Caitlin Murray Giles is a freelance writer and mother of three
living in Chicago.
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
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.
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.
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,"
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
Specialist in treating pelvic floor
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.
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
"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.
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.
Jen Moore, owner of Meez Meals, says her service takes care of
the hard work involved with cooking and leaves the fun part to
"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.
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."