Jan Mallak led the first postpartum doula training for ICEA in Export, PA today. I was one of the doulas who attended. We shared ideas about how to be better postpartum doulas and had some lively role playing exercises. We even had a cute baby to help us with the 6 S’s of The Happiest Baby on the Block, by Dr. Harvey Karp. Our goal as postpartum doulas? To support new mothers and be baby whisperers. Soon, I hope to have a new certification: postpartum doula with ICEA.
Newborn babies disrupt sleep. So how do new mothers get the sleep they desperately need? Try three things: first get regular naps. Your sleep at night will be interrupted, try to get 8 hours of sleep within 24 hours, not just at night. Second, let someone you trust to call you for nursing, watch your baby while you sleep. Every new mother needs someone’s assistance. Postpartum doulas help some mothers. Family members help other mothers. Close friends also help. Third, try to reduce other stressors that might keep you from sleeping when you get a chance. Don’t try to be perfect, don’t do everything. The baby, recovering from birth and eating-sleeping-getting showers are your priorities. Being a hostess should not be a priority. Keeping your house perfect should not be a priority. Global warming isn’t your current priority. Rest, nurse, eat, recover. Keep it simple.
Getting sleep is a bigger priority than you may realize. The three major factors which lead to postpartum depression are: lack of sleep, hormonal changes and stress. Nearly all new mothers experience all of these. Keeping them manageable requires support. Make sure you get the support you need. It is good to get plan it before your baby is born. Support can be beautiful and sleep is important.
When a good friend has a baby, you want to help out. Your friend probably also wants and needs help, but will she ask for it? Often the answer is no. She feels she should be able to take care of her newly enlarged family on her own. She should be able to care for her baby and herself and her home and also whatever she needs to do with her older children, husband and job. There is so much etcetera in her life that she is just used to dealing with it by herself.
Here is what I know: new moms need support. They need support if it is their first baby or their sixth. They need to physically recover after their birth. This is even more true after a cesarean birth. They need to babymoon with the baby and learn how to nurse (or just establish nursing with this child). They need to have help with meals and daily chores. A new mom needs to know that she is respected by her peers and in-laws as the mother of her child. She needs autonomy and also lines of support that she can call on. She needs respect and support.
As a friend, you can help her with that. If she knows you are willing to offer assistance, she can let you now what help that day would really be helpful. Sometimes it is just a quick errand. Sometimes it is knowing she can call to talk if she has questions or is feeling frantic. She shouldn’t feel alone. They say it takes a village to raise a child. One of the reasons is that being a mother should not be done in solitude. Even knowing she has friends she can call on, even if she doesn’t need to call on them, is great help.
Breastfeeding moms who are going to work outside of their homes can use strategies for making it work. Here are some books which provide that support. Not every strategy works for every working mom. You need as many options as possible. Check these out: “Working Without Weaning: a Working Mother’s Guide to Breastfeeding” by Kirsten Berggren. Written by a lactation consultant who belonged to a group of working moms. Her friends swapped strategies about what worked for them. Recommended to me by a local hospital lactation consultant: “The Milk Memos: How Real moms Learned to Mix Business with Babies and How You Can, Too”. Milk Memos are funny to read as well as helpful. On the La Leche League Website you can find “Of Cradles & Careers: A Guide to Reshaping Your Job to Include a Baby in Your Life. There is the inspirational book: “Hirkani’s Daughters: Women Who Scale Modern Mountains to Combine Breastfeeding and Working”. Hirkani’s Daughters is a compilation of mother’s stories of how they made breastfeeding and working outside the home happen.
If you are a breastfeeding woman and you plan to return to work, you will do yourself a favor with these books. You don’t have to re-invent the wheel. Other mothers’ wisdom and experience can help you choose what is right for you and your baby.
Nursing In Public (N.I.P.) is a helpful way to change our culture from a bottle/formula feeding culture into a breastfeeding culture. New moms often feel shy about nursing in public, but keep in mind that:
- You don’t know who you will be inspiring. The waitress who serves you today may be a mother tomorrow.
- Children who see nursing as a normal activity will remember that when they are having children.
- There are people who get worried or offended, but they need to learn to get over it. Victorian Americans used to be afraid to show an ankle. Who cares about showing an ankle now?
- Babies are born to breastfeed and moms need to be able to be in public. Q.E.D.