How Different Cultures Protect New Mothers, by Kathleen Kendall-Tackett

Kathleen Kendall-Tackett examines how other cultures protect new mothers’ well-being.

Is ours not a strange culture that focuses so much attention on childbirth—virtually all of it based on anxiety and fear—and so little on the crucial time after birth, when patterns are established that will affect the individual and the family for decades? Suzanne Arms.

As citizens of an industrialized nation, we often act as if we have nothing to learn from low-income, developing countries. Yet many of these cultures are doing something extraordinarily right—especially in how they care for new mothers. In their classic paper, Stern and Kruckman (1983) present an anthropological critique of the literature. They found that in the cultures they studied, postpartum disorders, including the “baby blues,” were virtually nonexistent. By contrast, 50% to 85% of new mothers in industrialized nations experience the “baby blues,” and 15% to 25% (or more) experience postpartum depression.

Ken Tackett

What makes the difference?

Stern and Kruckman noted that cultures who had a low incidence of postpartum mood disorders all had rituals that provided support and care for new mothers. These cultures, although quite different from each other, all shared

5 protective social structures

Ken Tackett
  1. A distinct postpartum period. In these other cultures, the postpartum period is recognized as a time that is distinct from normal life. It is a time when the mother is supposed to recuperate. Her activities are limited and her female relatives take care of her. This type of care was also common in colonial America, when postpartum was referred to as the “lying-in” period. This period functioned as a time of “apprenticeship,” when more experienced mothers mentored the new mother.
  2. Protective measures reflecting the new mother’s vulnerability. During the postpartum period, new mothers are recognized as being especially vulnerable. Ritual bathing, washing of hair, massage, binding of the abdomen, and other types of personal care are prominent in the postpartum rituals of rural Guatemala, Mayan women in the Yucatan, Latina women both in the United States and Mexico. These rituals also mark the postpartum period as distinct from other times in women’s lives.
  3. Social seclusion and mandated rest. Postpartum is a time for the mother to rest, regain strength, and care for the baby. Related to the concept of vulnerability is the widespread practice of social seclusion for new mothers. For example, in the Punjab, women and their babies are secluded from everyone but female relatives and their midwives for five days. Seclusion is said to promote breastfeeding and it limits a woman’s normal activities. In contrast, many American mothers are expected to entertain others—even during their hospital stay. Once they get home, this practice continues as they are often expected to entertain family and friends who come to see the baby.
  4. Functional assistance. In order for seclusion and mandated rest to occur, mothers must be relieved of their normal workload. In these cultures, women are provided with someone to take care of older children and perform their household duties. As in the colonial period in the United States, women often return to the homes of their family of origin to ensure that this type of assistance is available.
  5. Social recognition of her new role and status. In the cultures Stern and Kruckman studied, there was a great deal of personal attention given to the mother. In China and Nepal, very little attention is paid to the pregnancy; much more attention is focused on the mother after the baby is born. This has been described as “mothering the mother.” For example, the status of the new mother is recognized through social rituals and gifts. In Punjabi culture, there is the “stepping-out ceremony,” which includes ritual bathing and hair washing performed by the midwife, and a ceremonial meal prepared by a Brahmin. When the mother returns to her husband’s family, she returns with many gifts she has been given for herself and the baby. The following is a description of a postpartum ritual performed by the Chagga of Uganda. It differs quite a bit from what mothers in industrialized countries may experience. 

Three months after the birth of her child, the Chagga woman’s head is shaved and crowned with a bead tiara, she is robed in an ancient skin garment worked with beads, a staff such as the elders carry is put in her hand, and she emerges from her hut for her first public appearance with her baby. Proceeding slowly towards the market, they are greeted with songs such as are sung to warriors returning from battle. She and her baby have survived the weeks of danger. The child is no longer vulnerable, but a baby who has learned what love means, has smiled its first smiles, and is now ready to learn about the bright, loud world outside (Dunham, 1992; p. 148).

What American mothers experience

Ken Tackett

By contrast, American mothers often find that people are more concerned about them before the birth. While a woman is pregnant, people may offer to help her carry things or to open doors or to ask how she is feeling. Friends will give her a baby shower, where she will receive emotional support and gifts for her baby. There are prenatal classes and prenatal checkups, and many people wanting to know about the details of her daily experience.

(To read more of this article, please follow the link below….)

Wireless Motherhood: When Social Media is the New Village, by Isa Down


Hey, mamas, anyone else awake? I’m having a really tough time tonight with anxiety, and have no one to talk to.

I wrote that when my son was five-weeks-old. It was 3 a.m. He was sleeping soundly on my chest, and I remember wondering why I couldn’t just enjoy this moment with him. It was so quiet, even the crickets had stopped their incessant chirping. My son’s breaths whispered across my skin with each exhale: it was a completely pristine moment.

Yet there I sat, anxious and alone. There were so many unknowns, and in the middle of the night, as a new single mom, I had no one to talk to. Within moments, women from around the world were commenting that they were thinking of me, sending positive thoughts, hoping everything was okay, there to talk if I needed. They were awake too, facing their own struggles.

In those early weeks and months, I remember feeling more than once that social media was my lifeline. The harsh glare off my phone was a beacon of hope, there in the dark with my son cradled against me.

Anxiety is just one of several perinatal mood disorders (PMD) commonly experienced by women during and after pregnancy. Postpartum depression is the most renowned, but PMDs also include psychosis, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive tendencies, to name a few. An estimated 1 in 7 women experience postpartum depression alone.

Despite their prevalence, women who experience these disorders can feel incredibly isolated. Depression, insomnia, and panic attacks do not fit the socially constructed mold of blissed-out new motherhood. This sets the stage for mothers to be riddled with guilt and shame for not being able to connect, or sleep, or leave the house. There were so many moments when I sat with friends, smiling and nodding, all the while wanting desperately to say: “I am so overwhelmed. I need help.” It’s hard to show the rawness of motherhood, because it still feels so taboo.

Perinatal mood disorders have been the dirty little secret of motherhood for far too long. It’s becoming easier to talk about, as celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, Drew Barrymore, and Kristen Bell come forward and share their experiences. Actress Hayden Panettiere’spersonal struggle was even mirrored in her character’s storyline on the TV show “Nashville” last year.

And that does help. Yet hearing that these seemingly perfect women have also struggled doesn’t necessarily make a mama feel less alienated as she watches the hours tick by in the night, alone and anxious. This is true largely because our society is highly autonomous. We prize individual triumph and the ability to succeed on your own above a group mentality. This mindset has its benefits, but also tends to alienate new mothers. In fact, this has become such a big issue that psychologists have wondered if postpartum depression is a misnomer, and should instead be called postpartum neglect.

(To read more of this article, please follow the link below…)

A Mum Suffering From Postnatal Depression Writes Thank You Note To Person Who Brightened Her Day

A great story via “Kindness Blog” about how kindness made a difference to a Mum with Post Natal Depression.

Kindness Blog ♥️

A mother suffering from postnatal depression has written a thank you note to a café owner whose kind gesture made a difference to her a day.

The new mother from Australia, appealed to PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia) to share her note so she could get it seen but asked to remain anonymous.

The woman was staying in a mother-baby care unit for treatment for her depression when she had an encounter in a café that reminded her that..

…”the smallest kindness can make a difference”.

The full letter is below;

cafe kindness

The letter, which was uploaded on PANDA, has prompted other mothers suffering from postnatal depression to share their own stories.

“Cafés were my saviour when I had PND, a reason to get out and feel part of life and not just invisible at home,” wrote one mum.

“It was therapy to me and I now take my five-year-old…

View original post 75 more words

When Nurses See More Than Birth and Babies – By Shelly Lopez Gray

Shelly Lopez Gray, a maternity ward nurse writes about the tragedy of still birth.

Kindness Blog ♥️

sad nursePerinatal nursing is sweet and magical and everything you think it would be. But everyone only thinks of the birth and the babies. No one ever thinks or talks about the pain of pregnancy, the heartbreak of infertility or the difficulty of death.

One day, I was working triage and I seemed to be seeing patient after patient. By lunchtime, I had finally cleared all the beds in triage and was finally going to eat breakfast when a patient walked through the door with a slew of family members.

The patient was very tiny. As I walked behind her, I couldn’t even tell she was pregnant. As I put her in the triage bed, she told me that she hadn’t felt her baby move since the night before. Tomorrow was her due date.

I put the monitor on her belly and heard nothing. Even though I knew at that moment…

View original post 687 more words

‘A Monster Ate My Mum’…a book about Post Natal Depression… for kids! A Review from the UK blog “adventures with monster”

Monster Collage FY

‘A Monster Ate My Mum’ 

by Jen Faulkner

Illustrated by Helen Braid

Priced £5.99

We were sent this very special story book for review by the lovely Jen Faulkner, a sufferer of Post-Natal Depression,  who wrote the book for her children after finding it difficult to explain the illness to them in a way that they would understand and now hopes that the book will also help other families affected by PND. 

Aimed at children from 2-12 years, this rhyming and beautifully illustrated story is written from a child’s perspective, a little boy goes on a hunt to find the parts of his mum that he misses;

‘her smile, her laugh, her spark’

(To read the rest of this review, follow the link below.  “Adventures With Monster” is a UK blog which reviews books and other products for families with young children).

‘A Monster Ate My Mum’…a review.

I’m not a ‘Nipple Nazi’, I’m a Breastfeeding Counsellor, by Kim Lock in Australia

breastfeeding FY

Source: “The Guardian


Her baby is nine days old when she calls. In a voice thickened with tears: “He’s lost weight, the midwife says I have to give him formula.”

I have heard this countless times. I try to respond as sympathetically and tactfully as I can. I cannot directly contradict her midwife, yet I must empathise. “You sound so upset,” I say. “Do you want to use formula?”

“No,” she replies, with the emphasis that never fails to surprise me. “I want to breastfeed.”

So we talk. I ask about his nappies, to ascertain what is going in. We talk about weight, a loss of a mere 20 grams since birth is well within the realm of normal. I explain how her baby’s instinct for suckling and milk removal drives milk production and supply, and the effect formula top-ups might have. We talk about his feeding behaviour, crying, sleep – unpredictable, irregular and still normal – and what support is available. Together, we identify ideas: skin-to-skin contact, safe co-sleeping to facilitate night feeds when her prolactin levels are higher, allowing “comfort sucking” when she is comfortable to do so to increase baby’s calorie intake.

Breastfeeding-004I feel honoured to have witnessed a woman find confidence in herself.
A week later, baby has gained weight. Months later, baby is continuing to grow, exclusively breastfeeding with ease and the woman’s confidence has increased dramatically. Just like every other time, I feel honoured to have witnessed a woman find confidence in herself.

Her story is not unique: a hurried health professional responding to a chart, plus a new mother who has rarely seen a breastfeeding baby – it’s how women slip into motherhood every day. And it can make for a difficult introduction to breastfeeding.

Almost a decade ago I was there myself. Uncertain, afraid, confused. Believing, because my baby cried a lot, that my milk was not enough. That I was not enough.

I have been a breastfeeding counsellor for six years and still every parent teaches me something: women with insufficient glandular tissue; containers of milk strung around their neck and tubes taped to their nipples; women with polycystic ovarian syndrome, bursting with milk; parents caring for babies with reflux; babies who cry incessantly; babies who don’t sleep. Women aching with mastitis, abscesses, cracked nipples, inverted nipples, thrush, painful letdown, painful latch. Women with postnatal depression. I have marvelled over mothers breastfeeding twins or triplets, tandem feeding an infant and toddler, wet-nursing for friends or expressing milk for strangers.

But overwhelmingly, the most time I spend with mothers is on emotional reassurance. Being the person who patiently 2000px-Breastfeeding-icon-med.svgwaits out tears, reframes days in pyjamas as the height of personal freedom, and reminds that some days, breastfeeding sucks. An unwavering belief in bodily autonomy means my role is supporting women who want to breastfeed, and respecting a woman’s choice not to. I impart up-to-date information, encouragement and empathy. I cannot tell her what to do, and more importantly, I do not want to. Because it’s her body. They are her breasts.

I cannot tell her what to do, and more importantly, I do not want to.
In Australia, like most of the western world, breastfeeding rates are critically low. Not even 15% of Australian babies are exclusively breastfed to the recommended six months, and research has attributed the national health care cost of premature weaning to be up to $120m per year. Most women cite weaning before they wanted to. According to UNICEF, adequate breastfeeding has the potential to prevent almost one million child deaths globally.

And yet, breastfeeding advocates are called pushy, accused of pressuring vulnerable mothers. Labelled “Nipple Nazis”, “Breastapo” or “Breast Police”. Articles and commenters condemn breastfeeding advocates as anti-feminist, for fuelling “mummy wars”, or charge them with forcing breasts down the throats of a society unwilling to share such mammary enthusiasm.

Are some breastfeeding advocates tactless? Certainly. Is breastfeeding being pressed upon parents? Sometimes, sadly, yes. Ours is a busy medical care system that tends to dump arbitrary “shoulds” upon women and then rush to the next case.

Parents are overburdened with advice: techniques, duration, how baby should behave and grow. Not all health professionals employ the latest evidence-based practice in lactation and advice can be inconsistent from one expert to the next. Milk removal creates milk production, yet women are habitually encouraged to space out breastfeeds, to watch a clock or app instead of baby. An infant takes time to become familiar with and learn to adequately milk mother’s breast, yet women are regularly told to introduce a replacement teat, which can confuse an infant, in the form of a dummy or bottle just in case. Women are lambasted for breastfeeding in public, for taking lactation breaks at work, for supplying breastmilk at child care, for taking away her husband’s playthings.

Most breastfeeding advocates are not concerned if a woman does not want to breastfeed.
So when breastfeeding becomes difficult, it’s easier to blame a woman’s body than a society that let her down.

Most breastfeeding advocates are not concerned if a woman does not want to breastfeed. When a woman makes an autonomous, informed choice to use formula, all power to her. Because a woman making informed decisions over her own body, in this world, is a powerful thing.

HG253_baby-breastfeeding-basics_FSBut I do care if she is lied to. I care if she is hurt or given prevalent, tired old myths leftover from decades ago when formula manufacturers were allowed to promote their product as superior and to lobby medical professionals, effectively wiping out their primary competition – breasts. I care when she is led to believe her body is faulty or inadequate yet she desperately wants to breastfeed her child.

It is heartbreaking to witness a woman’s grief. New mothers can be angry, frustrated, devastated. Women are marginalised and abused. Wounds can be scars held from babies past, from her own childhood, from sexual violence.

Breastfeeding is more than just a milk-delivery method. It is a complex and robust biological system, and feeding fills the majority of time spent with a young infant. To feel that you bafflingly can’t, when you hormonally, emotionally and physically want to, can be soul destroying.

Active engagement in support of women’s choice invites labels of all kinds. While some labels hurt, it means I am standing up for women where they’re being systematically let down. So my work can be misunderstood, I can be called names, but I will keep protecting and supporting breastfeeding women.

Because it’s not about me. It’s about her.

10 Ways to REALLY Help Someone Who Has a New Baby – by Shelly Lopez Gray (Registered nurse)

Great ideas from Shelly Lopez Gray…. it takes a community to raise a child!

Kindness Blog ♥️

mother with newborn tired wallpaperI would have given a kidney if someone would have done any of these things for me after the birth of mysecond child. To the people who brought my family food while I was so busy with my baby, you will never know the full extent of my gratitude!

1. Take their other kids somewhere.

Anywhere — just get them out of their house. It’s so much harder when you have to tend to a new baby and to your other kids. So take out her other children as often as you can!

2. Bring food.

And I mean food that comes in a disposable pan or food that you can dump in a crock pot. Do not bring anything that she’ll have to wash and worry about getting back to you. If you just don’t cook, bring paper plates and silverware… so if she’s forced to…

View original post 726 more words

Sleeplessly Singing the Blues: Post-Natal Depression Today

sleeplessly singing the bluesBy Sarah Wilson

What an incredible joy and a blessing to be gifted with a child. There are so many precious moments and ‘pinnacles’ in parenting.  However, it seems to me that being at home with a new baby can often be a challenging time for many women. The transition from working woman to stay at home mother can be a difficult adjustment for many. I feel for first time mothers. For many women, a common post-natal theme that emerges is that of ‘This isn’t what I expected.’ Often parenting is more messy, demanding and difficult than we ever anticipated (as well as being joy filled and fulfilling). We foresee that we are going to pop out a baby and carry on with our life regardless, not realizing that it is motherhood that changes our life totally, and is in itself, the most demanding job. Read more here: Continue reading