New moms need other moms. Of course, they need the support of their partner and family members, too. But during that exhausting newborn phase, no one understands how you feel like a bleary-eyed, baby-feeding-and-burping machine than someone else who is also a bleary-eyed, baby-feeding-and-burping machine.
However, at a time when moms need to connect with other moms most, that newborn phase can be isolating. Sarah Cobb, the executive director of the Neighborhood Parents Network, recalls her days with a newborn more than five years ago.
"My newborn had her share of feeding, sleeping and spit-up problems," she says.
Cobb joined an NPN New Moms Group and credits the group with getting her through the ups and downs of parenting a newborn.
"I showed up at the first meeting to a room of eight moms from all different backgrounds and interests, but we all had one major thing in common-we were brand-new moms experiencing some level of shock, loneliness and a hefty side of anxiety," Cobb says.
As many (now seasoned) mothers have learned, other new moms are out there - you just need to know where to find them. Here are some ideas on where to start your search.
Moms groups come in a variety of formats and sizes, but with a little research, new moms can find a group that works for them.
Linda Szmulewitz, a licensed clinical social worker and a mother of two, founded the Chicago New Moms Group in January 2011. The group meets in Hyde Park, Lakeview and Hinsdale. Based on her own positive experience with a moms group in New York City when her daughter was born, Szmulewitz wanted to create an environment where women could "come together with a group of others who are sharing in the same challenging experiences and learn from the other participants and the expertise of the facilitator."
The Chicago New Moms Group offers moms a nurturing and nonjudgmental environment where they can benefit from information on a wide range of topics relevant to the new mom experience and from a variety of parenting perspectives. The club's premise is that there is no one right way to be a mother.
"My ultimate goal for each participant is to build their confidence in their role as a mom," Szmulewitz says.
Best piece of advice for new moms: "Do your best to avoid isolation. Get out at least once a day, whether it is to meet up with other new moms in a structured or unstructured setting. Start developing a support network of others who can identify with your experience," Szmulewitz says.
Favorite place to go for a walk: "Anywhere you can walk with a friend (meets three essential requirements: social interaction, exercise and combating isolation)," she says.
Beth Cohen-Dorfman, mother of two and veteran of an NPN New Moms Group, recalls the winter when her daughter was born. "The weather was horrendous and my baby cried and cried. My NPN New Moms Group saved us," she says. Cohen-Dorfman's group began meeting in March 2007 and many of the original members still meet every week. NPN New Moms Groups meet for three consecutive weeks in the home of a more "seasoned" mom. These meetings are all included in the annual $45 NPN membership fee.
"Our hope is to have longevity for the groups," Cohen-Dorfman says. "We organize the groups by working or stay-at-home moms with the hope that the meeting times will continue to work out for everyone."
Best piece of advice for new moms: "You see so many people pushing strollers in the city, but when I actually had a baby, I wondered where did those people go? When I got into a moms group, I felt calm. It felt good to know that other people also thought that motherhood was not as easy as they thought it was going to be," Cohen-Dorfman says.
Favorite place to go for a walk: "The Lincoln Park Zoo."
Meetup.com has made it easier for new moms to connect based on interests and geographic location. Search the site to find a moms group in your area.
Debra Wagner, a mother of two, founded the Downers Grove Area Moms Group in March 2010. Wagner had been a part of a moms meetup in another city and she loved the experience. When she moved to Downers Grove, she wanted to start a new group to meet people in her community. The group consists of new moms and more experienced moms in the neighborhood. The group hosts family get-togethers, moms' night out and daytime activities at kid-friendly destinations.
Best piece of advice for new moms: "Join some sort of moms group. Whether it be through meetup.com, MOPS (mothers of preschoolers), a local church or through the hospital where your baby was born. You need adult interaction and a place where you can ask questions about things you are unsure of. We have all been there-no question is dumb or weird. It just makes that newborn stage a lot easier," Wagner says.
Favorite place to go for a walk: "Walk in your own neighborhood. It is the best way to find and meet other moms who are nearby," she says.
Another great place to connect with other new moms is postpartum-focused fitness programs that moms can attend with their babies.
Stroller Strides is a fitness program for new moms that incorporates both the baby and stroller. In each 60-minute class, participants get a total body workout. Classes meet indoors during the colder months and outdoors during warmer weather. The class registration ranges from one class to a monthly membership. Owner Jackie Dorris, a mom of two, says participants can enjoy "the support of other moms experiencing the newness, joys and challenges of motherhood" while they get fit.
Best piece of advice for new moms: "Having a group of parents who are going through the same amazing and exhausting experience of living with a baby is so important. If you have a great support system, everything else, including fitness, is so much easier," Dorris says.
Favorite place to go for a walk: "My philosophy on walking is that if you make it too complicated, you are less likely to do it-especially with a new baby in tow. Start by walking to do your errands," she says.
Organizations are out there that provide social interaction, information, fitness and more for new moms.
Bump Club and Beyond offers new and expectant moms information on topics such as sleep, breastfeeding and choosing baby gear in a social, fun and supportive setting.
Best piece of advice for new moms: "Don't be shy to ask for help, or take it when it is offered. So many times we are too proud and think we need to be 'supermom' and do it on our own. But you don't have to," says Lindsay Pinchuk, the founder of Bump Club and Beyond and mother of a toddler.
Favorite place to go for a walk: "There is so much to see and do at Millennium Park. Plus, if it is nice you can grab a bite or a snack outside. Other great places to walk are the Garfield Park Conservatory or Lincoln Park Conservatory on a rainy or cold day," Pinchuk says.
Caitlin Murray Giles is a full-time mother of three and part-time freelance writer living in Wicker Park.
See more of Caitlin's stories here.