Supporting a New Mother’s Ability to Parent

Providing care to a new mother and her newborn is a privilege that should not be taken lightly as a healthcare provider.  Everyone that plays a role in either educating or participating in physical and psychological support must ensure the new mother feels safe and cared for in her ability to take care of her newborn baby.  All too often, well-meaning friends or relatives may try to help take care of the new family by stepping in to tell the mom how to perform a skill or try to help her rest by taking care of the baby.  In some instances, and in some cultures, this may be a positive thing.  Unfortunately, many times it can only make a new mother feel less secure in her mothering ability and possibly weaken her bond with her newborn.

As a lactation consultant/educator in my acute care setting, I have seen this happen too many times recently and it has become a focus of my education for both nursing staff as well as new families. Most of the healthcare professionals I have the privilege of working with are very supportive with breastfeeding and do a wonderful job supporting the new mother’s decisions on how she cares for her new baby.  Our role should be to educate and support decisions that the new mother has made based on informed choices based off evidence-based research, such as the benefits to both the mother and her newborn on the practice of skin-to-skin and breastfeeding.

Unfortunately, I have worked with a few moms lately that have been so distraught over the care they have received and the misinformation regarding breastfeeding that has caused me to develop some new tactics for education and caring for this precious new family.  Mom needs to know that she is the one that knows her newborn the best and should be taught how to read her newborn’s cues if she is having difficulty identifying them, whether from medications or exhaustion. Moms should be given uninterrupted time to bond with their newborns, allowing them to perform skin-to-skin contact at all times, allowing her baby free access to the breast and nursing as often as possible.  Building that new mother’s confidence in her ability to care for her baby should be one of the most important things that a healthcare provider can do to improve the success of that new family and ensure the health of both the mother and her newborn.

Reassuring the mother that her body will provide everything her newborn needs to survive, and how to evaluate and ensure that the baby is thriving is the message that should be sent—not that “we may need to provide a supplement if your milk doesn’t seem to be enough”.  Assessing and evaluating to ensure that all variables are normal and providing assistance as needed is the key—not making mothers feel scared that they may not have everything her baby needs, thus impairing her confidence right from the very beginning.

Educating new families on how to advocate for themselves and assuring them that they can fully care for their newborn should be the key focus of our courses.  We should provide that message in our trainings as well as teaching new mothers in the communities and the acute care settings.  The messages our new families hear from us and see modeled will make a lasting impact on how they become a family and how they provide care for themselves and their newborn.  Ensuring that we allow the mother to feel safe, secure, and comfortable in her ability to mother is one of the most important things we can do to impact the health of our families and our communities.

Dawn Teeple

CLE®, CAPPA Faculty

Dawn has been a Registered Nurse for over 35 years, specializing in Maternal-Child Health. She has worked in all areas supporting mothers and babies including the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Labor and Delivery, Mother/Baby, Lactation Consultant, Childbirth Educator, Elementary School nurse, as well as a Nursing Professor teaching new nurses about her passion for working with mothers and their newborns. She is a Certified Lactation Educator working full-time as lactation support in her local hospital. She will be graduating with her Doctorate in Nursing Practice, having completed her graduate project on the benefits of skin-to-skin contact and increasing the rates of exclusive breastfeeding. Dawn has been married for 28 years, has 3 wonderful children (25, 22 and 8) and has breastfed all of her babies! She loves to travel and spend time with her family, camping and at the beach.

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