Want to hear a heartbreaking statistic? 10-20% of new mothers in the United States experience moderate to severe postpartum depression with up to 50% experiencing mild depression (Illinois Department of Public Health, 2012). One of the most common reasons is lack of support. In Malaysia, where there is an emphasis on supporting postpartum mothers, the reported rate of postpartum depression is 3.9%.
Not so long ago in the U.S. the tradition was that a woman’s mother or mother-in-law would come to stay for a few weeks or even a few months after the birth of a baby. This helped the new mother to concentrate on bonding and caring for her infant while the grandmother was able to keep up with household chores (cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc.) and to care for the new mother (making sure she was eating, sleeping, bathing, etc.). Our economy makes this tradition mostly a thing of the past. Quite a few grandparents are still in the workforce which makes taking a month long vacation difficult. Most partners have to return to work within a few days after the baby is born because of an unpaid maternity/paternity leave or lack of leave allowed by a job. This leaves a new mother, still physically healing, hormones surging and waning, and emotionally raw, alone.
Even if she is not a first time mother, this can be a scary time. She is still trying to learn the cues of this new child while trying to bond. If she’s a first time mother, she may spend most of her day wondering if this or that is normal. If she is not a first time mother, she likely has another child she’s trying to care for as well.
So how can we help? When you go to visit a new mother, after you’ve snuggled that new baby you came to meet: start a load of laundry, load the dishwasher, bring a crock-pot meal, take an older sibling into the backyard while the mom and baby take a nap, ask the mother if she wants to take a quick shower while you change the baby’s diaper, etc.
What about moms who don’t have friends and family available? Consider a postpartum doula. A postpartum doula is trained to support growing families. They are well versed in what are normal postpartum changes versus what requires a call to a care provider, newborn care, breastfeeding support, and emotional support. A postpartum doula’s role changes from client to client. Most postpartum doulas offer day hours and overnight hours. Overnight shifts generally mean giving baby a bottle when he or she wakes or bringing the baby to the mother to breastfeed. Then the doula soothes and puts the baby back to sleep enabling the parents more sleep.
Doulas also offer non-judgmental support. That means your parenting philosophy becomes the philosophy of the doula while he or she in in your home. Whether you choose breastfeeding or formula feeding, cloth or disposable diapers, schedules or baby lead sleep/feeding, your doula will support your choices. If you aren’t sure what your options are, or which option fits your family best, your doula can also provide you with unbiased information about your options so you can make your own decisions. A doula’s goal is to provide whatever support a new parent needs. By providing mothers and their partners with the tools they need, parents feel more confident in their parenting and are therefore more effective parents to their children. A doula supports new parents to empower themselves through their choices.
Birth and Beyond would love to contribute to postpartum confidence for new parents. Call or email today to see how we can help you.