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For ten months, your pregnant body is at the center of almost every decision and communication, both personal and medical. Women are encouraged to prioritize their needs, practice self-care, and to advocate for their desired experiences in the delivery room. And then baby comes along and some moms find out that ‘baby-friendly’ hospitals are not always mom-friendly hospitals. After giving birth, many women have described “a palpable shift” that sees their babies’ needs alone take center stage. New moms can quickly begin to feel like an afterthought.
Feeling like it’s mom vs baby in the hospital
Women should never be made to feel that it’s ‘Mom vs. Baby’ in a hospital. Moms need adequate support and information during pregnancy as well as the postpartum period so that they’re empowered to balance their own needs alongside their babies’. This can come in the form of close friends or family as well as by having a supportive doula and lactation consultant on your team.
Support during the fourth trimester
The first 3 months of a baby’s life, often called the fourth trimester, can feel like one of life’s toughest challenges. New moms, struggling to figure out their infants’ eating and sleeping patterns, need support now more than ever.
More medical professionals are speaking up about the importance of communicating effectively with new mothers about taking care of their own physical and mental health. This needs to begin during pregnancy yet needs to continue through the first three months and up to a year.
Better informational support for moms postpartum
An article in the Nursing for Women’s Health journal encouraged doctors interacting with new moms to offer more emotional support, review the research on the link between breastfeeding challenges and postpartum depression, and to make more referrals to supportive specialists like lactation consultants.
Still, more awareness is needed about the tougher aspects of postpartum life. A lot of distress could be avoided if first-time expectant parents were educated on topics like safe infant formula feeding practices, loss of bladder control, diastasis recti, postpartum depletion— moms should be better prepared even if they never encounter these issues.
Q&A with Jacqueline Winkelmann, MD FAAP
We sat down for a Q&A with Dr. Jacqueline Winkelmann, board-certified pediatrician and Bobbie Medical Advisor.
Milk Drunk: What’s the best way to navigate a baby-friendly hospital that doesn’t feel mom-friendly?
Dr. Jacq: Be prepared and aware of your delivery hospital’s policies; discuss this with your gynecologist and pediatrician, and ask questions during your hospital tour. Enroll your village, discuss your preferences with your loved ones, they can be helpful in advocating for you and your baby at times when you might be too tired and vulnerable to advocate for yourself. Your pediatrician is on your and your baby’s side! Discuss, ask questions, get advice from your pediatrician when they come see you and your baby in the hospital. They will always advocate for you and your baby.
Speak up! If something doesn’t feel right or you would like to change something, do not hesitate to be an advocate for yourself and your baby.
Milk Drunk: We keep hearing about the importance of postpartum plans and creating a personal schedule for your own eating, sleeping, self-care, etc., what’s your take?
Dr. Jacq: It’s important to start a self-care, healthy diet, personal scheduling plan prior to delivery so that you’ll have a comfortable routine after birth. While the immediate postpartum phase cannot be predicted or truly planned, having thought about and expressed your feelings to your support network will help in the transition.
Milk Drunk: How can moms ensure their own well-being remains a priority and they receive adequate care after birth?
Dr. Jacq: Post delivery, an OB/GYN, whose priority is the new mom, will visit every day in the hospital, as well as a pediatrician. It’s important to ask questions, discuss what you’re going through, and what to expect. Afterwards, you want a pediatrician who will be as concerned about your well-being as well as your baby’s, and will address your needs during well-child visits. It adds a different level of understanding during the postpartum period, in particular the fourth trimester, if your pediatrician has had their own children. Experienced pediatricians may be able to offer some insights into how to take care of your baby and yourself especially during this delicate time.
Most importantly, be proactive about scheduling health check-ups for yourself beyond the six weeks postpartum check.
Advised by Jacqueline Winkelmann, MD FAAP and Bobbie Medical Advisor.