For the thousands of local parents who welcome babies each year, parenthood can be an exciting time, although it is not without its challenges. However, parents can turn to several local resources when they need a helping hand.
Northeast Georgia Health System, which has birth centers in Gainesville and Braselton, delivered 4,479 babies in 2017 and has had 1,391 deliveries in 2018 through April, according to spokeswoman Kristin Grace.
The health system offers courses in childbirth, breastfeeding, newborn parenting and car seat safety so that parents can be prepared for both the delivery and when they take their baby home. Many of the courses have online and in-person options, and some are free while others can be taken for a fee. A list of these courses is available on the NGHS website, or parents can call 770-219-1495.
Tina Hubbard, a registered nurse in labor and delivery who teaches the prepared childbirth course, said new parents’ most frequent concern when she speaks to them at her classes is simply “fear of the unknown.”
“One question I ask them is, ‘Why are you here?’ The typical answer is, ‘We have no clue what we’re doing, I have no idea how to handle pain in labor, I don’t know what to expect,’” Hubbard said. “It usually boils down to the fear in the end.”
Hubbard said parents should educate themselves as much as possible.
“Learn as much as you can. Don’t be afraid to ask questions,” she said. “Be flexible and keep your options open. Don’t have a set in stone birth plan.”
Katelyn Thompson, a certified infant and toddler sleep consultant who owns Sweet Pea Sleep Solutions, also said parents should not hesitate to ask for help.
“As parents, a lot of the time we feel like everything should be super intuitive, or if something isn’t working or we can’t do it all on our own, then we’re doing something wrong,” said Thompson, who lives in Cumming. “I think that it can be really difficult to ask for help.”
Thompson studied child development at the University of Georgia and had been a nanny for over 10 years, so she thought she was prepared for her son Jackson, who is now almost 2 years old. However, Jackson struggled with sleeping through the night, prompting Thompson to learn more about sleep training.
“He would wake up nine or 10 times a night every night,” Thompson said. “My husband and I were both super exhausted, and I didn’t know what to do.”
Thompson focuses on gentle sleep training, an alternative to letting babies “cry it out,” which she said many parents are hesitant to do. Gentle sleep training uses more gradual methods of comforting and responding to the baby so they learn a sleep routine.
Thompson said mothers often struggle with self-care in the chaotic time after having a baby.
“I think moms feel a lot of guilt if they say, ‘I need to get seven hours of sleep.’ They think that they can just keep going and going and going without meeting their basic needs,” she said. “I think it’s hard to deal with that guilt when you know you need basic self-care and you’re not getting it.”
If mothers want support from each other, they can contact the Moms Offering Moms Support Club Gainesville. MOMS is an international organization with a chapter in Hall County where mothers meet up with each other and their children for activities including playdates, parties and mothers’ nights out. The local club has about 45 members, according to president Natalia DuTeau.
Mothers in the club can ask each other for advice and talk about their shared experiences, DuTeau said.
“Sometimes your friends might not be moms yet, or they’re moms but of older children,” she said. “(The group is) a place where you can say, ‘has anyone had your kid do this? My kid refuses to sleep. What should I do now?’ ... You don’t feel alone in what you’re going through.”
Moms can get involved in the club by messaging the group’s Facebook page or emailing email@example.com.