey County are invited to participate in a community baby shower — complete with cupcakes and gifts — from 10 a.m. to noon on March 23 at Our Lady of Guadalupe, 421 S. Ash St.

The event is a new initiative hosted by the Harvey County Health Department, Harvey County Breastfeeding Coalition, Kansas Children's Service League and BIRTHFIT Newton.

"We think it'll be fun. It's the first year, so we'll see what happens, but we're excited," said HCHD employee Amber Jackson. "We've been wanting to do one for a long time, but it takes a village to put it together."

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment's Kansas Health Matters report on the infant mortality rate spurred the organizations to create the community baby shower.

"Kansas has one of the highest infant mortality rates," said Kansas Children's Service League Healthy Families Supervisor Virginia Schwiethale.

The infant mortality rate in Harvey County was especially concerning as it was significantly higher than the reported state average of 6.1 per thousand live births between 2013 to 2017 — and it had risen from previous years.

"The infant mortality rate was up, considerably," said HCHD employee Lisa Forgie. "From 2013 to 2017, it was 8.4 per thousand live births and from 2011 to 2015 it was only 6.9."

Several factors can play into the infant mortality rate, from sudden infant death syndrome to a mother's nicotine use.

"Smoking increases the risk (of death), but breastfeeding decreases the risk," said HCHD WIC Coordinator Alice Jantzen.

The community baby shower is designed to educate mothers about topics such as health insurance options, medical resources and early childhood development.

"Teaching people what to do when babies cry and how to put babies in a safe sleep environment is somewhat essential," Schwiethale said.

There will be 15 booths for pregnant mothers to attend at the community baby shower, showcasing resources such as Axtell Clinic, Heartland Pregnancy Center, Harvey County Parents as Teachers and the Dolly Parton Imagination Library.

Those who go through the KanQuit, KanCare, breastfeeding and safe sleep booths, along with at least three other booths, will receive a free portable crib. The cribs were funded by the Women's Community Foundation.

"All the other booths are going to have giveaways, too," Forgie added.

While those who are not pregnant cannot receive the giveaways, the event is open to anyone wanting to learn more about resources for mothers and babies. Childcare will be provided by Girl Scouts and cupcakes will be served.

For more information or to RSVP, call the Harvey County Health Department at 316-283-1637.