Did You Know? (18 Mar 2014)

Another roundup of links that first appeared on Williamsburg Mothering’s Facebook page – “LIKE” Williamsburg Mothering on Facebook to get the latest links as soon as they’re up!

  • What Mothers Do Especially When It Looks Like Nothing.  If only this book, What Mothers Do Especially When It Looks Like Nothing, were standard issue to every new mother, especially those who have left paid work to now care for their babies at home! Just finished re-reading it, and my love for it, which was already ample, has only grown! Highly recommended. (Naomi Stadlen)
  • The Human Microbiome: Considerations for Pregnancy, Birth and Early Mothering. Babies born via C-section miss out on being colonized by their mothers’ healthy vaginal flora. We are only beginning to understand the long-term health consequences of this, as well as the consequences of the prophylactic antibiotic treatment that so many women receive in labor. Great summary at MidwifeThinking of where pregnancy/birth-related microbiome research stands, future directions it should take, and suggestions for ways to ensure your newborn is colonized with a healthy flora! (Midwife Thinking)

Did You Know? (30 Jan 2014)

Another roundup of links that first appeared on Williamsburg Mothering’s Facebook page – “LIKE” Williamsburg Mothering on Facebook to get the latest links as soon as they’re up!

  • Excellent Breast Storage Capacity Infographic by Nancy Mohrbacher, IBCLC.  Feeding on cue (and not comparing/matching your baby’s feeding patterns to other mothers’/babies’ patterns) is the best way keep your little one well-fed and to protect your milk supply long-term. Mothers vary in how much milk their breasts can hold. Mothers with small storage capacity can feed their babies just as well as mothers with large storage capacity — they just need to nurse more often, and that’s okay! (Nancy Mohrbacher)
  • Have American Parents Got It All Backwards? Loved this when it came out in May, still love it now! Especially the part about Finnish children not beginning formal academics until age 7, spending less time in school (and lots of school time outdoors), and still ranking among the top students in the world (U.S. students rank somewhere in the middle). (Huffington Post)
  • Millennials Want Children, But They’re Not Planning On Them. “[T]he percentage of students planning to have children dropped from 78 percent to 42 percent in just 20 years… A majority of millennials in the study said they wanted to have children someday; they simply didn’t see how they could make it work… [T]hese findings are a wake-up call that our social and economic institutions need to change so that people who want to be parents can see a path to becoming parents.” (New York Times)
  • How Over-Praising Kids Is Holding Them Back.”[A] new study suggests that when adults shower children with compliments to try to boost their self-esteem, it has the opposite effect, sending the message that they must continue to meet very high standards and discouraging them from taking on new, confidence-boosting challenges, lest they fail.” I am so prone to automatically saying, “Good job!” that I actually have to keep a reminder list on my fridge of alternatives, including things like “Ask questions,” or, the hardest one for me, “Say nothing.”
    (Huffington Post)
  • Why You May Want to “Labor Down” Before Pushing in Birth. Reaching 10 cm dilation doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time to push. Following natural urges to push — even if they come 1-2 hours after full dilation is reached — can conserve a mama’s energy and help bring baby gently into the world. (Giving Birth With Confidence)

Did You Know? (29 Dec 2013)

Another roundup of links that first appeared on Williamsburg Mothering’s Facebook page – “LIKE” Williamsburg Mothering on Facebook to get the latest links as soon as they’re up!

  • Myths About Fever.  MYTH: All fevers are bad for children. FACT: Fevers are one of the body’s protective mechanisms. Normal fevers between 100° and 104° F (37.8° – 40° C) are usually good for sick children and help the body fight infection. (Seattle Children’s Hospital)

Did You Know? (14 Dec 2013)

Another roundup of links that first appeared on Williamsburg Mothering’s Facebook page – “LIKE” Williamsburg Mothering on Facebook to get the latest links as soon as they’re up!

  • For the Caregivers of Breastfed Babies. Great, concise article (and downloadable pdf) that breastfeeding mothers can give to their babies’ caregivers to explain feeding norms and bottle-feeding techniques for breastfed babies, plus proper breastmilk handling protocols. Written by esteemed IBCLC Nancy Mohrbacher. (Nancy Mohrbacher, Breastfeeding Reporter)
  • Home Birth: An Annotated Guide to the LiteratureAwesome annotated guide to the scientific literature on planned home birth, updated annually by researchers at the University of British Columbia. (University of British Columbia, Faculty of Medicine)

Did You Know? (12 Nov 2013)

Another roundup of links that first appeared on Williamsburg Mothering’s Facebook page – “LIKE” Williamsburg Mothering on Facebook to get the latest links as soon as they’re up!

  • Take It Off: Why You Should Drop Your Newborn’s Hat. Snuggling a newly-born baby skin-to-skin with mama (with NO HAT in the way to block that intoxicating newborn smell!) is the best way to keep baby warm, and also helps ensure a safe third stage of labor (i.e., delivery of the placenta). If your newborn is handed to you swaddled with a cap, simply remove everything but baby’s diaper, cuddle baby to your bare chest, and put a blanket over the two of you — research has confirmed it’s what Mother Nature intended. (Modern Alternative Pregnancy)
  • Ten True Things About the First Year of Parenthood.  Really liked this. Especially #8: “The most important thing to get for your baby is not a Rock n’ Play, nor a good set of swaddling blankets, nor a high-end stroller. The most important thing to get for your baby is a village. Your village will keep you afloat.” (Huffington Post)
  • Night Nursing: A Podcast Interview with Nancy Mohrbacher. In the U.S., mothers experience immense cultural pressure to get their babies to sleep through the night as early as possible. Many mamas do not realize that efforts to reduce night feedings/wakings may interfere with milk production and achievement of long-term breastfeeding goals. Fantastic interview on night nursing with renowned IBCLC Nancy Mohrbacher! (Motherlove)
  • Plus-Size Babywearing. A helpful overview of different baby carriers great for plus-size babywearers! (Plus Size Birth)

Did You Know? (15 Oct 2013)

Another roundup of links that first appeared on Williamsburg Mothering’s Facebook page – “LIKE” Williamsburg Mothering on Facebook to get the latest links as soon as they’re up!

  • Perineal Protectors.  A thoughtful examination of different methods of protecting the perineum and preventing tearing during birth. (Midwife Thinking)
  • What’s Wrong With Time-Outs? This article on time-outs by clinical psychologist Laura Markham made so much sense to me. Time-outs are of course better than physical punishment, but preventative time-ins are better than time-outs! (Aha! Parenting)
  • Behavioral Sleep Interventions in the First Six Months of Life Do Not Improve Outcomes for Mothers or Infants. A new systematic review examined outcomes of sleep training in infants younger than 6 months and found “these strategies have not been shown to decrease infant crying, prevent sleep and behavioral problems in later childhood, or protect against postnatal depression. In addition, behavioral interventions for infant sleep…, risk unintended outcomes, including increased amounts of problem crying, premature cessation of breastfeeding, worsened maternal anxiety, and, if the infant is required to sleep either day or night in a room separate from the caregiver, an increased risk of SIDS.” (Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics)
  • Steps to Help Avoid Hip Dysplasia in Babies. Swaddling baby’s hips too tightly, and wearing baby in a carrier that supports baby only at the crotch (rather than supporting baby’s legs all the way to the knee), can contribute to hip dysplasia. This is a nice overview of what hip dysplasia is, with tips for preventing it, including hip-healthy baby carriers and a video of hip-safe swaddling methods. (WellnessMama)

Going to Visit Family or Friends Who Have a New Baby? Follow These Tips!

Baby in Hat

Your friend or family member has a new baby.  You want to visit.  You want to help.  You want to meet that amazing new little person!  Before you go, read this primer on how to be a good visitor to a family with a newborn in the house — the kind of visitor who will make the family feel loved, supported, and forever grateful!

Included are guidelines that apply to all visitors, plus tips specifically for close friends and family, long-term visitors, and friends and family who live far away but would like to help nonetheless. These tips are suggestions and ideas, not demands. Visitors should follow the suggestions with which they and the family are comfortable. And of course, no visitor would be expected to carry out every one of the suggested tasks – there are enough ideas below for a whole community of helpers!

In the United States, we shower attention on families during pregnancy, but not during the postpartum period — when in fact the postpartum period is the time when families need the support of their communities the most!  Be a gentle, considerate visitor who puts the family’s needs first.  Your thoughtfulness will be remembered and appreciated for years to come!

WHEN AND HOW LONG TO VISIT

  • Always call/message in advance to schedule the visit.  Do not drop in unannounced.  Be on time.
  • Front-porch meal drop-offs or short (10-15-minute) visits are good in the first several weeks, when families are overtired and commonly not feeling up to hosting company.
  • Longer visits (30+ minutes) are good in the later weeks/months, when long-term helpers (grandparents, etc.) have left; other visitors have stopped coming; and spouses have gone back to work. Mothers often report feeling isolated after 1-2-3 months at home with a newborn (and any other children), and welcome longer visits in the later weeks/months.
  • Very close friends/family may be invited to come for longer or more frequent visits to help in the early weeks, but should always ask the mother what type of visit — short or long — would be most helpful to her.
  • If the mother will be home alone with the baby most of the time (single parent, spouse deployed or working long hours), she may wish for visitors to stay longer.  Ask.

PREPARING FOR THE VISIT

  • If you are ill in any way — even the tail end of a cold — stay home.  Visit when you are well.
  • Do not wear perfume, scented body lotions, or aftershave.  These linger for hours or days after your visit and are often overpowering for baby and mother, who have heightened senses of smell.
  • Leave your pets at home.
  • Leave your children at home.  This is especially important in the early weeks, when the family is likely to want quiet, rest, and minimal outside germs.  One exception is bringing your children over for a playdate or outing with the family’s older children, outside or away from the family’s house, which you plan to supervise.
  • Bring food.  See “Bringing Food” below.
  • Bring small gifts for any siblings in the house, if you can.  Gifts that do not make noise are best.  Special food treats are a nice, inexpensive option.

DURING THE VISIT

  • Remember that the purpose of the visit is for you to help the family, not for you to spend time with the baby.  Now is the time for you – not the family — to prepare food and clean up any messes made during the visit.
  • Do not expect or ask to hold the baby.  (Yes, this can be difficult — new babies are so snuggle-able!)  Wait for the mother to offer.  Many won’t.  One big exception is offering to hold the baby after a feeding so the mother can take a shower or a nap.
  • Wash your hands when you arrive, and let the mother know that you have washed them before touching her baby.
  • Greet any siblings enthusiastically.  Give a big hello and lots of love to the older children before fussing over the baby — it will make them feel special during a time when the baby is the focus of most adults’ attention.
  • Do a chore, if you are comfortable with the idea and know the family well.  Do it without asking.  Or say, “It would make me so happy if I could [do chore XYZ]. Will you indulge me?” (Saying something like this helps ease discomfort the family might feel about having someone clean for them.)  Load the dishwasher.  Wash the dishes in the sink.  Wipe down a counter.  Sweep the kitchen floor.  Fold that basket of laundry you see sitting there.  Take out the trash.  Excuse yourself to the restroom and scrub the toilet or wipe down the counters.
  • Or, watch the older siblings, or take them out of the house on an outing.
  • Or, offer to take dogs for a walk, if you’re a dog person.  Adjusting to a new baby can be hard for pets, too.  They need a little extra love at this time, as well!
  • Give advice only if the parents specifically ask for it.  Do not criticize.
  • Follow the mother’s cues about how long a visit she’d like. Remember that it can be very difficult for her to ask you to leave once you are there, even if she truly needs privacy to nurse or pump or perform postpartum self-care.
  • If the family has a premature baby in the NICU, they still need support — lots of it!  Tell them “Congratulations!” (they do want their new little one to be acknowledged and celebrated).  Ask them how they and the baby are doing, and then really listen.  Give them gift cards to restaurants near the NICU; gas cards; or a care package of healthy snacks and drinks that do not need refrigeration (dried nuts/fruit/veggies, trail mix, homemade muffins, snack/granola bars, seltzer water, etc.).  If they are staying near the hospital, away from home, offer to pick up mail, water plants, care for siblings or pets, or bring needed things from home to the hospital.

BRINGING FOOD

  • Most families welcome food anytime, but it is often especially welcome at these times: after any other long-term helpers (visiting family, etc.) have left; after the first several weeks when other visitors have stopped bringing food; and when the spouse goes back to work or is away on a business trip.
  • Ask whether the family has set up an online meal-delivery calendar, such as Meal Train or Take Them a Meal.  If they have not, organizing one is is a great job for a close friend or family member (see below).
  • Check the family’s Meal Train page (or check with the family) for information about food preferences, sensitivities, and allergies, as well as any other preferences (food delivery times, locations, dates).  Respect that information.
  • Bonus points: bring a complete meal (main dish, salad/veggie side, and dessert) and/or meals containing ingredients that promote breastmilk production, such as oatmeal (oatmeal lactation cookies are one option), whole grains, dark leafy greens, beans, vegetables, and nuts/seeds.
  • Avoid bringing foods containing large quantities of those herbs which are known to reduce breastmilk production, such as peppermint and sage.
  • If you do not cook, consider bringing a healthy store-bought ready-to-eat meal (such as rotisserie chicken or a complete dinner from the supermarket) or a collection of healthy snacks that the mother can grab and eat one-handed during the day or while nursing, such as nuts or trail mix (unsalted), dried fruit/veggies, healthy snack bars, precut fruits/vegetables, cheese, hummus, and whole-grain crackers. Trader Joe’s and Costco are great places to buy these things inexpensively.
  • Bring the food in disposable containers or in inexpensive reusable Rubbermaid or thrift store dishes that need not be returned.
  • Consider attaching a note to the meal specifying that the dish does not need to be returned and that no thank-you note is necessary.

IF YOU ARE A CLOSE FRIEND OR CLOSE IN-TOWN FAMILY MEMBER

  • Run an errand.  School drop-off, grocery store, Target.  For example, call and say, “I am going to the grocery store. What can I get you? I will drop it by on my way home.” Note that it is “What can I get you?” not “Can I get you anything?”
  • Be the one to organize a group of friends/family to deliver meals in the first three weeks (or longer).  Use an online organizing service like Meal Train or Take Them A Meal.  Be sure to include information about food preferences, sensitivities, and allergies.  If the meal-receiving family is not large, have meals delivered every other day so that the backlog of leftovers does not overwhelm the refrigerator before the family can get to them.  Spread word of the Meal Train throughout the family’s social circle.
  • Help the family write a Chore/Helper List.  This is a list of tasks that other visitors can help with, so that when visitors ask what they can do, the family has immediate answers.  Place it in a prominent place, like the refrigerator.
  • Help the family research the baby/parenting information they need, if they would like.  With a new baby in the house, it can be hard to find time and energy to research lactation consultants, breastfeeding or postpartum support group meeting information, etc. A list of local maternity and parenting resources can be found here.
  • Lend an ear.  Ask the mother how she is feeling, then follow her signals.  Do not pry.  If she wants to talk about her experiences, she will.
  • Observe the mother for signs that she may be developing postpartum depression (PPD) or anxiety (at least 1 in 5 new moms in the United States do).  Know the difference between normal new mom stress and a postpartum mood disorder.  Be gentle and compassionate with the mother.  Ask her what kind of support would help her feel better.  If she wants peer or professional assistance, this page has a list of local and national postpartum support organizations.  To better understand what a mother with PPD is experiencing, her friends/family may find it helpful to read Brooke Shields’ memoir, Down Came the Rain: My Journey Through Postpartum Depression.
  • Watch the father for signs of anxiety or depression as well.  Postpartum anxiety and depression occur in fathers, too. Like mothers, fathers need sleep, good nutrition, exercise, and alone time to stay well. This page has a great list of resources both for fathers experiencing postpartum depression themselves, and for partners of women experiencing PPD.  Additionally, Postpartum Men Online Forum is an online community that these men may find helpful.

IF YOU ARE A FAMILY MEMBER VISITING FOR AN EXTENDED PERIOD 

  • Come for an extended visit only if the family has invited you to do so.  Never invite yourself.
  • Ask if the family would prefer that you stay in a hotel during your visit.  Be gracious if they say yes.
  • Offer nighttime help.  Offer to stay up late with baby while they catch a few early-evening hours of sleep.  Offer to burp/walk/bounce a fussy baby after a midnight nursing/feeding so that the parents can sleep.  Nighttime is often a time when help is scarce but dearly needed.
  • Be their personal assistant.  Do whatever they indicate they need.  Drive them to appointments or support meetings.  Run errands.  Grocery shop.  Pick up prescriptions.  Babysit siblings.  Cook.  Clean.  Do laundry.  See “During the Visit” above.
  • Encourage them. Tell them that they are doing a wonderful job. Tell them that you are proud of them. Especially for a nursing mother struggling with breastfeeding, the words, “You are doing a great job,” are magical.
  • If you are a generation older, understand that parenting techniques likely have changed since you last cared for babies.  Ask the parents about their parenting philosophies.  Follow any specific baby-care instructions they provide.  Reading (and following) the same baby-care books that the parents are can be helpful.

IF YOU LIVE FAR AWAY BUT WOULD LIKE TO HELP

  • Pay for the services of someone who can help in person: a postpartum doula, a house cleaner, a diaper service, a grocery delivery service.  A list of such local resources is available here.
  • Be part of the family’s virtual support team. Let the mother know that you are a friendly, supportive ear that she can call or Skype at any time, day or night.

IF YOUR SPOUSE OR CHILDREN WANT TO HELP, TOO

As stated above, having a crowd of visitors in the house — or running in and out of the house — can be overwhelming for a family with a new baby.  But having a work crew tackle the work literally piling up outdoors?  Such a help.  If you can bring your own tools (for example, rakes and leaf bags for raking leaves) so you have no need to ask where to find supplies, it’s all the more helpful.

  • Pet care.  Walk the dogs.  Poop-scoop the yard.  Change the litter box or the hamster cage.
  • Yardwork.  Mow the lawn.  Rake the leaves.  Shovel the snow off the driveway and sidewalk.  Snow and leaf blowers can be grating on the nerves — avoid them.
  • Garden work.  Weed.  Pick veggies.  Especially good for parents of babies born during harvest season!

FURTHER READING

This post has been several years in the making.  Sincere gratitude to the many mothers who have contributed, both directly and indirectly, the ideas, suggestions, and wisdom reflected within it!