Caitlin Murray Giles is a freelance writer and mother of three living in Chicago.
After birth, there are the changes no one ever seems to talk aboutlike how becoming parents can drastically impact your relationship with your partner, or breastfeeding struggles and the lingering physical discomfort long after you’ve delivered.
You knew bringing your new baby home meant lots of changes. Youprobably anticipated the lack of sleep, constant diaper changingand hours spent cuddling your beautiful baby. But then there arethe changes no one ever seems to talk about-like how becomingparents can drastically impact your relationship with your partner,or breastfeeding struggles and the lingering physical discomfortlong after you’ve delivered. Oh yes, the postpartum period has manysurprises!
No matter what issue a new mom is facing, she is not alone. TheChicago area is home to many wonderful resources that help new momsnavigate the major transitions they are facing. From addressingurinary incontinence (yes, you are not the only one) to preparinghealthy meals, new moms have help in the battle to care for theirminds, bodies and spirits.
Following are seven issues new parents face, and the resourcesto tackle them.
Resources to help parents of newborns
A facilitated moms group such as the GRASPGroup
Sara Sladoje, a child development specialist, and Alison Kramme,individual and couples therapist, co-lead small group sessions overan eight-week period. Participants have access to both professionalexpertise and the knowledge and support of other moms with similarexperiences. Kramme and Sladoje have experience with all thechanges new moms face in the weeks after giving birth.
“The major thing I’ve witnessed in my practice, with myself andmy girlfriends, is the emotional challenges of bringing baby home,”Kramme says. “You expect there to be challenges and transitions tonew skills. But what I hear from moms is that they are surprised bythe emotional piece-whether that is baby blues or just feelinganxious 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 soimportant to share it with someone-even if it is a pediatrician orob/gyn. We are so prepared for pregnancy, but afterwards, you areset afloat on your own. Moms have these feelings but they don’thave great support during these times.”
During GRASP Group sessions, the facilitators bring up “hot”topics (including returning to work vs. staying home, changes toyour relationship as a couple and issues relating to baby’sdevelopment) and then open it up to the group for discussion.
“This group allows women to safely express how they feel and seeothers nodding their heads in understanding. It validates theirexperience,” Kramme says.
Emotional postpartum challenges
Licensed clinical psychologist Janeen Hayward works withfamilies to help “navigate the emotional transition from couple tofamily with all the uncertainty and unexpected twists that arise,”she says.
Swellbeing offers workshops, webinars and private consultationservices. Specifically, Hayward works with families to develophealthy sleep habits, which she says “have been linked to wellnessin nearly every aspect of healthy development, from growth andlearning to obesity and heart health to mental well-being. The goodnews is that if parents make healthy sleep a priority, healthysleep habits are attainable,” Hayward says. The folks at Swellbeingwork with each family to create a customized sleep solution.
To sleep-deprived new moms, Hayward advises: “Put your oxygenmask on first! Our kids need and deserve us at our best, but theonly way they’ll get that is if we make our needs a priority. Thisis not selfish. Children do as we do and if we want our children tobe good at taking care of themselves, then we must model that forthem.”
Sleep deprivation with a newborn
Specialist in treating pelvic floordysfunction
Judith Florendo says, “Women should understand that any urinaryincontinence is not normal-it is common, but it is not normal. Ifit goes beyond six weeks postpartum, go back to your doctor and askfor a referral to a physical therapist. I can’t tell you how manyyoung women just let it go because they think it is going to goaway. Don’t be afraid to come out and talk about this issue.”
Treatment begins with an assessment of the patient’s pelvicfloor strength to see what the ability to contract the muscles is.The therapist then ranks the strength of the muscles and works oneffective exercises to correctly build strength.
Parker has been working with pre- and post-natal women for morethan 15 years. She regularly sees dyspareunia (painful intercourse)and coccyx (tailbone) pain from a delivery injury in postpartumpatients. Parker says moderate to severe dyspareunia is fairlycommon in postpartum women, especially if they had a tear and/orepisiotomy.
“This a typically a very treatable condition and a woman shouldask their ob/gyn or midwife for a referral for a physical therapistspecializing in pelvic floor dysfunction to get treated if they arehaving continued pain after the first few attempts at intercourse,”Parker says. “It is frustrating to see how long it sometimes takeswomen to get referred for this issue.”
Parker also works with women who have had a C-section on posturere-education. “A woman who has had a C-section often doesn’trealize how much she changes the way she functions due to the painwhen attempting to care for her baby while recovering from majorabdominal surgery. Scar tissue work is helpful to assure optimalhealing and mobility,” Parker says.
Because a woman typically is released by her ob/gyn at six weeksand then not scheduled to be seen again for another year, manypeople don’t make another appointment or reach out to their doctorsduring that time if they are having issues.
“Most doctors are very open to referring to PT but you mightjust need to make the call and bring it up. This call can be forany issue that seems to be lingering beyond a few monthspostpartum,” Parker notes.
Painful intercourse or other lingering postpartum discomfort
A lactation consultant such as New MotherNew Baby
Nurse Gail Macklin operates a full-service lactation educationcenter in Northlake. New Mother New Baby offers classes, on-sitelactation consultation and all of the equipment a nursing motherneeds. Macklin says she meets many new moms who think it is normalfor breastfeeding always to be extremely painful.
“I am shocked to see how some moms are breastfeeding through areally painful cracked nipple. If you get the correct help it is soeasy to fix that sort of thing,” Macklin says.
She also sees moms who have low milk supply because they areusing the wrong kind of pump.
“Give yourself permission to spend some time with a lactationconsultant and bring all of your questions and concerns. It willempower you to know what you need to do and it will take the worryand anxiety away,” she urges.
Breastfeeding is a struggle
A food delivery service like Meez Meals
Jen Moore, owner of Meez Meals, says her service takes care ofthe hard work involved with cooking and leaves the fun part toyou.
“We figure out the menu, prep and measure everything and deliveryour meals for the week on Monday, along with instructions forpreparation,” says Moore.
All of the components of healthy, vegetarian meals are packagedto stay fresh for the week. The most popular package is three mealsfor two people for $65. Moore says new moms are frequent clientsand her service is often given as a new baby gift.
“Mom wants to feel some normalcy in her life after a new babyand being able to actually cook adds that element,” Moore says.
No time or energy to prepare healthy meals
A mom-focused charitable organization such as More ThanMilk
Details: When new mom Amy Cahill was consumed with caring forher newborn, she felt like her life was out of balance. She wantedan opportunity for continued personal growth and she also felt verymotivated to make the world a better place for her son. Cahillcreated a community of moms with a philanthropic focus called MoreThan Milk. The organization introduces moms to a selection ofmom-friendly volunteer projects where they can bring their kidsalong. Every two months, More Than Milk features a newinspirational nonprofit organization for its mom community.
“Our goal is to harness the talents and compassion of moms tomake a difference in the community and provide moms with avenuesfor continued personal growth and inspiration,” Cahill says. “Wehope to help new moms by providing flexible opportunities to usetheir talents, feel good about the difference they are making, meetnew moms, become energized by personal growth and helping others inneed, and of course, have ‘more than milk’ to talk about withfamily and friends.”
Longing for community interaction