James Cook University researchers have trialled a new program in which experienced mothers mentor new mums – and have found it is an effective and economical way to avoid the pitfalls some new mothers face.
JCU’s Professor James Dimmock said while motherhood is a joyous time, it can be stressful and the availability of professional postpartum support for mothers is often limited.
“We know a lack of support for new mothers in the postpartum period is a risk factor for developing postnatal depression and anxiety. It’s recognised that there is insufficient support from public health services mainly due to a lack of resources, while paid services may not be affordable for many,” said Professor Dimmock.
The team matched 47 pairs of women, consisting of a ‘Mummy Buddy’ volunteer who had previously raised a child or children and a first-time mum. The Mummy Buddies provided support for 24 weeks after the baby was born.
Professor Dimmock said it appears to have been a success.
“More than 85 per cent of new mothers were satisfied with the support provided by their buddy. The first-time mothers maintained normal levels of stress and depressive symptomology, and possessed relatively strong maternal functioning across the program duration,” he said.
Professor Dimmock said more than 94 per cent of new mothers were willing to recommend the program to others and over two-thirds would volunteer to be a mummy buddy themselves.
“The mummy buddies only needed about three hours training, so as a peer support network compared to professional sources of support such as obstetricians or child health nurses, the program has a lower cost, is more broadly accessible and subject to fewer constraints,” said Professor Dimmock.
He said The Mummy Buddy Program was intended and designed to complement rather than replace existing professional support structures and services.
“We recognise these serve a crucial role in assisting new mothers. But the Mummy Buddy Program appears to be a feasible and potentially valuable peer volunteer support program for first-time mothers that can potentially improve the experience of motherhood further.”