All posts by Katie Quirk

About Katie Quirk

Katie Quirk is a mom of two, a boy and a girl. She lives and writes in Seattle, WA.

How Common is an Unplanned Pregnancy in Your 40s

An unplanned pregnancy might sound like a teenage problem, but it’s very possible to have an unplanned pregnancy in your 40s. At my son’s elementary school right now, two 41-year-old moms and one 45-year-old mom are pregnant. And they aren’t shy about telling  everyone that these babies weren’t planned.

I wasn’t shocked to learn these mamas were pregnant; my grandmother had a baby at 40 and my own mom had one at 42. (I can’t speak for the women in question, however I imagine they were quite surprised!). But with so many women struggling with infertility these days, and the media constantly telling us that getting pregnant after age 35 might be challenging, it’s easy to fall into thinking that most of us are washed-up baby-makers by age 40 (without IVF, at least). This is especially true if a woman experienced any difficulty conceiving her last baby. If that one didn’t come easy, there’s small chance of having another, right?!

But the truth is,  many women can and do still get pregnant in their early 40s (and later). In fact, the Mayo Clinic advises women who don’t want any more children to use birth control until they have been in menopause for a year, which for some women could be age 55! As more women delay having kids, the birth rates for older moms are rising, and plenty of those moms get pregnant naturally. (The statistics say for a 40-year-old woman there’s about a five percent chance every month of getting pregnant).

It’s encouraging news for 40-something year-old moms who want kids. For the rest of us, it’s a reminder not to quit or be careless about birth control (unless you’re actually secretly wishing for an “oops” baby). Because it can happen!

One mama on the playground said it best: “You let your guard down, stop playing defense, and bam! It happens.” Although unplanned pregnancies don’t have to be regrettable — we love kids around here! — if you think you’re done with raising babies, having another one will surely be an adjustment in both attitude and lifestyle.

What do you think? Would you be surprised to find yourself expecting again?

Is Co-Sleeping Dangerous For Your Baby?

It’s one of the first sources of mom guilt for many new mamas: Sleeping with their baby. For years, parents have been advised not to do it. But is co-sleeping dangerous, really?

Modern moms are told that babies should sleep on their backs in a crib or bassinet free of any loose bedding, blankets, bumpers, or pillows. When the crib is placed in the parents’ room, it’s the safest sleep environment for an infant. But despite this guidance, one in four moms choose to bring baby into their beds instead. That number has risen fourfold in the past 20 years. And during this time, the number of sleep-related infant deaths has not increased, but held steady at about 3,500 annually. So is co-sleeping dangerous?

Co-Sleeping Can Be Safe for Some

As a new parent, I’d assumed co-sleeping was an absolute no-no, and we never had our firstborn in bed with us. But it was a different story with my daughter, born four years later. Her crib was in our room, and she always began the night there. But by morning, she’d be next to me. And every morning I would feel guilty about putting her “at risk” like that, and vow not to do it again. But my morning willpower was never quite as strong as my midnight sleepiness, and so she’d end up in bed with us again.

Turns out co-sleeping like this isn’t the death sentence that I assumed it to be. Our situation put my daughter at low risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) or other sleep-related infant death: she was born full term and a healthy weight, and I don’t smoke. I’m also not obese, don’t drink alcohol or do drugs, or take any medications that might make me drowsy or a heavy sleeper. Plus as as breastfeeding mom I probably naturally curled my body in a protective stance around my daughter. This is something that may not happen with co-sleeping moms who use formula.

Given all these low-risk attributes, having her in bed with me put the risk of her dying at 1 in 16,400, according to NPR. In other words, the risk of her getting hit by lightning was higher than the chance of death by co-sleeping. Of course the risk was even lower if she stayed in her crib, dropping 1 in 46,000.

This graphic originally published on NPR’s website shows the risks of co-sleeping as compared to the leading causes of accidental death for children.

Co-Sleeping Is Dangerous for High-Risk Babies

These numbers are shockingly different for babies deemed of moderate or high risk of SIDS, however. For babies with low birth weights or born prematurely, or babies sleeping next to parents who smoke, or who have been drinking or using drugs, co-sleeping is much more dangerous. For these high-risk babies, the chance of dying while co-sleeping is a scary 1 in 150.

Some of the reasons for that: Inebriated parents might roll on their babies and be unaware and fail to wake, suffocating the little one. Parents zonked out on drugs are less likely to take care that the sleep environment is as safe as can be. And babies of parents who smoke have a much higher risk of SIDS no matter where they are sleeping.

Co-Sleeping Precautions

Room sharing, in which your baby is in a crib, bassinet, or co-sleeper, is the absolute safest way for your baby to sleep. But if your baby and your situation puts you at lower risk for SIDS, careful co-sleeping might not be as risky as traditionally believed. Even the fairly conservative American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has acknowledged the increasing occurrence of co-sleeping in the U.S. While they still don’t recommend it, they encourage parents to share, not hide, their sleeping arrangements with their pediatricians, who are advised to listen and provide co-sleeping advice without judgement.

If you do choose to co-sleep, experts recommend following these precautions:

  • Babies should be on a flat, firm surface, away from pillows, with only their bodies covered by light bedding.
  • Moms who use formula should avoid or exercise extra precaution when co-sleeping, as their co-sleep patterns haven’t been as well studied as those of breastfeeding moms.
  • Breastfed babies should be next to their moms, who will instinctively protect them, studies have shown.
  • Never co-sleep when any of the adults in bed have been drinking or using drugs.
  • If you or your partner smoke, don’t co-sleep (even if you don’t smoke in the house or in bed).
  • Never swaddle your baby while co-sleeping.
  • Low-weight or premature babies benefit from being placed in a co-sleeper, but should not sleep in bed with adults.
  • Avoid family-bed situations with siblings and baby.
  • Never sleep with or lie your baby on a sofa or chair; babies can become trapped against the furniture and suffocate.

What’s your feeling on co-sleeping? Do you sleep with your baby?

 

Why Infant Massage Could Change Your Life

Before you buy another piece of baby gear in the hopes of soothing your fussy newborn, consider this: You may already have the solution to some of baby’s crying, tummy troubles, and sleep challenges in the palms of your hands. Literally: we’re talking about infant massage.

The benefits of infant massage are many. Here’s what some of the research on infant massage has found.

Benefits of Infant Massage

Massage Means Improved Sleep: Babies and toddlers whose parents massaged them prior to bedtime fell asleep faster and demonstrated more alertness when awake, indicating better sleep.

Massage Could Mean Weight Gain for Preemies: Babies born prematurely gain more weight when they receive regular, gentle touch. (Parents of preemies, speak to your doctor before beginning an infant massage routine as it may overstimulate babies born at younger than 32 weeks gestation).

Massaged Babies Have Lower Levels of Stress Hormones: Infant massage has been found to lower babies’ cortisol levels and contribute to a less fussy baby.

Moms Who Massage Show Improved Moods: Studies have shown moms who engage in infant massage may suffer less from postpartum depression.

Infant Massage Leads to Better Bonding: A short, 15-minute daily massage is enough to increase mother-infant attachment, this study and others have shown.

Before you get started, watch this quick tutorial on how to massage your baby.

How to Massage Your Newborn Baby

And here are couple of things to keep in mind before you begin:

  • Babies benefit from routine so try to give your baby a short massage at the same time every day. A good time is before the evening feeding, to stimulate appetite and also to settle baby down for the night.
  • Start with a light touch and pay attention to your baby’s reaction. Since your little one can’t tell you how she’s finding the massage, it’s important to notice her nonverbal cues for confirmation that your level of pressure is comfortable and soothing for her. Any wincing, grimacing, or tensing up is a sign that you should ease up.

How to Help Your Child Fall Asleep

Top 10 Tips To Get Your Kiddo To Sleep

We know the basics: have a bedtime routine, warm baths, soothing music, etc. But many of our kids still struggle with sleep problems. If your kiddo has trouble nodding off, perhaps it’s time to try a scientific approach. Tricking her body into producing sleep hormones, or providing it with proteins that promote sleep, may work better than any gadget or lullaby.

Here are a few methods to try that could help your child fall asleep faster.

Get Rid of the Blues

Multiples blue dots

Phones, TVs, tablets, computers, and pretty much every screen all emit a blue light reminiscent of daylight, and the more your child looks at it, the more her body will respond as if it’s daytime. Limiting the amount of screen time, especially at bedtime, can help. Some tablets and smart phones have apps that filter out blue lights, and computers can be fitted with a screen that does the same thing. Also be sure that any night lights have a red glow, not green, white, or blue.

Everything to Know about Raising Gender-Neutral Kids

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are doing it, as are celebs like Kate Hudson and Angelina Jolie. Unisex baby names are off the charts. Stores like Target are removing boy and girl labels from their toy aisles and introducing gender-neutral clothing sections. Schools are creating gender-neutral bathrooms. And Christianheadlines.com reports that, yep, raising gender-neutral kids is a trend. Here’s everything to know about how parents are raising gender-neutral kids.

Here’s What It Means to Raise Gender-Neutral Kids
The goal is to avoid imposing gender stereotypes of any kind on your child so that your kid can explore the world without the restrictions of societally-imposed gender roles. Parents committed to raising their kids in a gender-neutral way actively avoid suggesting gender-specific things like color preferences, clothing, behaviors, and toy and activity choices to their kids. 

Some Parents Are Letting Kids Choose Their Gender
For example, girls are provided the same encouragement to play with trucks as boys have access to skirts and headbands. The adults in the home make a point to avoid engaging in stereotypical gendered roles, so as to not portray “female” or “male” roles. Parents try to speak to kids in a gender-neutral way as well, for example replacing comments on their daughter’s appearance with feedback instead on her actions.

In the most committedly gender-neutral homes, parents are allowing the child to choose their gender. They refrain from telling family and friends the sex of the child so as to remove outside influences on the child, and refer to the kid as “they” and “them,” not he/him and she/her.

Some parents are even skipping declaring their children’s sex on official forms like birth certificates, instead using the new third gender designation of X or other non-binary notations that have been added to birth certificates in some cities and states including NYC, Washington D.C., Oregon, California, Maine, and Washington State

<i>Gender-neutral bathrooms are becoming increasingly common around the country, including at elementary schools.</i>

The Benefits of Deemphasizing Gender 
Americans are increasingly rejecting rigid gender roles, and research indicates that is probably a good thing. Research has shown that the gendered messages common in cultures around the world instructing girls to be passive and boys to be aggressive are linked with negative health effects including teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease exposure in girls and substance abuse and suicide in boys. Other ways gender stereotypes negatively affect people include: 

  • Diminishing boys’ emotional intelligence through messages like “boys don’t cry”
  • Linking worth to external factors like salary (men) and
  • Pressuring girls to always look perfect and pretty
  • Deempahizing the female voice by insinuating that women who are outspoken are “aggressive” 

In contrast to what we used to think, babies aren’t born with “girl” brains or “boy” brains, predetermined to love pink or blue. It’s when we encourage our girls to seek out dolls and direct boys to blocks that the stereotypical shaping happens and we see girls navigating toward nurturing roles and boys toward analytical ones. In this way, parents and society play a large role in the career and life paths that kids end up pursuing. 

Is there a downside to deemphasizing gender roles? What steps are you taking to raise gender-neutral kids?

Young woman holding credit card and using laptop at home.

10 Ways to Score Deals on Cyber Monday

Are you planning on clicking your way to big savings on Cyber Monday? Just don’t let your boss see! For the best Cyber Monday deals (and to save throughout the holidays), a little preparation goes a long way. Spend some time downloading deals apps, adding money-saving extensions to your browser, and signing up for retailers’ emails, and you can save even more off those already awesome holiday deals.

Follow these tips to get the best possible prices on Cyber Monday and anytime, really. Happy shopping, mamas!

Review Deals Websites and Make a Plan

Internet advertisement with text "SPECIAL OFFER" and red circle selection around.

Head to a website like Hip2Save to preview a complete list of major retailers’ holiday ads and scheduled deals. Use those ads for gifting inspiration and to help you stay focused on what you really want to buy.

Register for Emails

Register key on the computer keyboard, three-dimensional rendering
Sign up to receive emails from retailers you’re interested in and find out what sales to expect. You might get early access to deals or receive a unique promo code that can help you save even more.

Install Browser Extensions

Shot of a young woman lying on the floor with her laptop at home

If you’re planning on shopping from your desktop or laptop, install a deal-finding browser extension like Honey or WikiBuy. These extensions search the web to find the best deal on whatever you’re shopping for, so you can be confident that you’re getting the lowest price. They also automatically find and apply promo codes to your order for additional savings.

Use Cash-Back Apps

a woman on her mobile phone

A fun way to save when shopping on your phone is through cash-back apps like Ibotta, Rakuten, and BeFrugal. When you access a retailer through one of these apps, you receive a small percentage of your purchase as cash back. Once you’ve earn a specific amount back ($20 on Ibotta, for example), you can cash out and transfer the cash to a gift card or your bank account. If you were already planning on making the purchase from the retailer giving you cash back, you’re basically getting money for nothing!

Get the Store Card

Young woman holding credit card and using laptop at home.

If you’re a credit card person, you might want to consider signing up for store-specific credit cards at the time of major purchases like those Cyber Monday TV and electronics doorbusters you’re eyeing! Retailers extend high-value one-time offers to consumers who are approved for their credit card, which can amount to big savings if you’re buying a big-ticket item. Some retailers like Target and Amazon also offer 5% off every purchase when you use their card. That 5% savings can really add up over time!

Log In Early

Portrait of a happy young woman using laptop and calling with mobile phone

If it’s a limited-quantity Cyber Monday deal you’re after, you want to be ready to go when it’s time to buy. Don’t waste precious time at check out creating an account. Set one up ahead of time and save your credit card info to it. And make sure you are logged in before the deal goes live. Now is not the time for multiple password attempts and account resets, ladies!

Know the Return Policies

Customer in boutique paying saleswoman with credit card.

It’s not a deal if you end up stuck with something in the wrong size or that you just don’t like. Make sure you know the return policy for each retailer. It might be worth taking a risk on a product if you can return it to a store in your neighborhood. But something that needs to be returned by mail, at cost to you, could be more hassle (and money) than it’s worth.

Use Multiple Devices

two business people man and woman working on computer while waiting in an airport lounge

If there is a limited-quantitiy deal you are absolutely set on landing, recruit your partner or a friend to try for it on their computer or mobile device as well. There is a risk that you’ll inadvertently purchase multiple products though!

Look for Free Shipping

a box with a free shipping label

You don’t want to pay for shipping on Cyber Monday. If there is a minimum spend to receive free delivery, and your items don’t meet it, you might end of losing all your savings to the price of shipping. Adding small items you don’t really want to meet the free shipping minimum is no deal either. Consider combining orders with a friend or using the often free “ship to store” option.

Set a Strict Budget

a woman holding up a red purse

It’s easy to get sucked into deals, especially when you’re shopping online. Retailers use all kinds of tricks to get you to buy more than you intended. But all of your Cyber Monday savings (plus some!) will be lost if you’re loading the purchases onto a credit card that won’t be paid off in full. So don’t fill your cart with things your wallet can’t afford!

 

Really tired baby that is about to fall asleep. Isolated on black.

10 Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep Better

If there is a mama out there who isn’t interested in getting her baby to sleep better, we’ve yet to meet her. Babies can be finicky creatures when it comes to when and where they’ll sleep, so it’s often all about determining your baby’s sleepy time preferences and creating a personalized routine.

Here are ten ingredients that might have a place in your baby’s optimal sleep recipe.

1. Make Daytime Active

happy african american mother kissing baby feet while playing on bed

Tiny babies are often interested in sleeping all day and keeping their parents up all night. To help your newborn understand that nighttime is for sleeping, try to keep her awake more during the day. Sing, talk, and play with her after she’s fed and changed so she doesn’t immediately go back to sleep.

2. Increase Dinnertime Feedings

a baby being bottle fed

Aim for a slighter larger meal at bedtime to help your baby sleep longer before he wakes up hungry. Offer formula-fed babies a few more ounces or if you’re breastfeeding, try to nurse a bit longer before you lie baby down.

3. Avoid Long, Late Naps

as baby fast asleep

Your baby needs to be tired at bedtime, which is why it’s important to prevent an extended afternoon nap. Aim for a longer morning nap and a shorter one in the afternoon to help your baby feel rested during the day but tired in the evening.

4. Change, then Feed

a baby having it's diaper changed

When your baby wakes up in the middle of the night to eat, change her diaper first. It’s possible she’ll fall asleep while or immediately after eating, and a diaper change post-feeding could wake her up. If she does need a clean diaper right after she eats, as many breastfed babies will do, do it as quickly and quietly as possible. And use a nightlight rather than turning on a bright light!

5. Don’t Talk, Don’t Wake

Breastfeeding for little beautiful newborn baby with closed eyes - indoors

If your baby wakes up in the night, tend to her needs without talking to her or otherwise engaging–even try to avoid eye contact! You don’t want your baby to think this is the time to be awake and playful.

6. Invest in Blackout Shades

thick window shades

Keep your baby’s room dark at night and during nap times to help her sleep. Even small cracks of light can be perturbing to sensitive infants; blackout shades are an affordable way to prevent the sunshine from sneaking in. Be sure to pull them open when it’s time to be awake and active!

7. Be Slow(er) to Respond

a baby sleeping in a crib

It’s not always necessary to tend to your baby’s every snuffle. Babies and newborns in particular tend to be noisy, and while they’re sleeping is no exception: little ones can startle, squirm, fuss, and even cry in their sleep. It’s possible your baby might settle down and go back to sleep by herself if you don’t swoop in and disturb her.

8. Be Routine

a mom kissing her sleeping baby

Your baby is a sponge who craves routine, so begin teaching her the signs that it’s time to sleep as soon as possible. Around three months is a good time to establish a bedtime routine. Your nap time routine can be a shorter version of whatever you do at night.

9. Do What What Works for Your Baby

a baby yawning

Maybe your friend had success with cry it out and your cousin swears by attachment parenting methods. But neither of those things will work for you if they don’t fit with your parenting style and lifestyle and your baby’s personality. Rather than listen to others (and that includes experts), really pay attention to your baby and observe what’s she’s telling you. Watch for her signs of sleepiness, get to know her daily patterns and rhythms, and figure out a sleep plan based on that.

10. Put Baby Down Drowsy

Really tired baby that is about to fall asleep.  Isolated on black.

Teach your baby to put himself to sleep and you’ll reap the benefits well into the future. (Rock him to sleep and be prepared to take on the task for months, maybe years to come. It’s your choice!) One way to help your baby learn to sleep is by putting him down while drowsy, not dead asleep. It can be tricky, especially if you have a baby who drifts off while eating, but if you can lie him down during that magical moment when he’s not asleep but not awake, that’s a huge win.

A Back-to-School Checklist for Moms

Summer is well underway and flying by, which means one thing: school resumes soon (and already has, for some!). Retailers are pumping out back-to-school ads and school districts are sending out info about the upcoming academic year. They’re getting ready for back to school, but what about you and the kiddos, mama? Swapping the lazy days of summer for the bell times of autumn can be hard for everyone, but a little preparation can make the transition back to school easier on kids and parents alike.

We’ve compiled seven ways to ease everyone in your household into the back-to-school mindset. Start making some small changes now, and the back-to-school transition will be that much smoother!

Back-to-School Checklist for Moms and Kids

  1. School Skills Refresher: It’s always helpful to get back in the mindset of structured learning with some school-like assignments. Encourage your child to crack open a book (Scholastic’s Bob Books are great for beginning readers) and read to you. Or s/he can brush up on math and other basics with worksheets like these free printables from Education.com.
  2. Do Some Shopping: Between school supplies, new clothes, shoes, and gear, outfitting your little for back to school is expensive–according to Consumer Reports, families spend an average of $900 per child on school stuff, wow! To save some cash, shop smart by comparison price shopping (try an app like ShopSavvy).  Also consider deferring some purchases until after school begins and items go on sale.
  3. Check Your Child Care: Is your child care situation changing once school starts? Do a double-check to make sure you’re all set for before and afterschool care. If a relative is going to be dropping off or picking up your child, they’ll need info about start/end times and location. Be sure to communicate these plans with your child’s school as well.
  4. Talk About Transportation: Walking, driving, busing: How’s your child getting to and from school? If it’s the bus, take a walk to your bus stop and time how long it takes to get there. Teach your little his or her bus number and the names of the street where the stop is located.  Pin this info inside your child’s backpack, plus your contact info in case s/he somehow misses the stop. And don’t forget to review bus safety and appropriate schoolbus behavior with your child.
  5. Plan Out Breakfast and Lunch: A good breakfast is so important for your school-bound kids. Studies going back to the 1950s show that children who eat breakfast do better at school. Have some quick options on hand like microwavable breakfast sandwiches, cereal bars, and ready-made smoothies for easy grab and go. And if your little will be taking a bag lunch to school, try to pack it the night before. (Also, make sure buy a cool lunchbox, here are our picks). You’ll thank yourself in the morning!
  6. Start Socializing: Getting together with school friends and classmates can help your child get excited about heading back to school. Drop by any  playdates, ice cream socials, or picnics that your PTSA might be organizing. If it’s your child’s first year attending this school, see if you can visit for a tour and meet the teachers.
  7. Get on Schedule: Those lazy summer schedules, with flexible bedtimes and no-alarm mornings, unfortunately don’t jive well with early bell times! A week or so before school starts is a good time to resume the practice of going to bed at an earlier time. Check this helpful chart to see how many hours of sleep kids need by age so you can set an appropriate bedtime.

When does school start for your kids? What are you doing to help get them ready to go back to school?

Postpartum depression drug Zulresso

New Postpartum Depression Drug Works Great – at a Heavy Cost

As many as one in two moms experience postpartum depression in the weeks and months following the birth of their baby.

Good news: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just approved the first-ever medication intended to treat postpartum depression. It’s called Zulresso, and it proved to be fast acting and highly effective in studies. Unfortunately, this new postpartum depression drug comes with a hefty price tag: $34,000 per treatment.

The high price isn’t Zulresso’s only stumbling block. The treatment requires an in-patient stay of 60 hours, meaning a new mama would need to be away from her home for at least two and a half days. That’s because Zulresso must be administered intravenously by a health care provider in a medical facility, according to the FDA’s press release. Zulresso can cause dizziness and sudden unconsciousness, making it unsafe for a mom to be at home and caring for her baby during treatment.

Postpartum Depression Is Major Depression

With as many as half of American moms experiencing postpartum depression, there’s a serious need for effective treatment. Postpartum depression is a major depressive episode that often begins in the weeks and months after the baby is born. It can cause moms to feel overwhelmed by everyday tasks and lead moms to feel unable to bond with or care for their babies. Learn more about postpartum depression.

Regular antidepressants can be used for postpartum depression, but as they can take weeks to work, they are not the ideal treatment for moms who need immediate relief. But while experts are excited about Zulresso, many caution that its high price tag and time-consuming administration might make this medication out of reach for many moms, reports NPR. The postpartum depression drug is not yet covered by insurance, although NPR mentioned that drug manufacturer Sage Therapeutics is in conversations with insurance companies to change that.

Postpartum depression occurs in the weeks and months after delivery. Symptoms include feeling overwhelmed, isolated, and irritable, and can prevent moms from caring for themselves and their babies. Talk therapy and antidepressant medications are common treatments.

How Zulresso Works

Zulresso includes a synthetic version of the hormone allopregnanolone, which is naturally made by the body from the hormone progesterone. In the studies and clinical trials that led to the drug’s approval by the FDA, moms who were experiencing moderate to severe postpartum benefited most from the treatment. Many began to feel better in as little as 48 hours.

Interestingly, about half of the moms who received the placebo also showed improvement. That makes sense: give new moms a few days off after birthing and caring for a baby, plus some dedicated TLC and we bet many moms will feel much more rested and capable. (That is not to say they won’t continue to need treatment and support.)

Other Challenges

It’s unclear whether it’s safe to breastfeed while receiving Zulresso. The drug manufacturer Sage Therapeutics noted in its press release that the medication passes into the breastmilk, and moms should consult with their doctors regarding the safety of breastfeeding on Zulresso. For moms with postpartum depression who are exclusively breastfeeding, that could feel like an insurmountable challenge. Moms in the test studies weren’t allowed to breastfeed.

Zulresso is expected to be available beginning in June 2019.

What are your thoughts on Zulresso? Would your family be able to manage the high price tag and 60 hours without you? What’s been your experience with postpartum depression?

If you think you might have postpartum depression, don’t ignore your symptoms or suffer alone. It is not your fault and help is available. Contact the Postpartum Support International helpline at (800) 994-4PPD or find support in your areaon their website. The websites and organizations listed here are also a good place to begin seeking support.

This is not medical advice. This article is not meant to substitute medical advice provided by a practicing medical professional. If you have any concerns or feel like harming yourself or others, contact your physician immediately.

Are Postpartum Parties the New Baby Showers?

Families with new babies can always use a helping hand but friends and neighbors aren’t always clear on where they fit in. Or the support comes in sporadically, which while absolutely appreciated is not always ideal for busy, exhausted new parents working around fickle baby schedules, sometimes just responding to a text from a co-worker who is offering to bring over dinner can be a challenge.  Which is why we as a culture need to embrace the idea of postpartum parties.

Postpartum parties are the brainchild of Marisa Mendez Marthaller writing in Bust magazine. Most pregnant moms have baby showers to acquire the baby products that they need (and plenty that they really don’t, she points out). Rather than ask friends for consumer goods, Mendez Marthaller proposes that new moms skip the pre-baby gear grab and instead request friends and family offer support through gifts of their time and talents after the baby arrives. We’re talking help with the housekeeping, meal prep, baby holding, sibling watching… whatever assistance the new mom needs. Call it a postpartum party.

Here’s how Mendez Marthaller envisions it working: Pre-baby, expecting moms create “guest lists” of friends and family who have offered to help. Mama hands the guest lists off to a close friend or relative who can organize meal trains, housekeeping “registries,” and online calendars for home visits, and then invite the guests to sign up for the designated tasks. It’s organized, easy for both the new mom and the volunteer helpers, and it ensures the family is receiving the help they need, when they need it. And the rewards for the volunteers are generous: In addition to the warm fuzzy feeling that comes from being a good person, there are also the newborn snuggles. Aww, sign us up!

 

Moms can request all kinds of support through postpartum parties, including asking friends to watch their baby and other children so they can nap or complete tasks.

The Community Benefits of Postpartum Parties

While the idea of providing this kind of support isn’t new, branding it postpartum parties brings a new level of focus and organization to what can be a chaotic time. We see so many reasons why postpartum parties should become as standard as baby showers (which, unlike Mendez Marthaller, we believe can coexist with requests for postpartum support).

They would enable new moms to request help without needing to worry about the logistics of who’s showing up when or what’s for dinner. The new mom could ask for help with feeling guilty, knowing that she will be able to pay it forward for a pregnant friend. Plus, the weeks after a baby arrives are exciting but exhausting, and can be lonely and isolating. Whether you suffer from postpartum depression or not, knowing that there’s a village enlisted to help and support you is so essential.

Postpartum parties would be good for community development and the volunteers participating in them as well. Many people who would like to help in these situations might not know how best to go about it. They might feel like asking a new mom what she needs is akin to bothering her, and some parents have a hard time asking for or accepting individual offers of help. But enlist a friend to mobilize and organize that support into online sign-ups, and even send out invites à la a baby shower, and all of a sudden it’s a full-on volunteer event with clear roles, tasks, and purpose. Pitch in with a group of others to help a new mama and bam! All of a sudden you’re part of a village, and that feels as good as having one.

Moms, what do you think of postpartum parties? Would you help organize one for an expecting friend?