Bonding With Baby
A common misconception of motherhood is that all moms will have the expected emotional attachment to their baby that they believed they would. According to research, 20% of new moms expressed difficulty connecting to their baby after childbirth. However, this common feeling is not frequently discussed with family members, peers and healthcare professionals due to the stigma associated with it. If a mother is not bonding to her baby in the way that she had thought she would and experiencing increased levels of stress as a result, it is extremely beneficial to get professional support and better understand the reality of the transition into motherhood.
Occupational therapy can help a mother find the self-compassion she needs to see all of the good she is doing for her baby and discover different strategies to encourage bonding in a way that is right and comfortable for the mother.
Caesarean Birth Recovery
Mental & Emotional Health
Mental and emotional health during pregnancy and throughout the postpartum period is an extremely important component of maternal well-being. Currently, almost 1 in 4 women in Canada are diagnosed with postpartum depression. Mothers are at an increased vulnerability of developing a mood disorder due to the hormonal changes associated with pregnancy and childbirth, role transitions, sleep deprivation, body image issues and increased levels of stress. It is common for many mothers to experience the baby blues which is typically characterized by a sense of feeling overwhelmed, mental exhaustion and feeling general sadness lasting a few days following childbirth. However, a mood disorder differs significantly from the baby blues as the symptoms persist for a prolonged period of time and are more severe. Oftentimes, mothers experiencing a prepartum or postpartum mood disorder require some form of professional intervention to help manage their mental well-being.
Maternal mood disorders can develop at any point throughout pregnancy and the postpartum period. Those at a greater risk of developing a mood disorder include individuals who have previously struggled with mental illness, a family history of postpartum mood disorders, traumatic birth experiences, unplanned pregnancies, mothers experiencing financial stress and those who have a lack of partner or family support. However, any mother can experience a change in their mental health regardless of their lifestyle and medical or family history. Postpartum mood disorders can be characterized by insomnia, lack of pleasure in daily life, elevated levels of anxiety, difficulties concentrating, and/or recurrent thoughts of suicide or death.
In conjunction with the medical interventions that are available to mothers to help treat a postpartum mood disorder, several occupational therapy and holistic approaches can be utilized to manage these symptoms. This includes mindfulness exercises, eco-therapy, meditation, fatigue management, occupational re-engagement, education and other mental health support strategies (CBT, ACT, & Solution Focused interventions). Regardless of the treatment plan that a mother chooses, it is important for any woman struggling with their mental health to understand they are not alone and reach out to a professional to get the help needed.
Physical Health & Ergonomics
Postpartum Recovery Planning
Return to Work
Transitioning to Motherhood
Adapting into the role of a mother can be a difficult transition for a lot of women. Many mothers struggle with their new identity and may feel that they are not shifting into the motherly role as naturally as they initially expected. Many women may feel that their life revolves around caring for their child and as a result, lose their sense of self and identity. An important aspect of maintaining mental well-being among mothers is engaging in some form of a self-care routine or activity. This will help a mom preserve their sense of identity and remind themselves they are worthy of dedicating time to care for themselves and their mental health. If a mom is struggling to find ways and time to engage in self-care activities, occupational therapy services may be a helpful form of care to help women develop realistic and sustainable routines.
It is important for mothers to understand that it may be unrealistic to meet all the expectations they initially had set out for themselves as a new mom. It is very common for many mothers to feel that they are not embodying the motherly figure that is expected of them by others and by themselves. As a result, many new moms are undergoing increased levels of stress and mental and physical exhaustion. In this situation, mothers may find it beneficial to talk to a maternal healthcare professional, such as an qualified occupational therapist, to gain reassurance and develop strategies to better meet their desired goals.
Sleep is one of the hottest topics of conversation among new and experienced parents. There is already the expectation that parents will not have the restorative sleep they may be used to once baby arrives, but the bigger issue remains when parents are unable to sleep between baby waking or are struggling during day-to-day activities because of exhaustion. Waking to feed, change, or sooth your baby back to sleep will likely happen many times throughout the night and is a normal developmental expectation.
When parental sleep does not occur between baby waking throughout the night, stress and anxiety from the anticipation of the next waking can creep in. Further disruption to sleep patterns can occur and the cycle begins of daytime exhaustion and struggling to catch up on missed sleep. This chronic exhaustion can have a significant impact on productivity, relationships, mental health, and cognitive function. While this changing sleep schedule is unavoidable with a new baby, being able to get restorative sleep in between the disruptions throughout the night is essential to overall health.
Occupational therapy can help problem solve sleep issues and provide strategies to get through the day when feeling exhausted from sleep disruptions. Sleep becomes a very meaningful occupation when we start to look at the effects on a parent’s ability to function in the way they want to, need to or are expected to.
Returning to work from a maternity leave can be a challenging transition, even if you are feeling ready to get back. The transition back to work, especially after a first baby, means learning how to balance another life role while adjusting some expectations for your mothering role. This is likely going to require additional planning, support, and encouragement, to successfully make this transition work for everyone in the family.
Creating a maternal return-to-work plan can be a beneficial part of this process to help plan for changes within the family to accommodate a new schedule, identifying emotional or physical supports needed to help ease the transition, and establishing a clear social network of family, friends, and childcare support.
A maternal return-to-work plan should include strategies for a supported return through the employer or occupational health department. It is possible a woman returning to work following maternity leave, has been off work for 12-18 months and re-orientation to the role and organization may be needed. Modification of duties may initially be required and should be discussed prior to the return-to-work date. A mother’s first day of work may also be their child’s first day of daycare, and first full day separation for the mother and child dyad.
Unfortunately, there is a common belief that maternity leave is like a vacation. However, there is a significant healing process mentally and physically that can last up to 12 months post partum, and the expectation for women to jump back into regular duties on the first day is unrealistic.
Occupational therapists understand the impact dual life roles can have on an individual’s life satisfaction and mental health. An OT session focused on creating a maternal return to work plan as well as supportive discussions between employees and employers can help to ease stress, confusion, and worry associated with a return to work following a maternity leave.