Christina Cooper spent weeks crying on the phone to strangers who offered her sympathy and coupons. Cooper, a parenting blogger and support group facilitator, suffered severe depression after the birth of her now-7-year-old twins.
Living in a new city where she didn't know many people and afraid of overtaxing her husband and family, Cooper began calling the 800-numbers listed on the packaging for baby products like Pampers and Enfamil.
“I needed to talk daily, even hourly, to someone trained to be nice no matter what,” Cooper wrote in the Huffington Post. Eventually, she made contact with local chapters of the motherhood support groups MOMS Club and MotherWoman.
In early infancy, a child needs a “yes mother,” according to parenting experts William and Martha Sears, a pediatrician and RN. “Baby wants to nurse, you oblige. Baby wants to be held, you do it. Being unconditionally responsive is part of the parent-infant contract.”
At the same time, especially with a fussy or “high need” child, it’s important for parents to consider their own basic well-being. This is where a support network can be valuable, either for actual help taking care of the child or for psychological support and advice.
The support network should extend beyond the mother and father. According to Claudia M. Gold, M.D., blogger for Psychology Today, “Enormous strain on a marriage may occur when a spouse is the sole source of emotional support.”
Gold points out that in past generations, American mothers practiced a “lying-in” period, thee to four weeks in which the new mother focused on resting and caring for the baby while other women helped with household chores. Today's mothers are often expected to function as they did before the baby was born.
One of MotherWoman’s mantras is, “We believe that it's OK to ask for help and not stop asking until we find it.” Asking for help from family and friends is a key skill for stressed parents, but parenting hotlines can also provide support. These help lines are staffed by volunteers who will listen and offer advice.
The Fussy Baby Network 888-431-BABY
National Parent Helpline 855- 4A PARENT
Parental Stress Line 800-632-8188
Postpartum Support International 800-944-4PPD
Marsha Maxwell is an online journalist, writing teacher and PhD student at the University of Utah. She can be reached at aboutSLC@gmail.com.