Becoming a new mom is an experience characterized by several emotions all at one time. There is the expected joy at creating a new life and developing a family, but there are also intense feelings of being overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by the steep learning curve that is parenting, overwhelmed with all the information that exists today on the “right” and “wrong” way to do everything from feeding to sleeping to diapering to educating and on and on. And overwhelmed in general by trying to navigate the emotional highs and lows that you will inevitably weather. There are so many people talking in your ear about what you should or shouldn’t do. It is so hard to have any instincts about these things when it is your first time as a parent.
As the facilitator of The Chicago New Moms Group, I work hard to provide moms with as many good resources as possible so that they can confidently grown into their new role. As part of that goal, throughout our 6 weeks together, I am always follow up our sessions with information about more ways to learn about topics discussed in group. Over the last several years running the group, I have become very familiar with many trusted resources both locally, in Chicago, and online as well. Hopefully in sharing some of these resources here, even those who have not participated in the group in person can benefit as well.
Local health and fitness programs
I am a strong advocate of the act of taking care of oneself in order to be a better parent to your child. Having a baby takes a toll on your body physically and one of the best ways to restore your emotional healthy is to feel good about your physical health. These are a few of my favorite programs that will put you on the path to whole health for mom and baby.
Active Moms Club (owned by the fantastic Cassandra Hawkinson) provides Chicago moms with prenatal and postnatal fitness classes they can bring their children to. Their exercise programs are specially designed to help you enjoy a healthy pregnancy and return to or enhance your pre-baby fitness level in a supportive, small group environment. Cassandra also offers a wealth of helpful fitness information for pre and postnatal moms on her blog on topics ranging from essential core strengthening exercises, to how to choose a sports bra for your postnatal body to what to do about that nagging wrist pain you seem to have developed as a result of lifting that ridiculously heavy infant seat. Participants in The Chicago New Moms Group receive discounts to AMC’s classes. Be sure to check your group folder for a postcard with your discount code.
Fit4Mom is the country’s largest fitness program for moms offering pre and post-natal fitness classes for every stage of motherhood. They offer a variety of classes from more traditional stroller classes to barre classes, which incorporate cardio and strength training, to Body Back which involves high intensity, interval workouts along with before and after fitness assessments, a meal plan and food journal, coaching and support in a motivating and inspirational program. Fit4Mom offers a free class to any mom coming to try out their classes for the first time. Not in Chicago, check out their website for locations closer to you.
CocoonCare is not only The Chicago New Moms Group current host but they also offer a one stop fitness and wellness experience that takes you on a holistic journey through your pregnancy and beyond. From childbirth classes to pre and postnatal fitness, to breastfeeding support to sorting out your sleep issues and potty training your toddler, CocoonCare offers everything an expectant or new parent might need all under one roof.
Ensuring your emotional health goes hand in hand with ensuring your physical health as a new mom. Many moms assume that if they aren’t feeling overjoyed at the birth of their baby that there is something wrong with them or that they are doing it “wrong.” As I say to every group of new moms, there is no one right way to parent but if you are feeling like you are not yourself emotionally, it could be that you are experiencing postpartum depression. I strongly encourage you to seek out help, even if you aren’t certain that you have PPD. Even if you don’t have all the symptoms for an actual diagnosis, you can experience a great deal of relief by working with a professional. Please get help.
The Blossom Method is a phenomenal psychotherapy practice here in Chicago that expertly focuses on women in the postpartum period. It was founded by two licensed clinical social workers, Aviva Cohen and Bridget Doyle. In addition to helping women with postpartum mood concerns, they specialize in working with families who have experienced perinatal loss, fertility, work/life balance issues, women with high risk pregnancies, and complex medical diagnoses.
Behavior and Development information
As new parents, what is the one question that everyone is asking? “Is my child normal?” Right? If you haven’t spent that much time around small children or don’t have a background in child development, it’s hard to know what is normal. I would argue that even if you know about child development, when it comes to your own child, it is hard to have any perspective. These are a few great resources for learning about development. Additionally, a good developmental play class can provide a lot of insight into ways to interact with your baby to foster his/her development. CocoonCare offers a class called ChildSpace, which I highly recommend to new parents.
Pathways uses evidence-based practice and multimedia as tools to promote each child’s fullest inclusion. They strive to empower health professionals and parents with knowledge of the benefit of early detection and early intervention for children’s sensory, motor, and communication development. In addition to being a pediatric therapy practice in Glenview, IL offering best practices in physical, occupational, and speech therapy services, they have many excellent developmental resources on their website.
Wonder Weeks is a book by Frans Plooij and Hetty Van De Rijt that helps parents gain understanding of their baby’s developmental leaps to help them through these often confusing times in their new lives. You will better understand the way your baby is thinking and why he acts as he does at certain times. You will be able to choose the right kind of help to give him when he needs it and the right kind of environment to help him make the most of every leap in his development. The book goes through the different leaps that babies experience and help you understand why things are happening when they happen. The best part: they developed a handy app that sends you notifications when your child is about to make their leaps!
Sleep is really all most new parents want to discuss, and we certainly spend a great deal of time talking about it during the group. There are probably thousands of websites (and maybe just as many books) dedicated to the topic of child sleep. Much of the information contradicts itself, and it is hard to interpret how it applies to your specific child. In addition to my own sleep consulting site (www.sleeptightconsultants.com) with several great resource articles, I highly recommend checking out The Sleep Lady (Kim West) website. She has written hundreds of articles on the topic of sleep or topics related to sleep and children’s behavior. She sends out a weekly newsletter with helpful articles and has developed an online community that includes regular opportunities to access experts (trained by her) to whom you can directly ask your questions about your specific child’s sleep. In addition, I highly recommend her book, Good Night Sleep Tight for families who are looking for an alternative, gentle method to typical “Cry It Out” sleep training methods.
By now you have probably figured out that parenting is the hardest job you have ever done or ever will do. Good, evidenced-based guidance is often hard to tease out from the endless spew of Facebook advice. The following are two very trusted resources providing useful parenting advice for children of all ages.
Janet Lansbury is RIE Associate and a certified Parent/Infant Guidance Class instructor who studied under Magda Gerber after realizing herself that parenting was much harder then she had originally thought. Through her website and books, she provide clarity, inspiration (and maybe a smile or two) by sharing insights she’s gained through her parenting classes, experiences as a mother, and studies with Magda Gerber.
Positive Parenting Solutions was developed by Amy McCready. She is the leader in providing training for parents of toddlers to teens. Parenting educator and TODAY Show contributor, Amy McCready will teach you the tools you need to effortlessly manage day-to-day discipline challenges of raising children, leaving you more confident, less stressed and more in control. She offers workshops in the form of webinars, often for free, where she provides real solutions to the parenting problems that we face everyday.
This will keep you sane
If there is one thing I know for certain, as a parent, you have to be able to laugh at yourself and your circumstances. It is the only thing that will keep you sane through the hard times. The following are three of my favorite places to go for good parenting laughs. They are real, honest reflections of the craziness that we call parenting.
Scary Mommy started as an innocent online, baby book to chronicle Jill Smokler’s stay-at-home days with her children, but quickly transformed into a vibrant community of parents, bought together by a common theme: Parenting doesn’t have to be perfect. Jill posts articles from a wide variety of writers, who all have one thing in common: they are parents. Many of these posts are funny. Some are serious. All are authentic in their portrayal of the reality of parenting.
Honest Toddler (for when you move into the toddler years) is written from the perspective of a toddler. For those with toddlers, you know that they are the ones from whom the expression “kids say the damndest things!” originated. She tells it like it is and makes you realize that you aren’t alone in the insanity of the toddler years. Its all about survival!
Parenting illustrated with crappy pictures was created by Amber Dusick. She started this blog because she was going crazy and needed a place to vent. Since she don’t have a photographer following her around, she wound up drawing some crappy pictures to illustrate the day to day things that happen as a parent. Apparently these things happen to other parents too! She was shocked as anyone. And very relieved. Brief posts that won’t take much time to check out but will be sure to give you a big laugh.