And, drumroll please...after taking a few weeks of vacation and sharing birth stories, we're finally up to the last item in our "11 Ways to Prepare for Your Best Birth" series.
#11 Equip yourself with support and resources for postpartum (postpartum doula, lactation consultant, moms’ groups, etc.)
What are the resources you might need as you become a good parent? Smart idea to consider these things now. What follows is not an exhaustive list, but can start helping you to think through the possibilities.
First, rally any and all willing family and/or friends! This is the best time in your life to accept help if it's being offered, or reach out and be proactive in asking if necessary. The biggest helps in early parenting are a) meals and b) housework. These are things you just don't have time or energy for in the first few weeks. There are several great and free meal train websites (look here, here and here), so see if you have a friend, family member, or if someone at your church/temple/other religious community who can coordinate meals for the first few days or weeks after baby's birth. (After my husband and I received the enormous blessing of meals upon both of our babies' births, I "got" the power of it so much that I volunteered to be our church's meals ministry coordinator.)
While breastfeeding is certainly natural and can feel instinctive, it's also a learned skill. Any learned skill takes time and usually requires some working out of kinks. Therefore, it's wise to have a few names of and contact info for lactation consultants on hand in the event you could benefit from the expert support. There are multiple kinds of certifications; the main ones in my geographic area are: International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC). According to the International Lactation Consultant Association, an IBCLC is, "a healthcare professional who specializes in the clinical management of breastfeeding." An IBCLC is considered a clinical caregiver vs. CLC more an educator. Because of this distinction, you will see more of a possibility of getting insurance to cover/reimburse for an IBCLC than for a CLC.
Postpartum Support & Counseling
Sometimes a new parent doesn't feel like oneself on the other side of birth. If the not-quite-rightness lasts beyond 2-3 weeks after the birth, it's very important to reach out for help. Help is readily available and no one should suffer in silence!
The different routes a parent could go for this kind of support:
Parent groups (generalized, or even better to seek out one specifically tailored to postpartum depression / perinatal mood & anxiety disorders)
Therapist / counselor (who can refer to psychiatrist if appropriate)
A postpartum doula is a wonderful consideration, particularly for families who might not have family or friends who can support them through this major life transition. They are different from a baby nurse in that they are all about supporting the postpartum parent's healing and helping the new parent(s) gain any tools, strategies, and skills they need to become more confident in parenting—as opposed to coming in and simply taking care of the baby. They are usually priced in a different way from a birth doula (who usually is a flat rate for her package) in that parents pay by the hour, often with a front-end minimum.
When Will I Need the Most Support? How Do I Find It?
The most critical times to consider buffering with extra support: 1) the 1st couple of weeks after birth; 2) if/when one partner or helper leaves one parent home alone with baby for long stretches anytime in the first 3 months; 3) ~2 months after birth, when many babies' amount that they cry every day peaks.
It's helpful to equip yourself with plenty of local resources, but it's also good to have some online/broader resources at the ready as well. Try to gather these resources before you give birth as you won't have as much energy or time in postpartum to do research. There are several places you can gather these kinds of resources:
Talk to local parents. Word of mouth is the best way to find stellar local parents groups as well as postpartum professionals. If you don't know any parents, you can connect with them by attending your local La Leche League meeting, searching on Facebook by your town, visiting churches, temples, community centers, or libraries. One awesome midwifery group I know in NYC creates moms' cohorts based on due time and neighborhood -- how awesome is that?
When you look for a birth class and/or doula, seek out a well-connected professional with a solid resource list available for clients. Often those professionals will have a resources page on their website plus a more expansive private resource list to support her clients
Seek out local family-oriented retail or educational establishments (this is could be in the form of a baby wearing or breastfeeding boutique, a retail or consignment baby/maternity shop, etc.). These venues, and sometimes your local library, often have personal connections, a resource list, or a community bulletin board with local postpartum professionals' business cards.
Sometimes our birth and/or healing doesn't go as we expect. Occasionally we might have some physical issues to work out such as abdominal separation or pelvic floor muscle issues. In the event that this is a felt need for you on the other side, there are available resources such as pelvic floor specialists as well as other more general physical therapists who could work on abdominal issues. I would encourage seeking out a PT or other body worker who specializes in the perinatal phase of life.
A few of my favorite online resources:
Perinatal / Postpartum Counseling & Support
Postpartum Support International, 800.944.4663 - find local support groups
The Postpartum Stress Center - info on how to talk with care provider, spouse, etc.
Postpartum Progress - peer-to-peer blog with 1st person stories
A few of my favorite NYC local resources:
NY Lactation Consultant Association (find a local board-certified lactation consultant (IBCLC))
Postpartum Support & Counseling
Postpartum Resource Center of New York, Inc. - Helpline: 855.631.0001
Seleni Institute (Upper East Side) - Support Groups & Counseling
Mommy Groove Therapy & Support, Olivia Bergeron, LCSW - In-home and in-office Prenatal & Postpartum Counseling
Ellen Chuse Childbirth - Prenatal & Postpartum Counseling, New Moms' Group, Home birth Classes (Park Slope)
Babywearing International of NYC - Babywearing Meetups
DiaperKind - cloth diaper service
NYC Parent Groups (via Park Slope Parents) - a large listing of online groups, listed by borough
MOMally, Andrea Scannell, Parenting Coach, New Moms Groups (Astoria)
A Mother is Born, Meredith Lichtenberg, CCE, IBCLC, JD - New Moms Groups, Parenting Classes, Childbirth Education Classes (Manhattan)
The Functional Pelvis, Lindsey Vestal - In-home Pelvic Floor Therapy
Renew Physical Therapy, Isa Herrera (Manhattan)
New Dimensions Physical Therapy, Lila Abbate (Manhasset, Long Island)