Welcome to “Mommies Mingle,” a free program now being offered by the hospital to new moms every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning.
It’s a scene reminiscent of a group sitting around a campfire. Only, instead of roasting marshmallows, the women are cradling newborns in their arms as they sit in an alcove of the maternity floor at SBH Health System (St. Barnabas Hospital), discussing such personally relevant topics as birthing and breastfeeding.
“Many of the new mothers who deliver stay in their rooms the entire time until they are discharged, and never talk to each other,” said Ann Hennessy, RN, Director of Maternal Child Care at the hospital. “We thought encouraging them to meet outside their room where they could mingle with staff and with each other, would be invaluable.”
Early reviews have been very positive. “Sometimes you don’t feel comfortable asking a doctor or nurse something personal, but it’s easy to ask that same question to someone who has just gone through the same experience you have,” said one new mom. “I just came here from Puerto Rico and don’t know anyone, so it was nice meeting other new moms I can be friends with once I leave the hospital,” said another.
First-time moms get the chance to listen to sage advice offered by those who have just delivered their fourth or fifth child. Hennessy and other members of the clinical staff – including physicians, nurses and social workers – facilitate the discussion. A translator helps those women who have difficulty conversing in English.
The sessions are generally upbeat, but can get quite emotional. At one recent gathering, a new mom sobbed as she spoke about how nervous she was about her baby, whose delivery had been complicated when the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck. The problem was resolved and the nurses and other moms assured the woman that her baby was now doing fine in the hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
“It seems to carry more weight when a mom hears something from another mom,” said Hennessy. “For example, we are strong proponents of breastfeeding for the health of both the baby and the mom. When we encourage this, we sometimes get resistance. It seems to mean more coming from another mom who says she’s going to breastfeed.”