Resources to help parents of newborns


Caitlin Murray Giles is a freelance writer and mother of three living in Chicago.



Resources to help parents of newborns

You knew bringing your new baby home meant lots of changes. You probably anticipated the lack of sleep, constant diaper changing and hours spent cuddling your beautiful baby. But then there are the changes no one ever seems to talk about-like how becoming parents can drastically impact your relationship with your partner, or breastfeeding struggles and the lingering physical discomfort long after you've delivered. Oh yes, the postpartum period has many surprises!

No matter what issue a new mom is facing, she is not alone. The Chicago area is home to many wonderful resources that help new moms navigate the major transitions they are facing. From addressing urinary incontinence (yes, you are not the only one) to preparing healthy meals, new moms have help in the battle to care for their minds, bodies and spirits.

Following are seven issues new parents face, and the resources to tackle them.


Emotional postpartum challenges


A facilitated moms group such as the GRASP Group

Sara Sladoje, a child development specialist, and Alison Kramme, individual and couples therapist, co-lead small group sessions over an eight-week period. Participants have access to both professional expertise and the knowledge and support of other moms with similar experiences. Kramme and Sladoje have experience with all the changes new moms face in the weeks after giving birth.

"The major thing I've witnessed in my practice, with myself and my girlfriends, is the emotional challenges of bringing baby home," Kramme says. "You expect there to be challenges and transitions to new skills. But what I hear from moms is that they are surprised by the emotional piece-whether that is baby blues or just feeling anxious or feeling tearful and overwhelmed during this happy time. They don't expect it and they don't know what to do."

Sladoje adds, "These feeling are all very normal and it is so important to share it with someone-even if it is a pediatrician or ob/gyn. We are so prepared for pregnancy, but afterwards, you are set afloat on your own. Moms have these feelings but they don't have great support during these times."

During GRASP Group sessions, the facilitators bring up "hot" topics (including returning to work vs. staying home, changes to your relationship as a couple and issues relating to baby's development) and then open it up to the group for discussion.

"This group allows women to safely express how they feel and see others nodding their heads in understanding. It validates their experience," Kramme says.


Sleep deprivation with a newborn



Licensed clinical psychologist Janeen Hayward works with families to help "navigate the emotional transition from couple to family with all the uncertainty and unexpected twists that arise," she says.

Swellbeing offers workshops, webinars and private consultation services. Specifically, Hayward works with families to develop healthy sleep habits, which she says "have been linked to wellness in nearly every aspect of healthy development, from growth and learning to obesity and heart health to mental well-being. The good news is that if parents make healthy sleep a priority, healthy sleep habits are attainable," Hayward says. The folks at Swellbeing work with each family to create a customized sleep solution.

To sleep-deprived new moms, Hayward advises: "Put your oxygen mask on first! Our kids need and deserve us at our best, but the only way they'll get that is if we make our needs a priority. This is not selfish. Children do as we do and if we want our children to be good at taking care of themselves, then we must model that for them."


Urinary incontinence


Florendo Physical Therapy

Specialist in treating pelvic floor dysfunction

Judith Florendo says, "Women should understand that any urinary incontinence is not normal-it is common, but it is not normal. If it goes beyond six weeks postpartum, go back to your doctor and ask for a referral to a physical therapist. I can't tell you how many young women just let it go because they think it is going to go away. Don't be afraid to come out and talk about this issue."

Treatment begins with an assessment of the patient's pelvic floor strength to see what the ability to contract the muscles is. The therapist then ranks the strength of the muscles and works on effective exercises to correctly build strength.


Painful intercourse or other lingering postpartum discomfort


Meredy Parker Physical Therapy

Parker has been working with pre- and post-natal women for more than 15 years. She regularly sees dyspareunia (painful intercourse) and coccyx (tailbone) pain from a delivery injury in postpartum patients. Parker says moderate to severe dyspareunia is fairly common in postpartum women, especially if they had a tear and/or episiotomy.

"This a typically a very treatable condition and a woman should ask their ob/gyn or midwife for a referral for a physical therapist specializing in pelvic floor dysfunction to get treated if they are having continued pain after the first few attempts at intercourse," Parker says. "It is frustrating to see how long it sometimes takes women to get referred for this issue."

Parker also works with women who have had a C-section on posture re-education. "A woman who has had a C-section often doesn't realize how much she changes the way she functions due to the pain when attempting to care for her baby while recovering from major abdominal surgery. Scar tissue work is helpful to assure optimal healing and mobility," Parker says.

Because a woman typically is released by her ob/gyn at six weeks and then not scheduled to be seen again for another year, many people don't make another appointment or reach out to their doctors during that time if they are having issues.

"Most doctors are very open to referring to PT but you might just need to make the call and bring it up. This call can be for any issue that seems to be lingering beyond a few months postpartum," Parker notes.



Breastfeeding is a struggle


A lactation consultant such as New Mother New Baby

Nurse Gail Macklin operates a full-service lactation education center in Northlake. New Mother New Baby offers classes, on-site lactation consultation and all of the equipment a nursing mother needs. Macklin says she meets many new moms who think it is normal for breastfeeding always to be extremely painful.

"I am shocked to see how some moms are breastfeeding through a really painful cracked nipple. If you get the correct help it is so easy to fix that sort of thing," Macklin says.

She also sees moms who have low milk supply because they are using the wrong kind of pump.

"Give yourself permission to spend some time with a lactation consultant and bring all of your questions and concerns. It will empower you to know what you need to do and it will take the worry and anxiety away," she urges.



No time or energy to prepare healthy meals


A food delivery service like Meez Meals

Jen Moore, owner of Meez Meals, says her service takes care of the hard work involved with cooking and leaves the fun part to you.

"We figure out the menu, prep and measure everything and deliver your meals for the week on Monday, along with instructions for preparation," says Moore.

All of the components of healthy, vegetarian meals are packaged to stay fresh for the week. The most popular package is three meals for two people for $65. Moore says new moms are frequent clients and her service is often given as a new baby gift.

"Mom wants to feel some normalcy in her life after a new baby and being able to actually cook adds that element," Moore says.


Longing for community interaction


A mom-focused charitable organization such as More Than Milk

Details: When new mom Amy Cahill was consumed with caring for her newborn, she felt like her life was out of balance. She wanted an opportunity for continued personal growth and she also felt very motivated to make the world a better place for her son. Cahill created a community of moms with a philanthropic focus called More Than Milk. The organization introduces moms to a selection of mom-friendly volunteer projects where they can bring their kids along. Every two months, More Than Milk features a new inspirational nonprofit organization for its mom community.

"Our goal is to harness the talents and compassion of moms to make a difference in the community and provide moms with avenues for continued personal growth and inspiration," Cahill says. "We hope to help new moms by providing flexible opportunities to use their talents, feel good about the difference they are making, meet new moms, become energized by personal growth and helping others in need, and of course, have 'more than milk' to talk about with family and friends."

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