Study: First-time moms want more information about life with new baby

A new study including 151 mothers in Brisbane, Australia has found that first-time moms want more information about what life with a newborn will be like and says they often don’t feel prepared for the recovery period after giving birth and emotional toll of caring for a new baby.

A new study published in The Journal of Perinatal Education finds first-time mothers want more information about how a newborn will impact their lives. Thirty-five percent did not feel prepared for the physical experience following birth and 20% did not feel prepared for the emotional experience.

“This study demonstrates that new mothers are eager for high-quality, accurate information of what to expect of life with a newborn,” says the study’s lead author, Margaret Barnes, RN, MA, PhD.

While I think there’s a definite benefit to educating expecting moms information on what life with a newborn may be like, (after all, knowledge is power), until every child comes with his/her own user’s manual, I think ultimately there’s only so much you can prepare for. Every woman’s birth experience is different, every child is different, and every new mother’s experience with her child is different. Each child has a unique temperament and will have different needs. Some will want to nurse every few hours, some will want to nurse much more frequently (or never let go of the boob). Every child’s sleep patterns will be different as well.

If you try to explain to a woman ahead of time how much a newborn will affect her life, is it realistic to think your words will have that much of an impact? Could it really help her prepare for what lies ahead? Is recovering from birth and caring for a newborn something anyone can really prepare for ahead of time (without having access to a full-time nanny, personal chef, housekeeper, etc.)? I feel like this is one of those things that a woman has to experience for herself to truly “get it.”

Before I had my first child I knew that once she entered the world nothing would be the same, that I would be sleep-deprived and have a baby nursing around the clock, but I couldn’t fully grasp the extent of how different my life would be, how beyond tired I would be, how sore I would be from an (unnecessary and unwanted) episiotomy, nor just how much love I could have for one tiny person until it actually happened to me.

However, I do think that it’s important to equip first-time moms especially with information and resources that will help and support them in their first few weeks and months of life with a new baby. Instead of sending moms home from the hospital with a diaper bags full of a few diapers and a can of formula, perhaps hospitals should instead give women lists of names, numbers, websites and email addresses of people, places and organizations they can turn to if they need help. Organizations like La Leche League International – with dates and times of local meetings, phone numbers to certified lactation consultants, warning signs of postpartum depression and who to call if you or someone close to you suspects you have PPD, links to groups such as Attachment Parenting International, house cleaning services, numbers of postpartum doulas, local moms support groups like MOMS Club, MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers), etc. That is real information that new moms can use.

What do you think? Do you feel you were adequately prepared for life with a newborn? If not, do you think classes or a book could have helped? Do you have other suggestions?

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Cross-posted on BlogHer

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14 thoughts on “Study: First-time moms want more information about life with new baby

  1. This post was really interesting to me. I am actually expecting my fourth child, and with each pregnancy, I have thought about how things would be different.

    Before I had my first child, I thought I was soooo busy and soooo tired, only to find out that when you have a kid whose night and day are switched for 6 weeks therefore making him want to nurse every hour on the hour through the night can really take it out of you.

    But, then, the second one came along and I had a whole new issue. What do you do when a 3-year-old runs away from you and you are left standing holding onto a baby carriage? At this particular moment, he 3-year-old will not come back when you call, but the baby could get stolen away if you leave him there. Then, the light bulb goes off in your head – Of course, you run like a madwoman down the street with the stroller hoping that it is as sturdy as the manufacturer’s instructions claimed! Good thing I got the “metrolite” even though we lived nowhere near a city.

    With child number 3, I ran into the issue again of a runaway, but this time it was a runaway who loved to run away when I was nursing the baby. Luckily, I now had a 6-year-old to aid in catching his brother. The only issue now was what to do when said older brother executes his job with a bit too much gusto and ends up tackling the young run away instead of simply catching him. I guess the end result was the same:), but onlookers don’t always view it that way.

    So, what will come of having 3 and then adding a 4th? I don’t know. I do know a few things I have learned.

    For instance, my first child could have been woken up during the day to be nursed so that I could have slept at night. I could have cluster fed him when he was looking to do so rather than fed him non-stop.

    Would I have understood these things if they were explained to me ahead of time, though? That is the main question your post and this study are asking. I think I would have been a lot more well-equipped if I had known there was a person called a lactation consultant with whom I could meet with rather than a nurse who told me that I should have taken a class on nursing when I did not seem to know exactly what I was doing when I was nursing my newborn. (I did take a class by the way, but somehow the plastic baby just did not do the trick for me!)

    I think you are right, Amy, access to resources after the fact would have been nice, but I also think that learning things for yourself are sometimes the most painful, but also the most important lessons we can learn about child-rearing!

    Megan

  2. Great post Amy!

    When I had my first child (and my second), I thought it was important to go into it with no expectations at all of what it would be like to be a mother or what my child would be like. In fact, the only expectation I had was that I would breastfeed and I was thwarted by tongue tie and a baby that didn’t latch on until he was 7.5 weeks old. That taught me to really throw ALL expectations out the window!

    To add to your list of resources to help new parents, I wrote a post a while ago on the 10 Things All New Parents Should Know: http://phdinparenting.wordpress.com/2008/08/04/10-things-all-new-parents-should-know/

  3. I don’t think I could have comprehended the extent of change if it had been plastered on my bedroom wall for me to look at every morning and every night.

    Rather than more education; I think new mom’s need more support. I recall reading that you should line up friends to bring food and do chores the first few weeks, but I am a do it your self-er and not one to ask for help, so I guffawed at that idea. Meanwhile, the first few weeks the first meal of the day for my husband and I was often in the late afternoon and we were extra tired and cranky from being hungry. My mom suggested we load the fridge with cold cuts (which I hate) but didn’t bring over any hot meals or even offer to go to the store for us. Most of our other friends had not yet had kids, so they didn’t know what we needed either and we were too overwhelmed to ask. A few people brought us dinner, but then served us dinner on our dishes (themselves too) and then left the dirty dishes behind. Frankly, I would have preferred cereal from the box and no dishes!

    Back in the day (or in other cultures with extended families) I am certain that new moms received more support and or were more prepared for their first child, because they had experienced childbirth and taking care of a new little one second hand through their siblings, cousins etc. I think our culture expects way too much of new parents!

    If we have any more kids I am definitely hiring help for the first few weeks, if not months!

  4. I don’t think I’d be too happy with any phone number list my hospital might have provided. In the first six months, my most valuable lesson was that my parenting values differed from those of the hospital and society at large, AND that there was a place for me elsewhere: my local babywearing group. When I thought I was nuts because everyone said to let Suzi cry it out and I couldn’t, that group helped me realize I was right after all. When I felt like I was turning into a freak for breastfeeding so long, that group showed me it was not only normal but beneficial.

    For any mother with any philosophy, I think finding a group of one’s own kind is the best help out there.

  5. I was sooo clueless. I would have welcomed a BTDT mom to help me with the transition. I should have hired a Post Partum Doula.

    No one can prepare you for the sleep deprivation. No one. But having a tip on how to deal with it would have helped me.

    Just helping get a plan together would have given me some kind of direction to aim for.

    I now type out a list of sites, phone numbers and share my experience and pass them out to my FT mommy friends.

    I just remember how hard it was for me to remember my dr’s phone # (or where I could find it), or the last time I fed or changed the baby. Your head’s a mess those first few days or MONTHS even.

    HELP A SISTAH OUT! lol

    (BTW I don’t think I’d have the wherewith all to read a book about this stuff)

  6. I think I was actually more prepared about what to expect when my first baby was here than I was about the labor and delivery aspect. The second time, I was much more comfortable with how it would be dealing with a newborn, so I focused on how to get the best delivery possible. I wasn’t prepared as well on how to deal with 2 kids.

  7. I’ve thought about this before. I was one of the pregnant moms who checked out reams and reams of info from the library, borrowed and bought books. I wanted so hard to be prepared.

    And my birth and postpartum was all my own — every moment a mix of who I was right then in a scary, excited, tired, bewildered state.

    I think the most helpful preparation a girl can have would be helping out a pregnant woman and a Mom with a newborn. Just a dream, but wouldn’t it be incredible if girls (high school/church/community ctr) could volunteer with Moms to learn and to help. Invaluable to everyone!

  8. This is so freaky Amy because I just finished a post about the challenges of a new mom today, then hopped onto my reader and saw this!

    Sometimes the synchronicity between me, you and Tiffany Washko is a little freaky. LOL!

    To answer the question, yes I found a big disconnect between my fantasies and what postpartum life was really like.

  9. I second the need for more postpartum support. I always think about how unfair it is that we are expected to do it all ourselves, how if we lived in small hunter-gatherers groups we COULD get some sleep because there would ALWAYS be other people to help us out with everything.

    And that brings me to seconding another idea–we need more EXPOSURE to postpartum life. How often before you had a baby did you hang around with a newly postpartum mom? I know I didn’t have any real experience with babies younger than about 4 months, and it would’ve really helped to see another mom go through that time period first too. I LOVE the idea of the high school girls volunteering, that would be awesome! But it would also be nice if we just weren’t so isolated in that period, somehow.

    I agree that more “education” about the postpartum period that does not include real experience wouldn’t be very helpful. Books can only go so far–I don’t think that kind of knowledge would be very helpful without something more hands-on.

    Great post!

  10. i was SO unprepared – for all of the reading i did, all of the talking with other moms… nothing prepared me for postpartum life. things that friends and family had tried that worked for them didn’t work for us – i had my mom come and stay with us for a week and that was a HUGE mistake. it caused a lot of problems, she knew nothing about newborns (my brother and i were adopted as babies, but not newborns), and was telling me things like he should be sleeping through the night at 1 week old! and don’t even get me started on the effects that all had on breastfeeding. suffice to say that next time we have a baby, NOBODY is staying at our house with us.

    that horrific experience aside, we did okay as newbie parents to a newborn – common sense came in handy much of the time, as did frank communication between my husband and i.

  11. I agree that nothing can quite adequately prepare you. All of my mom friends told me how sleep deprived I would be, how exhausting it is to be a mom to a newbord, how it’s the hardest job ever… I knew it would be; they told me it would be. But until you are actually doing it, you just can’t even fathom.

    My suggestion? Ugh. How about this: Have your husband set the alarm clock for random intervals throughout the night…sometimes 5 minutes apart, sometimes an hour. Each time the alarm goes off, get up and do something requiring concentration and patience for 20 minutes to an hour. Then try to go back to sleep before the alarm goes back off. Seriously, I just don’t think classes or books can prepare you for that feeling.

    I agree wholeheartedly with moms needing post partum support. That’s really what got me through those times. Not only did I have a wonderful doula who was there for me, I had family and friends to help in every way, and a network of other moms to help with questions or just to listen. It’s essential to know that other people are experiencing the same emotions and struggles (and the joys too, natch).

    LLL and Kellymom are just unmatchable resources and iVillage also has some wonderful Pregnancy & Parenting forums.

  12. I read a lot and talked to many other moms before I had my son. I guess that helped, but it’s impossible to really know until your baby is home and you’re in it. It’s like training for a marathon – you can put in the miles, but until you run a marathon, you don’t totally know what it’s like.

    The hard part for me was sorting through all the info and figuring out what was right for us and for our baby. From my experience, it’s not that there weren’t enough resources – it’s that many of the resources say something different and conflict with one another!

  13. For some real, honest to goodness, advice (with some humor mixed in) buy a Mom-to-be, or new mommy especially, the BlogHer book titled “Sleep is for the Week”. I can’t help but plug this book! I have enjoyed reading it immensely! It tells you what NOONE will tell you when you are expecting. So to those with a Cinderella type complex, this is just what they need – hardcore advice and a dose of realism that will speak volumes to what they are/may be/ or will be going through in the years to come. :)

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