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Parenting

Supporting Mothers in the Postpartum

By Archives, birth, Breastfeeding, Feeding Baby, Maternal Mental Health, Parenting, Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders, pregnancy, Published Work

Written by Emily Clewis on behalf of Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies and the Maternal Mental Health Task Force of Helena.

In honor of May as Maternal Mental Health Month, Helena’s Maternal Mental Health Task Force, in partnership with Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies, would like to highlight ways that communities can support moms during the postpartum period.

While holding a new baby is exciting, it’s the birthing person that truly needs to be held, loved and supported in this golden but vulnerable time. Their body and mind will have run the ultimate marathon and they will need support. If the mother is well supported during this time, she can care well for the new baby. If you’re visiting in the first weeks, remember you are there to support the parents. Remind them they don’t need to host you and that you are there to help.

Always ask parents before coming to visit. In the blur of the first few weeks, flexibility is best! Remember: new babies have no sense of night or day, so parents may be sleeping with their little ones at noon after being up all night. If they say they are welcoming visitors, when you get to their house, wash your hands well and keep your face away from the baby. Babies are vulnerable to common illnesses. Offer to bring by healthy snacks or a ready to heat nutritious meal! New moms, especially those breastfeeding, will be hungry often as it takes much energy to care for newborns. If they feed the baby while you’re there, help her put her feet up and offer to get her water or a snack (then, maybe do the dishes).

Look around the home for things that need to be done; laundry, dishes, taking out the trash, etc. If there are older children in the house offer to watch a movie with them or take them on a walk. Always ask the parents if it’s okay to hold the baby. If they say yes, encourage them to take a shower or quick nap while you’re there. Ask new parents what they need, they will likely tell you! Finally, don’t overstay. Parents during this time are heavily exhausted, and even well-meaning company can make parents feel the need to entertain. An hour or so is plenty in those first few weeks, unless the parents ask otherwise!

Keep in mind that the No. 1 complication of birth is postpartum depression. One in six Montana mothers will experience it. Knowing the signs and symptoms of mood disorders in the postpartum period increases the likelihood of treatment. Some things to look for include sadness, guilt, inability to make decisions, poor self-care, low self-esteem, mood swings, appetite changes, excessive crying and more. While only a health care provider can offer treatment, if you, or the new mom in your life, is experiencing any of these symptoms, encourage them that it’s not their fault they feel that way, and that help is available through their OB or primary care physician.

Finally, the COVID-19 pandemic may have made the experience of having a little one more nerve racking. Families may have varying feelings of comfortability having multiple visitors during this vulnerable period of recovery. Ask parents what precautions they may be taking and if they are up for visitors! If they aren’t, you can still support them by dropping off easy-to-heat meals, or sending a gift card to DoorDash, Grubhub or their favorite restaurant.

Families in the postpartum, or fourth trimester, thrive with healthy community support. Additionally, moms are less likely to suffer from perinatal depression and babies have better health outcomes. Together, we can ensure that parents have a positive postpartum experience!

Published in Missoulian 

Published in the Billings Gazette 

 

 

The Importance of Being Seen

By Parenting, Self-care, Self-compassion, Uncategorized

Yesterday morning, my good friend (and fellow mama) was recapping her morning. She exuberantly recounted all that had taken place in the past 12ish hours: last minute book report that required modeling clay and her participation in molding said modeling clay into a character’s face, strategically relocating the elf on the shelf, playing the role of tooth fairy, letting the dog out several times in the night due to a canine tummy bug, getting her daughter to school early for student council and making an extra trip to the grocery store to supply holiday treats for a class event. As I listened to her run through this very normal but highly stressful list, I felt deep compassion and empathetic anxiety for her. I felt my chest seize up and my breath go shallow. I thought to myself, Dang, that’s a whole lot to handle before even coming to work for the day. And I was so glad to be the one to listen and breathe and laugh with her about just how ridiculously overwhelming it all can be. If I hadn’t been there to see and hear her, all of this would have gone completely unrecognized. It would just have melted into the giant, steaming cauldron of stuff moms do behind the scenes. And she would have done what we do – she would have mustered up the strength and stamina from that deep mama reservoir and kept on truckin’. By the way, she forgot to leave the tooth money under the pillow and had to get very creative in the midst of all of this in order to redeem the tooth fairy’s reputation. Because, you know, she didn’t already have enough on her plate.

So, when there’s so much going on in parenting land, a good friend is good medicine. Pour out the crazy that might be trapped inside. Drink a glass of water while looking out the window. Find a deeper breath or two. Laugh or cry. Express the hard, not just the good. And, if you don’t have access to a compassionate ear you may have to try to be that for yourself. Take stock of all you’ve managed and navigated in the past little chunk of time and give yourself the gift of recognition. Give yourself your own, dang that’s a lot. You deserve it.

Claire Larson is the Program and Communications Assistant at Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies: The Montana Coalition which is dedicated to improving the health, safety and well-being of Montana families by supporting mothers and babies, age zero to three. (Featured image captured by Michelle Gustafson.)

Great Falls Tribune: Hospitals give $80,000 to shaken baby prevention program

By advocacy, Archives, Parenting, Published Work
Written by Amy Beth Hanson

HELENA (AP) – Hospitals around the state are donating more than $80,000 to Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies so the organization can continue an education program aimed at preventing shaken baby injuries and deaths after a state board decided not to renew its funding.

Clementine Lindley, the vice chair of the Montana Children’s Trust Fund board, said board members voted unanimously in June not to renew the contract with Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies to implement the Period of PURPLE Crying education program. The goal of the program is to educate parents and caregivers about an infant’s crying, ways to avoid frustration and the dangers of shaking a baby.

Lindley said the board has decided to see if the work can be improved under another program before awarding the funding.

“PURPLE is one of the best evidence-based programs in America,” said Judy Edwards, executive director of Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies, The Montana Coalition. She noted the Department of Public Health and Human Services was part of the decision to use the program.

There were several issues with the grant application, Lindley said, including failing to achieve promised outcomes and not proposing a sustainability plan.

Jen Shaw, program manager for Healthy Mothers Heathy Babies, said Thursday the program went from reaching over 60 percent of the hospital births in Montana to over 90 percent after adding three major hospitals to its network. The organization did propose a sustainability plan, which included continued funding from the Montana Children’s Trust Fund along with fundraising and pursuing other grants, Shaw said.

“We want to have a positive relationship with the Children’s Trust Fund” and continue working to help children, Shaw said. “We’ve been trying to keep that the focus.”

State law requires there to be an education program to prevent shaken baby syndrome. The trust fund is required to support child abuse and neglect prevention programs.

DPHHS will meet the law’s education requirements while a new program is being considered, agency spokesman Jon Ebelt said.

Meanwhile, Healthy Mothers Heathy Babies will continue its work with the help of $10,000 donations from hospitals in Helena, Great Falls, Bozeman and Kalispell along with both hospitals in Billings and both in Missoula. The donation from St. Peter’s Hospital was made to the organization Thursday morning in Helena.

Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies, The Montana Coalition works with 23 hospitals to provide PURPLE education, Shaw said. The program uses the letters of the word PURPLE to inform families that the “peak” of a baby’s crying is around the second month, it can be “unexpected,” it “resists” soothing, a baby can look like they’re in “pain,” the crying can be “long-lasting” and that babies may cry more in the afternoon and “evening.”

Edwards said she first contacted St. Peter’s Hospital President and CEO Nate Olson about Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies’ loss of funding. He said he emailed other hospitals and they soon had pledged $80,000 to help fund the program.

“The children of our community are too important to sit back and allow these preventable tragedies to continue to happen,” Olson said in a statement.

Edwards said she’s not aware of any hospitals that have been contacted by the state about a change in providers for the shaken baby education program.