How-to Guide for Building Your Postpartum Support Network - A Book Review

Community Support for New Families: A Guide to Organizing a Postpartum Support Network in Your Community, by Jane Honikman, M.S.

Having a network of support is an invaluable resource for new parents. Friends and family offer much needed meals, light housework, or pitching in with infant care or childcare for older siblings. This kind of postpartum support provides important ways those closest to us can both be helpful and participate in transition to parenthood. Once loved ones return to their own lives, however, caring for a newborn in the postpartum period can be lonely and confusing. This is where having access to a network of parents in your community can be invaluable to parents.

Community Support for New Families: A Guide to Organizing a Postpartum Parent Support Network in Your Community, by Jane Honikman, M.S., offers clear guidelines on how to create and maintain community-based parent support networks, and has received the highest praise and recommendation from leaders in the field of childbirth, postpartum health, lactation, and psychology.

Author Jane Honikman, founder of the most successful international postpartum support organization, Postpartum Support International (PSI), brings 40 years of experience to the acclaimed workbook, giving step-by-step instructions for building parent-support groups from the ground up, using local community resources and a team approach.

What I find so helpful is that this is the only workbook of its kind written and organized for parents.  In only 90 pages, Jane describes the six stages of building a parent support group and how to easily accomplish them. There is space provided to write directly in the workbook, while collecting resources and creating community support. By the end of the book, the reader has compiled all of the information and resources necessary to establish a group in their community. I recently asked Jane a few questions regarding the book and how it might apply to the Giving Birth with Confidence readers.

Jane, can you tell us about the importance of developing a parent support network?

The importance of developing a parent support network is to be able to reach 100% of those transitioning from pregnancy into parenthood.  It is my passionate quest to inspire communities to ease the adjustment of the developing family through trained parent volunteers.  They are the veteran parents who can provide peer-to-peer emotional support in a nonjudgmental environment at a critical and vulnerable moment.  A network gives access  to existing community resources.

Tell us why teamwork is so important in creating and sustaining a parent support network.

One person cannot create a sustainable parent support group or network. It requires teamwork.  The individuality component refers to the uniqueness of each community.  What may work in Santa Barbara may not make sense someplace else.  For example, in 1970 there was a hotline to prevent child abuse in our community, but as new parents we felt the need to create a warm line.  There was nobody showing pregnant couples how to bathe the baby or change a diaper, therefore, we started Baby Basics.

How might families expecting a child benefit from beginning to build community networks of parents?

Expecting a child cannot be expected to begin to build community networks of parents alone.  Veteran parents, those who have been there, are the logical creators.  They can recognize the gaps in service that exist in their birth and postpartum community.  The goal is to increase self confidence in new parents to ease their adjustment.  The basis of success is giving back once you've received.  Three generations of PEP volunteers in Santa Barbara have continued what was not available for the founders in 1977.

What are common mistakes new organizers might avoid?

The most common mistake new organizers need to avoid is not investigating their own community before starting something.  Don't rush the process! It requires patience, time and commitment to be ready to launch. Learn what is needed, reach out to existing groups. Be methodical. Financial sustainability is critical.  PEP operates on a low budget because it is entirely volunteer with little overhead.

How might childbirth educators, doulas, or other birth professionals benefit from developing parents support organizations? How might they benefit from reading Community Support for New Families?

The role of a professional in the development of a parent support organization is as an advisor.  The benefit of doing this is that there will then be a community resource for expectant and new parents.  It completes the circle of caring, a way for new families to make friends for life. A common misconception is that childbirth educators, doubles and other birth professionals need to be the organizers.  Their role is as mentors.  My book is designed to bring all the stakeholders to the table and start the conversation.  What is missing in our community for new families?  What happens after the arrival of an infant?  Who brings new families together and where and how?  Who is actively listening to the needs of our most vulnerable?  Who is not telling new parents what to do but rather bringing them together to share the highs and lows and parenthood?  Who knows where and how to refer to resources for special circumstances like difficulty with breastfeeding, colic, depression?

Community Support for New Families exemplifies completing the circle of caring through Jane's sharing her knowledge with new parents. And experts agree.

Harvey Karp, MD, FAAP and author of The Happiest Baby on the Block stated, You can make all the difference for moms and dads in your town! Ready to be inspired? Jane Honikman, renowned parent champion, will guide you every step of the way with this crisp, clear handbook!

Marian Tompson, co-founder of La Leche League International described, "Community Support for New Families provides a goldmine of ideas for anyone moved to undertake an organized effort to strengthen families. There is no other book like it..."

Conclusion

I couldn't agree more! I found Community Support for New Families: A Guide to Organizing a Postpartum Parent Support Network in Your Community to provide a wealth of ideas for anyone interested in helping to support new parents. Thank you to Jane Honikman for sharing her wisdom and leadership with Giving Birth with Confidence.

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