If you are a parent you already know that all the cute onesies given to you at your baby shower/birth blessing paled in comparison to the home cooked meals delivered to your door postpartum.
The diaper wipe warmer and stuffed elephant were sweet, but the friend who picked up your groceries and washed your dishes felt like a superhero. The transition into motherhood or into mothering more than one child is truly a rite of passage. It is vital to acknowledge this passage into parenthood in a way that represents you, your lineage, your culture and your intentions.
Being seen and supported by your community is an inclusive practice that just about anyone can do. Simply by coming together to help with everyday life, is one way of saying "we see you, we see this transformation and we are here for you".
By supporting a family during the tender postpartum time, the community enhances the health and well-being of the entire family, and the health of the community is also nurtured.
When mothers feel supported, they have a boost in oxytocin which helps the production of breast milk, reduces stress, promotes mama-baby bonding and even helps to balance hormones. There is quite a bit of anthropological evidence supporting levels of oxytocin being greater in women living in close proximity to family or close community as seen in indigenous cultures.
Nowadays, many of us need to re-create the village to receive our support and nurturing, that is where Community Supported Postpartum comes into play.
You have heard of a CSA (community supported agriculture). Maybe you have heard of a herd-share where you pitch in and receive weekly milk or meat. We belonged to a wonderful CSH (community supported herbalism) last year and received tinctures, teas and salves each season. Or perhaps you have been part of a school work day or grocery co-op.
All of these organizations have the same foundation of ideals; when we can come together with shared values, it benefits everyone involved as we stand/work in solidarity. When many hands pitch in, the work is lighter and the connection is stronger. The whole is greater to the sum of it's parts.
What if we could use the same great form to support folks who are welcoming a baby? The shared value is that families need extra support in the tender postpartum time, we can all stand behind that notion. I call this Community Supported Postpartum; CSP. My hope is that we can start incorporating intentions of true community support into every baby shower and prenatal gathering so that families can experience how valuable community can be in the postpartum time. Leave the pacifier with the mustache behind, and grab a copy of this instead.
We all want to be a helpful friend or family member, and sometimes we need a bit of guidance. After decades of supporting my friends, my community and the many families I have worked with as a teacher and in our mama-baby classes, I have curated a list of helpful ways that we can all pitch in to support a postpartum journey rooted in health and community support.
Nourishing the family
Let's talk about food. It seems so basic, we all need food to live and most of your time with a new baby is spent feeding him. And for goodness sake, it is such a challenge to feed ourselves in those first few weeks! The first step in your CSP is to organize nourishing meals for the new family.
Before the baby arrives, set up a meal train account. A free service to organize your community for meal deliveries. The meal train plus option is a one time fee of $10 which in addition to meal organization, facilitates carpools, errands, housework and childcare. The meal train was what kept our family fed for weeks when our son was born, and when we became foster parents. We could simply receive and bond. If you need a few simple idea to bring to a family, click here to receive a few of our favorite nourishing recipes.
Nurturing the Mother
Ask yourself or the family-to-be what type of postpartum care they would appreciate. How women are cared for and supported during the postpartum period directly affects their health and well-being for the rest of their lives. Create a list of relevant local postpartum care practitioners. A few I would highly recommend are a postpartum doula (particularly one who has trained with INNATE Postpartum Care- Certified Providers ), holistic pelvic care providers, someone who specializes in diastasis rectii, postpartum chiropractic practitioners, lactation and breast health consultants and any specific support groups ~you can fill in names and numbers on the plan so the new family is organized and ready when baby arrives.
Supporting the Family in Day to Day Life
What kind of practical support is needed for everyday life? This is a great category to bring to light before baby arrives. Like I mentioned before, people naturally want to help, but often need direction or a clear request. Gather a list of tasks that you normally do and give yourself the gift of asking for support. Your family and friends are honored to be invited into your inner circle to help. Some suggestions are childcare or rides for siblings, pet care walking/play, garden tending, errand running, grocery pick up, light housework, organizing baby clothes according to size, returning dishes from your meal train, and holding baby so you can sleep or shower. You could also include these things on a registry. The SoKind registry is another free service which organizes these types of requests in a registry format that is easy to share. I think the SoKind registry of the gift of time is the best thing at a baby shower.
What about your far away community? They can help too when you have clear requests. Create a list of local restaurants or meal delivery services that you like, be sure to include any sensitivities, dislikes and favorites. What about a house cleaning service, a dog walker, an overnight doula service to catch up on rest, a fund to support families to stay at home without financial hardships, or a postnatal massage therapist that offers in-home calls. You can include these requests on your Meal Train or your So Kind registry for folks all over the earth.
Download the free worksheet with all these suggestions and much more to create a community supported postpartum plan for yourself, for a friend or for a client.
Photo by Barbara AlçadaThis is a wish list. A dream. It's important to acknowledge some truths of what the fourth trimester really looks like in our country.
- The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) requires 12 weeks of unpaid leave annually for most mothers of newborn or newly adopted children. This is one of the lowest levels of leave in the industrialized world.
Let's be honest, many families cannot take that time off due to financial hardship, lack of job security or many other reasons. When you look at the downloadable Community Supported Postparum plan, find what you can do for a family. Adjust support to before and after working hours. Do what you can, when you can.
***Women need extra support in the postpartum year. ***
The following statistics are from PostartumDepression.Org
- Approximately 70%- 80% of women will experience, at a minimum, the baby blues and many more will experience the more severe condition of postpartum depression and its other subtypes.
- It is estimated that the reported rate of clinical postpartum depression among women is between 10%-20% of all live births.
- One recent study found that 1 in 7 women can expect to experience depression in the year following giving birth.
- It’s important to understand that these numbers look at live births alone. The fact is, many women who miscarry or have stillbirths experience postpartum depression symptoms as well.
***We must acknowledge racial disparities.***
- American black mothers are 243% (statistic by CDC) more likely than white mothers to die in pregnancy or child-birth related causes. Black mothers are dying at an alarming rate.
- Black infants are twice as likely to die as white infants.
The support systems presently in place are broken and do not serve the well-being of families. What we can do is educate ourselves on the importance of prenatal and postpartum care and the inequalities that exist. We can show up in real life supporting mamas to breastfeed, to eat nourishing foods, to advocate for her individual needs, to lend a hand with the every day stuff that can be overwhelming.
We can participate in policy making.
We can share our voices, make the calls, and support the change-makers through donations of money, time or simply amplifying voices through your network.
A strong sense of community is a powerful remedy for healing, bonding and belonging.
If you feel inspired to create even more community support locally, learn more about our Community Supported Postpartum Facilitator training and start a local group in your neighborhood.