Blaire Hinks of Phoenix has six children. She’s a certified lactation counselor, postpartum doula and babywearing instructor. She’s also a special needs program director at Hubbard Family Swim School.
In January, she launched Lille Landsby, a postpartum service to help new mothers with everything from breastfeeding to simply understanding that the physical and mental transition to motherhood takes time and support. The name is is Danish for “little village,” representing the common wisdom that “it takes a village” to care for a new mother, baby and family.
Earlier this spring, she participated in the first annual 4th Trimester Arizona conference in Mesa, which drew hundreds of attendees and 50 local organizations.
Why do we need better postpartum care and support? We are the only first-world country that does not provide postpartum care as part of the healthcare system. In Germany and the Netherlands, a midwife or postpartum care specialist visits a new mom at her home every day for the first two weeks to take care of mom and baby and help around the house. England provides a similar system for up to two months. France provides in-home nurse visits as often as needed and also subsidizes childcare. Over the years, I’ve learned there is a disconnect in America. A woman who gives birth is typically discharged from the hospital within 48 hours. The next time the new mother is seen by a provider is at six weeks. Those six weeks are the most important emotionally and physically. Nursing, sleeping, newborn care — on top of household chores — are huge adjustments for the new family.
Are more women demanding better postpartum care? There is definitely a growing recognition that postpartum care is needed. I visited a local OB-GYN office and met with a doctor who said postpartum care is the missing link in our healthcare system. We were brainstorming how to get insurance companies on board. That’s one of the reasons some women won’t or don’t reach out — lack of knowledge of the need for postpartum care and lack of funds. We over prepare on birth education. We barely prepare for the postpartum and baby stages. Our society breeds the mentality that asking for help is a sign of weakness. A client of mine yesterday said she feels selfish asking for help.
What got you interested in postpartum care service? I remember coming home with my first baby and knowing that I loved him, but I was scared to death of him. My birth plan didn’t go as planned, and I felt like a failure. That transition hit me hard. My second baby was born with Down syndrome. I was on bed rest for the last 14 weeks of my pregnancy, and she was in the NICU for three weeks. That transition from one to two babies was a struggle on its own. Each transition of adding a new baby had a learning curve. Recovery from birth in itself was one thing, but having to “get up and go” quickly was another. It came with its struggles and successes. It’s funny, because first-time moms are blissfully ignorant of the postpartum experience. A lot of first-time moms who call me do so about a week or two postpartum. The second-time moms are the ones who call me before birth. They know that they struggled and have accepted that it’s OK to ask for help.
What are the biggest challenges for new moms after childbirth? Breastfeeding, hormonal changes and lack of sleep. Leaving the hospital before their milk is in. Mom and dad are exhausted. The baby may be fussy. Mom may fear she’s not making enough milk or that the baby is struggling to latch. Some moms leave the hospital without having baby evaluated for tongue tie. A lot of moms are surprised to realize infants eat around the clock. They also are unaware that babies go through growth/hunger spurts, eating “what feels like” every five minutes. Not everyone has grandmas or families that can stay for an extended amount of time to assist with mom and new baby. We reiterate that independence and perfection do not have to be achieved from the second the baby arrives.
What needs to change about the way the “fourth trimester” of pregnancy is treated? I want to change the question people ask when they see a new mom with a baby — from, “Oh, you look great!” to “How is your transition into motherhood going?” I want to change the expectation that a new mom has to “bounce back.” It takes time to for a woman to heal, and it’s OK if it takes time for motherhood to click. We believe you should not just survive the fourth trimester, you should thrive!