After nine long months, your little one has finally arrived. As any mother can attest, the following weeks are filled with moments of bliss — swaddling the baby's tiny body into a soft blanket, smelling their sweet newborn scent, gazing at that angelic, sleeping face ... and, those feet.
But this joyful time can also be chaotic and confusing, with a new mom feeling as though she's been thrust into survival mode. The baby won't stop crying; attempts at nursing have faltered; and a peaceful slumber now seems inconceivable.
Fortunately, local support is available. It comes in the form of parenting classes, support groups and baby-friendly fitness sessions that build meaningful companionships.
"Postpartum depression is clinically referred to as perinatal mood and anxiety disorders," says Amanda Devereux, founder of Nola Nesting. She says 20 percent of women experience a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder, and many exhibit the symptoms during pregnancy. The doulas at Nola Nesting guide new and expecting mothers in a number of ways. They teach coping skills and give advice on how to soothe and feed newborns, while fostering emotional recovery.
"What a doula can do is help a mom identify risk factors when she's pregnant," Devereux says. "If she's not already working with a therapist, and she ends up having difficulty postpartum, then that's another relationship that she has to build, and it can be a lot more difficult to reach out."
Devereux also is an internationally board certified lactation consultant, which she describes as "the gold standard of lactation certification." She can help mothers establish successful breastfeeding routines with their infants.
Postpartum doulas may work with new mothers for as long as six months. They meet with the entire family and determine the different ways they can assist, from preparing meals and tidying the house to spending time with the siblings and allowing the busy mom a moment to take a much-needed nap.
Devereux knows the first few months after the delivery are hectic, but that's temporary.[iamge-2]
"It's almost like you're surviving day to day," she says. "Then all of the sudden you have a three-month old, and the world shifts. Your baby is smiling at you and laughing. It's not that it's not challenging anymore. Parenting is challenging in general. But your baby is now connecting with you. My hope for clients is that by the time they've hit that mark, they've developed more and have a parenting community."
Nola Nesting also hosts gatherings where new parents — especially those who are struggling through this period — can share their experiences.
At KINDRED Studios, a retail and fitness boutique, mothers can take baby-friendly barre, ballet, spin and yoga classes in addition to prenatal yoga. The studio also features a padded "Romp Room" — a play area for babies from newborns to age three.
"It's a place where you can meet likeminded moms," says Genevieve Douglass, the owner of KINDRED.
KINDRED hosts a "New Mom Group" once a week, where mothers discuss the various challenges posed in the early months of parenthood. Fathers do the same thing on Saturday mornings during "Dad's Den" gatherings. KINDRED also hosts La Leche League of New Orleans meetings, where moms and moms-to-be receive breastfeeding guidance and information. The "NOLA Babywearers," another support group, meets once a month.
"They talk about everything, but the main point is to learn how to wear your new baby," Douglass says. During these workshops, women will learn about the many different styles of baby carriers and wraps, and decipher which one works best for her lifestyle and her baby.
The Parenting Center, a wellness program run by Children's Hospital, provides a wealth of educational tools, along with support for new mothers and fathers. It also features playrooms, where parents can mingle while their babies frolic on colorful mats.
"There's a myth that parenting comes naturally, but there's a lot to know," says Jenni Evans, parenting educator and assistant director of The Parenting Center. "This is a great way to learn, to get your questions answered by professionals, and to get ideas from other parents."
Some classes and services are free and open to the public, while others require a fee or membership.
During the "Snuggles and Struggles" support group, parents and their babies sit on a mat covered in blankets and baby toys, and discuss concerns with a parenting educator. The "Happiest Baby" class is based on Harvey Karp's popular book, The Happiest Baby on the Block, and is packed with tips on how to soothe an upset infant. Participants leave with an educational DVD.
"I love that you can come to The Parenting Center for something specific like a class, or you can just come and hang out," Evans says. "If you get the time to think about [parenting], or learn something new about it, that is going to make a huge difference to your family."