Saturday, 24 February 2018
9 PLUS 3: Mothering the Mother
Written by Nancy   
Sunday, 26 February 2012 20:00




"Mothering the mother," as applied to expectant mothers and mothers of new babies, is a phrase of uncertain origin.  The words refer to a principle of care that one might say is as powerful as the medical axiom primum non nocere (first, do no harm).

During the months after giving birth new mothers enter a phase of heightened sensitivity. Mothers' focus is on wanting to take care of and feed their babies in the best possible way. Lack of sleep from round the clock feedings of newborns, as normal as that has always been whether breast or bottle feeding, co-exists with this period of sensitivity. Many babies are not born with effective breastfeeding skills. Mothers often interpret a baby's inability to nurse effectively and  without discomfort to the mother as the mother's inability to breastfeed correctly. It is usually the reverse: the baby. Newborn babies need short frequent attempts to learn to latch and suck effectively. Frequent practice in the first weeks also helps to increase milk production to a mother's peak production, prevents overly full and uncomfortable breasts, and encourages consistent and and appropriate weight gain by the baby.

What is mothering the mother? This can be described as shepherding, providing anticipatory guidance and education, listening and conveying an understanding of the rewards and stresses of motherhood.

Who does the mothering?  The list is long and begins with a woman's husband, partner, relatives, and friends old and new. The list continues and can include, but is not limited to, others who provide supportive guidance and education to women: obstetricians, pediatricians, nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives, clergy, psychologists, social workers, psychiatrists, childbirth educators, lactation consultants, doulas,  maternity nurses, nutritionists, massage therapists and prenatal/postpartum yoga/exercise instructors.

What are the hoped for outcomes of mothering the mother? One anticipated outcome is that the mother, as the recipient, feels an increased sense of confidence in developing her own, unique mothering style and skills.

Expectant and new mothers are excellent seekers of information, good at problem solving, and marvelously good at discovering the individual traits of their babies from the day of birth.  However, it is the nature of pregnancy, labor, giving birth and the first 3 months postpartum that fatigue, uncertainty, information overload and pressure of impending return to work cause women to temporarily forget their strengths.  It is exactly during this childbearing year when women especially need the aforementioned shepherding, anticipatory guidance, education, and listening.  (NRC)


Last Updated on Saturday, 24 February 2018 12:04