Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Ten Steps of the Mother-Friendly Childbirth Initiative

I apologize for the problematic language of this initiative, which does not acknowledge that not all birthing parents identify as "women" and/or "mothers," but I would still like to share the steps involved, in case you run across this phrase in your birth or parenting experience. To be designated "Mother-Friendly," a birthing center or caregiver must:
  1. Offer birth mothers unrestricted access to birth companions of her choice, including fathers, partners, children, midwives, and doulas.
  2. Provide accurate statistical and descriptive information to the public about its practices and procedures.
  3. Provide care that is sensitive and responsive to the mother's beliefs, values, and customs.
  4. Provide the birthing mother with the freedom to walk, move about, and assume the positions of her choice during labor and birth.
  5. Have clear, defined policies and procedures for working cooperatively with other maternity and community services before, during, and after birth and for breastfeeding.
  6. Avoid employing practices and procedures that are unsupported by scientific evidence, such as shaving, enemas, IVs, early rupture of membranes, electronic fetal monitoring, episiotomy, etc.
  7. Teach and provide primarily non-drug methods of pain release.
  8. Encourage all mothers and families, including those with special care newborns, to touch, hold, breastfeed, and care for their babies.
  9. Discourage non-religious circumcision of the newborn.
  10. Promote exclusive breastfeeding.
To learn more or to find out about mother-friendly childbearing centers and services in your area, contact CIMS, c/o ASPO/Lamaze, 1200 19th. St., NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20036.


Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Mother-Friendly Workplace

As part of my study for postpartum doula certification, I'm reading Sally Placksin's Mothering the New Mother: Women's Feelings & Needs After Childbirth, A Support & Resource Guide. While it is not written in language inclusive of gestational/birth parents who do not identify as mothers or women, it contains some important concepts I'd like to share here. In her book, Placksin cites Ontario-based anthropologist Penny Van Esterik and the Women, Work, and Breastfeeding: The Mother-Friendly Workplace Initiative Action Folder of the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (1993).  In Placksin's words,
The piece calls for a redefinition of the way in which work is traditionally viewed -- that is, from the male perspective.  "Can we create a woman-centered approach to work," [Van Esterik] asks, "that values women's productive and reproductive work, and reduces the double burdens women carry?" Such an approach would acknowledge pregnancy, breastfeeding, and childcare as socially meaningful and productive work, and recognize the social support necessary for optimal breastfeeding.  Men share the responsibility for providing this support in the home and the workplace."
The folder also provides suggestions on how to create a mother-friendly workplace:

1. Provide at least four months paid maternity leave (with an ideal of six months) that begins after the baby is born.  Offer other options such as longer maternity leave with partial pay.
2. Offer flexible work hours to breastfeeding women such as part time schedules, longer lunch breaks, and job sharing.
3. Provide breastfeeding breaks of at least an hour a day.

1. Support infant and childcare at or near the workplace, and provide transportation for mothers to join their babies. For rural work sites and seasonal work, use mobile childcare units.
2. Provide comfortable, private facilities for expressing and storing breast milk.
3. Keep the work environment clean and safe from hazardous wastes and chemicals.

1. Inform women workers and unions about maternity benefits and provide information to support women's health.
2. Ensure that mothers have full job security.
3. Encourage coworkers and management to have a positive attitude toward breastfeeding in public.
4. Encourage a network of supportive women in unions or workers' groups who can help women to combine breastfeeding and work.
I want to stress that this ideal is not about "special treatment" for mothers of the kind that would be unfair to employees without children. After all, it seems silly and obvious, but we were all children once.  Children's rights and family rights are human rights.  No one has to have or want to have a child, but no adult gets to avoid being a child, and the child-parent bond should be protected by society as a way of supporting the next generation of adults.

It's easy to imagine that a Mother-Friendly Workplace would also be child-friendly and father- (or partner-)friendly.  In fact, it would not only positively impact the family, but I'd guess it could increase workplace morale, job loyalty and productivity.  It could make the choice of whether or not to work outside of the home less torturous for some women (and their partners).

Reading this passage of Mother-Friendly suggestions made me wish I worked in HR or were a manager at a large company.  I think it should be a top priority of all those whose job it is to support their coworkers/employees to promote, ask for, and create a safe, comfortable place for new parents to feed their babies or pump.  And that's just the beginning, of course.  I haven't even started to rant about how radically parental leave policies need to be improved!

How does your workplace measure up?


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

What do postpartum parents want? Part 1

When I started training for my postpartum doula certification, I began asking parents to share with me what sort of support, if any, they received after giving birth and what kinds of postnatal care they would most value.  I've gotten an overwhelming (in an exciting way) response from parents I know personally, parents I've met through new parents' groups, and online parents. Some have hired doulas for past births and some have not.

I am enjoying these parents' comments so much that I thought I'd share some of them with you in a few installments.  Here's your first sampling of what they said:
I don't need breastfeeding support and all that, but I would pay anyone to come make me breakfast. Everything else is always covered but I don't do well without eating when I start my day. Well, I would also pay someone to help me wash my dishes afterward too. 
I would have loved to have been able to sleep. Let someone else do dishes.
I could use someone to fix herbal sitz baths/compresses, perhaps light cooking (making sure Mom is eating/drinking enough), breastfeeding support... Those would be my top needs.
Keep up with the housework and meals so I can focus on baby (and actually sleep when baby does!!).
Lactation support!
I'd like someone to help keep things tidy and someone just to CHAT with, esp. if partner must return to work shortly after babe arrives. 
My doula cooked some dishes that could be divvied up into portions and frozen before I went into labor. That was VERY helpful to me! 
I would have appreciated light housework and a prepared meal. If it was my first baby I would want breastfeeding help and general newborn care help.
I could have used food, someone to the dishes, and help with the older one. I had a really hard time doing anything for my older child -- like putting her in her highchair and changing her diaper -- without pulling muscles.
It depends on the mom, for sure. Food and laundry are huge. Freezer meals are awesome. I've been having my doula watch the baby so that I can go on dates with my older son. I also used a doula to introduce a bottle. 
My doula put the house back into order following my homebirth and washed everything. She bought meals. She cleaned the toilet -- a big one, as I felt embarrassed that it was so gross but felt like I couldn't do it myself. She changed my sheets for me. I didn't need help with breastfeeding, but she talked through the birth with me a few times. She told my husband how to keep unwanted visitors at bay and helped him know how to look after me extremely well.
I just gave birth a few weeks ago and I think that the most important thing for me is SOMEONE TO TALK TO WHO LISTENS AND UNDERSTANDS WHAT THE HELL I'M GOING THROUGH!!!! And could give me good advice on how to stop feeling the way I do sometimes and tell me why I've been crying so damn much and being so emotional.

I'm so inspired and moved by this list. Clearly, every parent is an individual, but there are also recurring needs.  I'm getting some great ideas for how to help new parents after a birth, and I feel fired up about assisting birth parents and new families. 

If you're thinking about hiring a postpartum doula, I hope this list starts to describe what one might do to support you -- as well as why it's helpful for you to be clear with your doula (or friends and family) about what you may need.

I'll continue to post responses to the question of what postpartum parents want in future posts, and please feel free to add your own in the comments.


(Quotes above have been edited for clarity and to preserve anonymity)