The Pioneer Valley located in Western Massachusetts is home to a range of programs assisting mothers with infants — and according to statistics, and probably to women you know, help is definitely needed.
In the last month, the Gazette (Our Valley Newspaper) featured some fantastic articles about several programs serving mothers: the new breast milk depot at Northampton Area Pediatrics; Hilltown Village volunteers; and MotherWoman, a Hadley-based advocacy group for women and families.
The Valley is quite lucky to have such programs — and the countless others that support families following childbirth. The work they do is necessary: It does take a village to raise a child.
The breast milk depot is organized by the Pioneer Valley Breastfeeding Coalition. Donated breast milk is being collected, screened and pasteurized before being sent to Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast, located out by Boston. From there it mostly goes to hospitals to help sick and premature infants fight life-threatening infections in a way formula cannot. But breast milk banks and depots are rare. The Northampton depot, which opened Aug. 30, is only the fourth such place in all of New England.
Hilltown Village is a unique community organization that offers free, neighbor-to-neighbor support for families with newborns who live in the Hilltowns. It has operated since 2009 and now has a staff of about 15 trained volunteers. Hilltown Village volunteers visit the homes of new mothers and help them with child care, errands, chores — whatever the new mom needs.
Being a new parent is difficult, but particularly so for mothers who in the earliest stages of a child’s development are still healing from delivery and often take on most of the responsibility for child feeding and care. There’s also a more lofty set of standards mothers are held to than fathers.
Of course, this is wrong. There shouldn’t be a socially enforced distinction between the role of father and mother. But there is, making the extra support provided by these maternal programs vital. Here’s a sample of what mothers grapple with in the weeks following childbirth:
■ Healing and adjusting: After a baby is born, many moms experience new health problems, according to a survey of 2,400 mothers, “Listening to Mothers III: New Mothers Speak Out,” by the Childbirth Connection. In the weeks after delivering a baby, 58 percent of mothers said they were suffering from sleep loss, 54 percent were stressed out and 51 percent were physically exhausted. Many women were also dealing with sore nipples, backache, weight control and lack of sexual desire.
■ Women feel guilty: In the “What Moms Choose: The Working Mother Report” by Working Mother, 48 percent of working moms and 42 percent of stay-at-home moms said they feel guilty they’re not doing enough to take care of themselves. For working moms, 51 percent said they feel guilty about not spending enough time with their kids. And 55 percent of stay-at-home moms said they worry about not making a contribution to the family finances.
■ Breast-feeding troubles: Fewer than half of mothers surveyed by Childbirth Connection said they breast-fed for as long as they had intended. The top reason women gave for ceasing breast-feeding: it was too difficult. There’s an old saying, “When mama’s not happy, nobody’s happy.” Support for mothers is support for families, which translates into support for everyone. We congratulate MotherWoman, the Pioneer Valley Breastfeeding Coalition and Hilltown Village for their important work. As they continue to back women, we hope the Valley backs the programs.