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Being able to connect online has given me the village I never would’ve had.
When I got pregnant with our son, I felt a lot of pressure to have a “village.” After all, every pregnancy book I read, every app and website I visited, even friends and family who already had children, repeatedly reminded me that having a child “takes a village.”
The idea definitely appealed to me. I would’ve loved to have grandmas and aunties nearby to care for me postpartum, arriving at our apartment armed with home-cooked meals and years of wisdom.
Now that my son is born, it would be nice to have my sister nearby to babysit so my husband and I could go on a well-deserved day date (because, let’s face it, date nights are out of the question when you have a newborn).
I would give anything to live near my girlfriends so they could stop by for coffee (okay, wine) to commiserate about the challenges of motherhood as we watch our little ones play together on the floor.
The legendary village is not only appealing, it is vital. Humans are social animals. We need one another to survive and thrive.
Unfortunately, these days it is more and more rare to live in the same place as your family and friends. Despite being the youngest of five kids, I have not lived in the same city as more than one sibling for well over a decade.
My family is spread out across the United States and Canada. My husband’s family also lives across the country. I know many other parents who are in the same boat. While having a village sounds great, it is just not feasible for many of us.
Living apart from immediate family means many new parents feel isolated and alone at a time when they need support the most. While postpartum depression is thought to be caused by a combination of factors including hormones and biology,
This is especially concerning in the time of COVID-19 and physical distancing, when we can’t be with our family and friends. Thankfully, there’s a new kind of village taking shape — one where we don’t need to be physically near one another to be connected.
Thanks to modern technology (especially meeting platforms like Zoom) we are able to connect with family, friends, and a vast support network in ways we never could before. Personally, in many respects, I feel more supported.
Prior to the worldwide stay-at-home orders, family gatherings that everyone could attend only happened once a year, twice, if we were lucky. Living so far apart, we have had to miss family member’s birthdays and funerals, christenings and bat mitzvahs.
Since the shutdown, not one of our family members has missed a single celebration. We’ve held birthday parties on WhatsApp and even gotten together for holidays we wouldn’t normally observe, like Passover.
Connecting virtually has also allowed me to see my friends more often. It used to take months to set up a get-together with my girlfriends. Now we FaceTime whenever I have new mom questions, which is often! Since we’re all home and don’t need to find child care, organizing schedules for virtual happy hours has never been easier.
My son is making new friends, too. We attend a weekly mommy and me group, which moved online after shelter-in-place restrictions. There, he gets to see other babies and learn songs and developmental exercises.
I, too, have formed new friendships with moms from the group and it is always exciting to “run into” them and their babies in different virtual classes, like family yoga and baby barre class.
FaceTime playdates are especially convenient as they can last as short as 5 minutes and you can easily hop off when your kid is having a meltdown.
At first, I was extremely disheartened by the timing of the stay-at-home restrictions. It seemed ironic that my baby and I were just venturing out after our postpartum recovery period when we were being asked to return home.
But I quickly realized what a unique opportunity we now had. Without the constraint of proximity, I have access to providers and services I wouldn’t otherwise. It doesn’t matter where someone or something is based.
I’ve taken advantage of this by working with a well-known pelvic health expert based in a different city, meeting with my therapist virtually, doing sessions with a lactation specialist up north, and, as we near the time for sleep training, experts all over the world (literally) are available to us.
I was looking forward to introducing my son to our city, but having a virtual village has allowed me to introduce him to the world.
While nothing can replace the power of human touch or live interaction, being able to come together online has allowed us to connect in ways we never imagined. My hope is that we all stay this connected once the quarantines are lifted, even if it still through a screen.
You can create your own virtual village of support. Here’s a list of ideas for where to start.
- La Leche League. LLL is probably the best known and oldest support and resource for breastfeeding parents. LLL has chapters all across the globe, offers free phone consults, and connects parents through their Facebook support group.
- Lactation Link. Created by an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, who is also an RN and a mother of two, this site aims to empower breastfeeding parents with on-demand videos, video packages, and e-consults. They also offer a free 6-day email course with important breastfeeding basics.
- Milkology. This site offers a wide variety of online classes for a nominal fee, from pumping at work to boosting your supply.
- The mama ’hood.This Denver-based parenting hub features breastfeeding support, family yoga, parenting classes, and support groups. They also offer virtual one-on-one breastfeeding consults that can be billed through insurance.
Mental health help
- The Mom Support Group. TMSG offers free peer-to-peer virtual support groups, led by people who have survived postpartum mood disorders. The weekly Zoom calls are geared toward both expecting and new parents.
- The Motherhood Center of NYC. Based in New York City, this support center for new and expecting moms offers a wide array of virtual services including day programs, one-on-one consults, classes, and support groups.
- Postpartum Support International. PSI is one of the oldest postpartum resources. Their mission is to advocate for and bring awareness to the mental and emotional changes women and men go through after having a baby. They provide education and support through various methods such as online support groups, free consultation phone calls, and in-person resources at their local chapter.
- Baby Sleep Love. Run by sleep expert Rosalee Lahaie Hera, this site offers popular online courses on specific dates. Baby Sleep Love also has private coaching packages, which include virtual consults as well as sleep resources. All the offerings connect parents through a Facebook support group.
- Taking Cara Babies.From social media education, to affordable online courses for any stage, to consults with Cara or her sleep team, this resource has a lot to offer. The beauty of Cara’s courses is that they offer short digestible videos and/or e-book chapters, making sleep education easy and accessible while managing a baby.
- Dream Baby Sleep. This site is unique in that it is run by a group of experts with different backgrounds, helping parents customize sleep solutions. They offer online course packages with various inclusions, such as e-books and consultations, depending on your specific needs. They also have a Facebook support group that anyone can join and offer free 15-minute consultations.
Pelvic floor professionals
- Alicia Willoughby, MSPT. Pelvic floor therapist Alicia Willoughby is based in the California Bay Area. She is currently offering telehealth consults, a 6-week online postpartum wellness program, and short-form movement classes on social media.
- The Vagina Whisperer. Sara Reardon, DPT, a New Orleans-based pelvic floor rehabilitation expert, offers virtual sessions for pelvic health, pregnancy, and postpartum. She also has an educational blog covering numerous pelvic health topics.
- Carrie Pagliano Physical Therapy. Carrie Pagliano, DPT, is a Washington D.C. based pelvic floor expert who books telehealth appointments. She also offers 15-minute complimentary check-ins.
- Pelvic Health & Rehabilitation Center. PHRC offers 30-minute virtual appointments with founders Stephanie Prendergast and Elizabeth Akincilar and their specialty staff covering postpartum pelvic health.
Apps for all sorts of support!
- Better After Baby. This app has a broad variety of postpartum workouts all lasting less than 30 minutes in length. BAB also includes tips from several postpartum experts including lactation consultants, pelvic floor therapists, OB-GYNs, pediatricians, sleep consultants, and more.
- Peanut. Peanut is a social network specifically for moms in your area (they have a Dad’s app, too). This app encourages in-person meet-ups and virtual get-togethers like chat groups, community boards, and even a mom’s virtual happy hour.
- Kite for Mums. Kite has 14 mini programs, which include daily love notes and short exercises, to help mom’s overall well-being. Topics cover a range of issues new mothers face, from mom guilt to balancing family duties.
- Maven Clinic. Maven is a digital clinic for women and families, with numerous types of practitioners — from OB-GYNs to career coaches — offering virtual care. Some practitioners offer care around the clock.
Sarah Ezrin is a motivator, writer, yoga teacher, and yoga teacher trainer. Based in San Francisco, where she lives with her husband and their dog, Sarah is changing the world, teaching self-love to one person at a time. For more information on Sarah please visit her website, www.sarahezrinyoga.com.