Mental Health: Be Kinder to New Mothers

I am feeling angry about something. I have had these thoughts before, but having a chat with a friend has brought these feelings back to the fore. I ignored them previously, as I think most mothers do, because we do not want to rock the boat. It is typical. We always find our voice when someone near us is hurt and not ourselves.

I suppose it is good that we can find our voice.

Having recently had to treat my own mental health with a little bit more cotton wool cushioning then usual, I am keenly aware of other parents and their mental health. Having kids is amazing and a rare gift. We also have to adjust to a whole new world and even if we are lucky enough to have fully healthy children who require little medical attention or we have no major financial struggle or family issues, this can be difficult. Add other challenges and it is, as you can imagine, possibly more difficult to adjust to being a mother.free-baby-carriage-clipart-11

In this world where being Perfect Parent is a huge pressure, it is even more likely that our mental health night suffer.

So you can imagine my horror when my friend, with two under three like myself, quietly related an anecdote to me that must have sat with her for some time.

She told me all without vitriol in her tone, without bitterness. It was a sadly told tale of a dejected feeling imposed upon her in the early days of parenting.

We were analysing and talking, feeling our way through parenting over coffee and generally supporting each other. Telling cute stories of what our babies did or said, sharing tips or notes. I talked a little about my own Judge Dodo experiences. My friend had some thoughts on this, but said she had hadn’t felt those judgements at all. In fact, she said, the only real judgement she felt in the city was if you chose not to breastfeed or had stopped breast feeding early. I was able to say that I hadn’t felt those judgments myself in my area. She went on to talk about an early days experience she had with her first. Having moved to a new place, she was away from family and old friends and conscious she could become quite lonely with a small baby on maternity leave. Her PH nurse advised a Parent and Baby group. My PH nurse advised me the same even though I was surrounded by friends and family, saying that you need to get out and talk to other parents. My doctor had advised the same. Good for mental health. It is common practise to encourage a new mother to join these groups. So my friend did. She arrived at a meeting. She was told it was for breast feeding mothers only. Having stopped breastfeeding (not that it was anyone’s business) she had to turn around with her buggy and tot, pack up and go home. This made me fume. A new mother rejected just when she needed others.

Imagine it. You are a new mother, a new parent, in a strange area feeling your way through life. You go out on a limb, put yourself our of your comfort zone and try meet other people in the same boat as you. However, because of your decisions regarding your own child, you are turned away. I don’t know about my friend, but I know if it had been me I round have teared up. I know because I had spent time in a hospital with my first could who was born ill and I had anxiety after having my second baby. This cruel exclusion would have tipped me over on either occasion.

Surely the group leaders know how tough it is to get organised and get out the door as a parent with a baby? How can they justify this type of segregation?

Can you imagine if a Parent and child group turned away a parent for breastfeeding?baby-1753205_640

Can you imagine the outcry if a sign read Bottle-Feeding Only Group?

Can you imagine a vegetarian restaurant turning away a chicken nugget lover due to their carnivorous leanings?

On the reverse, can you imagine the rage that a vegan, a vegetarian or a coeliac (or anyone) would feel if they were turned away from an eating establishment?

There are many reasons a parent may or not breastfeed. This could be a very tough subject for someone.

How dare a group decide to be exclusively a breast feeding one?  It is a discrimination.

When did becoming a mother mean joining the cast of Mean Girls? 

Can I make it clear- I am in absolute favour of breastfeeding.  I also am in favour of bottle feeding. You can like both cats and dogs you know even if loud voices are forcing you to choose. I am in favour of nourishment.

My mother’s time was an era where bottle feeding was more popular. I was exclusively bottle fed.

I have managed to get a few college degrees and read the odd book with big words. It hasn’t affected my intelligence that I was an SMA child. I also know that there were no mother and baby groups in my Mum’s time and that wasn’t good either. She needed the support that wasn’t there but we are blessed to have it now. We all need the help. Whatever we choose for our babies.

I remember witnessing an unpleasant encounter in a hotel bar restaurant one day. It was not long after my husband and I married but before we had children. I saw a young couple with two small children, one of which was a baby, arriving for Sunday lunch. The mother breastfed her child at the table. They were all there to have their lunch, so fair enough. I wouldn’t have even noticed only an elderly couple next to the family complained to them and I looked up when I heard the fractious tones. It was all quite awful. This should not be the way. Feeding a baby is feeding a baby, wherever and how you do it. We can support each other better than that.

 

So these exclusive Mother and Baby groups need to get their act together. This elderly couple were not going to change their minds at this stage ( I am unaware of their own parenting status) but a young mother doesn’t have to be made feel guilty and wretched by other parents. As a teacher, I don’t agree with turning away a new student on the grounds that they have a different faith, belief or any reason really. Therefore, l feel the same for a new Mother. When that group turned away my friend that day, did they realise the harm they may have had done? She feeds her baby, loves her baby. It is not like bottle feeding Mamas are filling their bubbas with Coca-Cola or spoon feeding them mashed up Rolos. I don’t see how the person who turned away my friend didn’t just offer her a chance to come in and have a coffee with the other parents, seeing as she has made the journey. I am sure the others wouldn’t have minded at all.

 

Mothers, we need to be there for each other. Don’t turn on each other. We are at our most vulnerable with a new child. Respect each other’s choices. Let us be kinder. We just don’t know what is really happening in people’s lives. A kindness could be a total game changer. avopix-392909536
The Pramshed

59 thoughts on “Mental Health: Be Kinder to New Mothers

  1. That poor woman….I can’t believe they did that. I would have been in tears.
    I remember having my first. The uncertainty, seeking reassurance , wanting to be the absolute best new mum. It’s so daunting and to be rejected like that from other mothers is just wrong. We as mothers need to accept, understand and support each other as individuals. I agree with you here Orla, we need to be kind to each other. X

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I like how you said you are for nourishment. I think a lot of people forget that it’s about what is for the best interest of the baby that matters. Some mothers just can’t breastfeed and that’s important! Or some babies can’t have breast milk – my one friend’s son was allergic to her milk. He would break out in hives when he had it so they had to switch to formula. I am so shocked that she was asked to leave a parenting class over that. Those people should have known better!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. This really gets me and makes me angry. There really should be no shame in breastfeeding, or even formula feeding. It really doesn’t matter how your baby is fed, just that your baby is fed. Thanks so much for linking up at #fortheloveofBLOG. Claire x

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Yes to mutually inclusive without judgement, life is hard enough… My daughter is 27 now, but I remember judgements like this… I was younger then, more impressionable, and it mattered… I know I would feel differently now-a-days… AND I would be blogging about it!!! Like you are! Xx

    Liked by 1 person

  5. What an awful experience to go through! I can sympathise. I couldn’t bf my first child despite trying so hard and my health visitor made me feel like the devil incarnate for using a bottle, rather than boob. Instead of helping she made me even more nervous and anxious that I was doing harm to this much longer for child…
    We definitely need to show more support to fragile mums xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This breaks my heart to read. Breastfeeding was so difficult for me. I felt like such a failure as a mom. Ugh, and the faces of disappointment on some women’s faces when you tell them you only were able to do it for so many weeks. It’s so stressful because we all set out to do it perfectly and invariably find out there is no such thing. Mothers are all just doing their best and we should pat each other on the back for that more often.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. What a horrible thing to do to a young mother. It angers me when people try to force their way of doing things on other people In my opinion, they do this out of insecurity. They need you to do things the same way as they did in order to feel validated. Don’t pay attention to them. As long as your baby is healthy that’s all that matters. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I know! It’s horrible and makes me angry. Grrr…. It amazes me that even as adults we have to fight ostracization. I expect it from young kids because they don’t understand how hurtful it is. But these women are adults and know better.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. As so many have said in the comments already, I’m horrified that your friend was turned away from this group. You beautifully point out that the key isn’t how a child is fed, it is THAT the child is nourished with both food and love.
    Where does this judgment come from? I know I felt it from both sides: judger and judgee. On the one hand, it’s absolutely no one’s business how any mother (or parent) feeds a child. But somehow it seems like it is. It doesn’t stop with breastfeeding/bottle feeding. If I don’t buy exclusively organic food for my child to eat, or to bring to soccer games when it’s my turn to bring the snack I feel judged. Maybe it’s mostly in my own mind. But, it’s there nonetheless. It’s almost like we’re always looking for affirmation in one way or the other that our way is the best way. Which I think may come from the deep insecurity of most parents that we really have no idea what we’re doing. Maybe I’m killing my child slowly with allowing him to eat lunchmeat with nitrates. I can’t keep track of everything I’m “supposed” to do, so I just look at other people and think, “At least I don’t do THAT!” Ugh. That’s the worst. I think you bring up such a compelling point. One that has obviously got me thinking.
    Thanks, Orla. I really appreciate the post as a chance to reflect not just on how I was treated as a new (and current) mom, but how I treat others as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There is so much to respond to here! Thank you for your comments and kind words firstly.
      I cannot answer where the judgement comes from but it is definitely a lot to do with social media and TV I believe. We want to do the right things- but become caught up in what these right things are.
      I feed my kids good home cooked meals. On a busy weekend, I felt terribly guilty giving them potato waffles, justifying it. They were thrilled by these waffles which I couldn’t understand. Where had they even seen them? I suppose that they just have been exposed to more than I know and I should cop on. A potato waffle making me guilty? Really? I know someone reading this may have automatically judged however….go on, admit it reader!!
      My mother in law tells a story about giving a child a spoon of whiskey when it had colic. A years ‘ ago tale. I look at her with my mouth open. I judge it!
      We all judge and are judged I reckon. I just hope I can be more empathetic now x

      Liked by 1 person

      1. 🙂 I think you’ve got the right idea: let’s forgive ourselves and be more empathetic to others. It really can be that simple. At least I hope so!

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Bah, and they harp on about equality and here we have a great example of exclusion on grounds that boil moods very quickly. I felt this one right near the start; not on breast feeding issues (bit obvious that re me!), but I was the primary carer of my two back in the day when Dads were less accepted. Ostracised at toddler groups, looked at strangely at school gates, no immediate family (200 miles is not your average pop round for some banter and my parents were in the process of finding the clearing at the end of the path anyway). I found it very isolating and it affected me greatly. This post just reminded (brought back) all the feelings you refer to. I think the whole issue of parenting is such a change of lifestyle when it arrives that help and support (that kindness you refer to) should be up there, more so with existing parents that have been through it. Nobody know the background of any individual they have just met, some have it easier than others it’s true, but that does not mean ostracising anyone just because they are not breastfeeding, or…in my case… they are a bloke!

    That said; despite the personal MH grievances I still chaired a pre-school charity for 5 years and was a school governor for 6.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well it is interesting you say that as I mentioned Dads several times as I wrote, and the discrimination they can receive, but went off on such another tangent that I had to edit. It became a while other rant. Another one for another day I feel, but I totally get your points. You are right also that this is a ‘mood boiler’. I really felt I might be opening the old wormcan ☺ having said that, you wouldn’t have been included in that group either for purely biological reasons

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It is a worm can and such a big subject with so many avenues. Not all about discrimination as such either. I’ve encountered/seen how isolation depression sets in and have helped quite a few people deal ith that, but once you’ve seen it then look around you can detect it in many faux smiling faces. I feel these sorts of discussion should be happening a lot more to ensure the discrimination issues are not brushed away and lifestyle changes don’t have any MH overspill if there is no help, or even allowing those needing help to feel they can ask for it and not feel like failures for doing so.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. How awful and sad for your friend. There is way too much pressure put on everyone to do the right thing, let alone new Mums. I’m not a Mum myself but have a sister and friend who faced this pressure.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You have seen it then. It can be so hard. I think pressure to be Peter Perfect goes on in a lot of lifestyles though. I recently saw that an article in a paper attacked mother bloggers who claimed they were ‘slummy mummys’. These women (I can’t speak for them all but I read a few of the named bloggers’ articles) but these women are great mothers who are fighting the ‘perfect’ image by being honest about their day. Very hurtful as you can imagine.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Ugh, difficult and what an unpleasant experience for your friend. I wonder if the group was advertised as being a breastfeeding support group or not? The thing is, breastfeeding dyads do need a special kind of support. It’s not the societal norm and mothers are faced with booby traps (pun intended) every day. So breastfeeding mothers do need spaces that are exclusive to them where they can share their experiences with other mamas who get it. I was really active in my La Leche League group for many years and am so thankful for that sacred space to seek the support of other mothers on a similar path to me. There are plenty of non-feeding related groups around for general new mothering support, so it’s a shame your friend wasn’t directed to one of them.

    But it was undoubtedly rude to turn your friend away. Perhaps inviting her in for a sit-down and a cuppa, along with a chat about infant feeding, might have been helpful then or in the long run for your friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have another friend who is very involved in La Leche too and has talked to me often about the amazing support she gets (and now gives as her boy is three and she is no longer new to it) and she can be their for new mums. Absolutely brilliant and neccessary service.
      I think in this particular city it is being sold as not the norm not to breastfeed! A lot of pressure is put on people. In my friend’s case, the groups advertised mention supports being offered but not exclusivity in attendance at the meetings. It seems pretty extreme that she wasn’t invited to stay but maybe somewhere someone thought about it later that evening and regretted the choice. I like to think so. You can often tell by a parent’s eyes that they need company, adult company for a bit.
      You are right- they should have offered the cuppa.😊 that is my overall point. Kindness over judgement xx thanks so much for your comments and interest!

      Like

  12. My kids are older now (21,18 & 15) and I have really found that we need different support as parents through each different stage – however many books we read, there really is no definitive “guide” to bringing up children is there? I struggled to feed all of mine and I didn’t enjoy it. Mastitis, breast abscess, thrush, cabbage leaves(!)….you name it, I did it/had it. I just could not have sat down at a table and started to feed as I had to use nipple shields and then a shell on the other side as I had enough milk for a small army. With number 2 I remember being constantly hassled from the time he turned 6 months as he was on the light side and weighed 18lbs at a year – he remains a 6 feet something streak of lightening, so obviously his build! With number 3 I should have a pro….but she lost weight as she couldn’t latch on, so I decided to express my milk and give it in a bottle. Well this caused a storm!! But why….it was still breast milk, just given from a bottle and teat.
    The judgement and competition between mums is continuous, when instead we should all be supporting each other in a job that there is no one job description for! So pleased that you shared this on #BigUpYourBlog – I plan to share this link on PainPals regular feature Monday Magic – Inspiring Blogs for You! You should get a pingback message when I post it, Claire x

    Liked by 1 person

  13. There is so much judgement between women, in general, I feel. When you are a new mother, with a newborn, most-likely very little sleep, and hormones that are raging like crazy – judgment can feel abusive. I often yearn for the ‘tribes’, the ‘communities’ you read about in stories set in simpler times. In fact, I was just talking to my mother about this the other day as we gardened together. My great-grandfather wrote about the ‘community’ that was alive and well before the 1930’s here in Minnesota. How farmers would help other farmers with no expectation of pay, mothers would help other mothers if one fell ill, or a meal or two was needed. The ‘community’ was there, without judgement, without expectation of receiving anything in return. Can we ever get this back? Can we forgo the judgement and just be there to support, listen, and offer advice when helpful?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think that makes a lot of sense. Emotions are heightened and you almost feel victimised. I suppose I am hoping we can be more aware of this for others when ours are a little older.
      The tribes were highly effective as a social group, we are almost killing that aren’t we.
      I like you Minnesota anecdote. My own grandparents lived a similar way. One home would kill a pig and share the meat in the community and others would reciprocate. Each would watch others’ children.
      Thank you for commenting x This piece has been emotive for people!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I think this is absolutely disgusting treatment of a new mum. My first child I only breatfed for 6 weeks as I had mastitis which I would wish on my worst enemy, my second I was so scared of getting it again I didn’t beast feed, my 3rd I breastfed for 9 months and loved it…I only stopped because the little so and so used to bite me at no time was I made to feel my decisions were wrong and I was inadequate especially whe I didn’t feed my 2nd son….THEY HAD NO RIGHT TO DO THIS (Please get me ) the leaders details…This has left me fuming…No one has a right to judge whatever the decision and it could be medical….Rant over 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I found myself getting very ranty too. I asked my friend’s permission to wrote the piece (as I couldn’t get the anger out of my head) and she said yes. I have researched the groups and even though they advertise a breast feeding support, they don’t specify that the parent toddler groups will be exclusively breast feeding. Hopefully this is one off example of bad practice. I know she feels better for having had this sounded out x thank you so much for your honesty.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. That’s an awful thing to happen anyone. You can imagine the outcry and rage if it was a bottle feeding group, and they turned away a breastfeeding mother!!
    What exactly is the purpose of a ‘breast feeding only’ group? How do they benefit from it? *My mind boggles*

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Urgh! This makes me so mad as well!

    One of my friends could not breastfeed and found that she had no support either. It made her so mad that she set up a fb group to help other mothers that for whatever reason can’t breastfeed. I’ll leave the link just in case it helps other mothers that find your blog. I hope that is okay!

    Here is the link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/736301859852671/

    Liked by 2 people

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