Having a baby can be life-changing, overwhelming, inspiring and exhausting. But almost all new parents share the desire to find activities that get them out of the house and into the company of other parents who are navigating the same choppy waters.
If you live in Sonoma County, there are many ways to combat the stress by building community and enjoying other parents’ new family members. These resources help with everything from breastfeeding support to networking and exercising.
On a sunny Monday morning, Caitlyn Ford and her 7-month-old daughter, Constance, sat in a cozy room at Santa Rosa’s Knox Presbyterian Church while certified nurse-midwife Rosanne Gephart and public health nurse Liz Smith answered her questions about breastfeeding.
“By six weeks, if you can get up in the morning, get dressed and get out of the house by noon, you’re doing great,” said Gephart, reassuring her that she was on the right track.
Gephart is president of Better Beginnings for Babies, a Santa Rosa-based nonprofit dedicated to promoting breast-feeding. From 9:30-11 a.m. each Monday, the group’s free “Breast-feeding Cafe” is open to any mother with questions about breastfeeding. The goal is to provide mothers with a safe, comfortable place to deal with challenges.
“Little modifications will make the experience more pleasant and end up helping (moms) nurse longer,” said Gephart, who recently sold Santa Rosa Women’s Health and Birth Center.
Kaiser and Sutter Hospitals and the Sebastopol Community Health Center also offer breast-feeding groups and one-on-one support to their members. Sonoma County also has a Breast-feeding Resource Guide that includes other free offerings that are accessible to English and Spanish speakers, such as La Leche League meeting and in-home visits from nurses and lactation consultants.
New parents can find an array of unique and holistic ways to connect with each other and find support. The Creative Parenting Center in Sebastopol and the Thrive Birth Center in Santa Rosa offer groups and classes that help new parents discover and implement the parenting tools and philosophies that are best for them, and they’re not just about finding the best biodegradable diaper.
Kerry Ingram’s Mothering Arts classes and workshops at the Creative Parenting Center are influenced by her experience as a Waldorf teacher and post-partum doula.
Three and a half years ago, when her son was a newborn, Ingram was inspired to create the intergenerational support group for mothers, grandmothers and babies that connects them through games and songs, nutrition, movement and guest speakers. The group meets on Tuesday mornings for 8-10 weeks and allows mothers to talk about the “hard stuff” and “step into their own inner wisdom,” Ingram said.
“Motherhood is maybe the largest event that happens in your life. We need to recognize that and pause and really live into what it means to go from woman to mother.”
In neighboring Petaluma, new parents can join a New Parenting Support Group at the Luma Center. Starting May 18, licensed midwife and lactation consultant Rebecca Plum invites new moms, dads and babies under 1 to bring any concerns or questions to the group on Mondays from 10-11:30 a.m. New parents can share with other parents ways to cope and practice new skills in a safe space. Topics may range from feeding and sleeping problems to changing relationships and identities.