Do you wish your baby came with an instruction manual? Even if you took a preparation class before your baby’s birth, you may still feel unprepared for the awesome day and night responsibility of caring for a little one. Becoming a new parent is a huge transition in life, and it’s not always a smooth one. You’re not alone.
The postpartum period is a time of vulnerability and it’s normal to feel disconnected. A recent NPR segment, Secrets Of Breast-Feeding From Global Moms In The Know, sheds some light on why we might feel so lost – we don’t have enough support. In other cultures, women often spend their postpartum surrounded by family – their own mother, aunts and sisters. This is when they learn how to care for a baby, how to get past breastfeeding problems, what’s normal for baby’s health and what’s not. They have the support of their own mother to show them how it’s done. But in the United States, especially, moms often return home with only their partners for support and a return-to-work date looming in the near future.
Changes in the structure of the nuclear family, long distances between extended family members and overall social isolation along with short postpartum hospital stays can leave new parents feeling adrift - stressed and unsure. Enter the new parent support group. Whether it’s run by your local hospital with trained facilitators or just an informal gathering of new moms getting together for ‘play dates,’ these groups fill the void. A facilitator can help women to get over the uncomfortable start of talking to strangers and can structure the group with specific informational goals in mind. Informal groups, on the other hand, may be more free-form and adaptable to the special needs of each individual participating.
One of the biggest benefits of new moms groups is connecting with other new parents at the same life stage. In addition, new moms groups can:
- enhance mental health by keeping new parents connected rather than isolated
- improve interactions between parents and babies – moms and dads might learn new coping skills, comforting strategies, developmental milestones, and more.
- provide reassurance that the wide range of feelings during new parenthood are normal
- improve confidence in parenting skills
- offer stress relief – talking with other moms can give you the chance to vent or to share feelings (even if they’re negative!)
- neutralize the sense of isolation often a part of new parenthood
- create mentor relationships – first time moms value the experiences and sharing of second or third time moms
While educational information is important it seems that the social networking is perhaps more salient. The networks of fellowship created in new moms groups often last – ongoing lifelong friendships form and many times new parents in structured groups continue to meet informally for years after the main group has ended.
What if you’re struggling to get out of the house? The Internet is an amazing resource – but it can be absolutely overwhelming. Just searching for parenting topics can generate millions of hits. Many new parents, though, are relying on the Internet for medical information and parent-to-parent support. Netiquette tends to keep chat groups respectful, and parents have positive experiences when participating.
You can find support groups for all types of lifestyles – if your baby is bottle fed, formula fed, breastfed; if your baby has a specific health problem; if you’re a single mom or a same-sex couple. This type of targeted support can be a real lifeline for new moms. Other benefits include the possibility for parents to remain anonymous and to access support 24 hours a day.
Are you looking for more support? You can find us on Facebook and our Facebook Group: baby feeding for first time parents. We hopes to support you whether you’re first time parents or an experienced mom or dad who still has questions. Share your baby photos, difficulties and triumphs, questions and answers. You’ll have an instant a support system - especially around the topic of baby feeding.
Glavin, K., Tveiten, S., Økland, T., & Hjälmhult, E. (2017). Maternity groups in the postpartum period at well child clinics–mothers’ experiences. Journal of clinical nursing.
Hanna, B. A., Edgecombe, G., Jackson, C. A., & Newman, S. (2002). The importance of first‐time parent groups for new parents. Nursing & health sciences, 4(4), 209-214.
Plantin, L., & Daneback, K. (2009). Parenthood, information and support on the internet. A literature review of research on parents and professionals online. BMC family practice, 10(1), 34.