Mothers need more than intuition; they need research-based support.
Becoming a mother is a complex transition, layered with profound and intense emotion. Among the biggest of life’s privileges, motherhood affords an opportunity to experience unparalleled love and incomparable joy. And, like many heightened privileges, the entrée to motherhood also brings enormous responsibility, peppered with feelings of anxiety, guilt, anger, and fear.
Most jobs offer some sort of training—an orientation, a chance to shadow an experienced employee, an instruction manual. Motherhood, often described as the hardest job there is, offers none of these. New mothers are led to believe maternal instinct and mother’s intuition are the natural tendencies that will help them to gracefully embrace this new role. But how can instinct and intuition help moms navigate the agony of sleep deprivation, the mechanics of breastfeeding (if they so choose), the social isolation, the career negotiation, the management of co-parenting or single-parenting, and the multitude of other trials that leave mothers understandably overwhelmed—especially in the beginning?
MOTHERS NEED RELIABLE SUPPORTS
Maternal instinct and intuition are meant to help mothers care for their babies. They are valuable guides, but they are not enough. New mothers need to know how to care for themselves. They need something more than intuition and instinct. They need an arsenal of reliable supports.
Having a baby is so commonplace, so natural. After all, it happens all day, every day, up to four million times in a year! But nature doesn’t always mean sunny skies and starry nights. Sometimes it means pounding hail and dust storms, too. The early years of motherhood offer the full spectrum of natural weather. By learning to take care of the motherself, one can greatly improve the forecast for herself, her baby, and her family.
Few people dispute that tending to the body, mind, and spirit are essential to living a healthy and happy life. And yet, during one of the most complex, stressful, and overwhelming of life’s transitions, new moms often get short shrift. Doesn’t that seem backward? Shouldn’t mothers be getting more support at this critical life-stage? Shouldn’t someone teach them, for example, that acupressure can actually bolster milk production and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol? Wouldn’t it be helpful for them to be shown a simple coloring exercise that improves feelings of productivity and enables mother-infant bonding? What if every new mother were taught which foods can directly impact physical healing from labor and delivery and enhance emotional health? These ideas are not the stuff of daydreams. They are facts steeped in science. Every mother should have access to them.
MOTHERS NEED EVIDENCE-BASED TOOLS
Our healthcare providers—midwives, ob/gyns and pediatricians especially—should be schooled in evidence-based tools like the ones listed above. They should be made aware of the clinical studies that endorse the therapeutic benefits especially for women in the pre and postnatal period. Moreover, the sharing of this information should be part of a standard treatment protocol. When a woman comes in for a prenatal check-up, she should be provided with reliable information and easy-to-use, cost-effective resources she can access to care for her own wellbeing, just as she is caring for her baby’s.
Motherhood is about taking care of a baby. Mothercare is about taking care of mom. Becoming a mother requires that we do both, and we need more than intuition to do the job.
Dayna M. Kurtz, LMSW, CPT, is a leading authority on the subject of women transitioning to motherhood and serves as Director of the Anna Keefe Women’s Center at the Training Institute for Mental Health in Manhattan. She is a licensed social worker and Certified Personal Trainer with certification in training pre- and postnatal clients. She is the author of Mother Matters: A Holistic Guide to Being a Happy, Healthy Mom (Familius Press) as well as The Female Body Fix (Rodale, Spring 2018). Dayna also serves as a Real Answers expert on TheBump.com. She has written or been consulted on articles for the websites of The Today Show, Pregnancy & Newborn, Popsugar, Big City Moms, PregnancyCorner, and WAG Magazine among others, and writes the Mother Matters blog for the Huffington Post. A sought-after speaker, Dayna regularly presents on the subject of mothercare. Her website is daynakurtz.com. Go to her Facebook Page, Twitter Feed, or LinkedIn.