Cuddling Cubs gives support and education for new moms | Local News

Cuddling Cubs is a virtual 7-week program for young mothers across Montana that provides the support, education and socialization needed after the birth of a child.

The program for young mothers was developed by occupational therapy students working on a doctorate at Rocky Mountain College.

Florence resident Kendra Nicole is part of the RMC program and said the Cuddling Cubs is a great opportunity for young moms that is designed to meet their needs.

“It started as a research project,” Nicole said. “We looked at moms discharged from the hospital, especially new moms, high-risk moms, and it passed on to any mom. We’ve found that once you’re at home with your first toddler or your second, every experience is different. ”

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Nicole earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Montana and is in her third year of a doctoral program in occupational therapy at RMC. This semester she is conducting fieldwork in Hamilton.

The plan was to create a platform that teaches collaboration – something moms and babies do together to make sense of each other.

“Feeding is a big deal for mom and baby,” Nicole said.

The list also includes face-to-face communication. Each week has specific themes, but the group also adapts the program to what individual participants need.

“We want to meet our people where they are,” Nicole said. “(We consider) what difficulties they feel, what their needs are and what they feel, no matter where they live, what support they have, or their spiritual beliefs.”

The goal is to help participants with everything they need to do every day, she said.

“When you think about having a new baby, your roles change, your responsibilities change, your daily appearance changes,” Nicole said. “No matter how well you plan, things will be different.”

The program provides support groups, educational tools, and evidence-based resources and professions to support young mothers. Topics include swaddling, baby massage, mother well-being, movement, recovery, belly time, rest time and relaxation treatments.

“We have tips on how to start creating a routine and relaxation strategies for mom and baby,” Nicole said. “It’s how to set up an environment and give mom grace and advice on how to take breaks and retreat so she isn’t overwhelmed. We focus on the mental health of the mother. ”

The Cuddling Cubs program is free thanks to a grant from Montana Obstetrics & Maternal Support (MOMS), a program to minimize maternal mortality. Cuddling Cubs provides incentives including items needed for group activities such as a yoga mat, baby massage oil, books and rattles. Participants receive a Town Pump gift card for registration and a $ 100 Walmart gift card to complete.

To connect to the program, send an email cuddlingcubsplaygroup@gmail.com or visit their website at cuddlingcubsplaygroup.org. The web page has supporting educational information. The program is designed for expectant mothers, mothers who have recently given birth, or mothers with children under 6 months.

Participants enter, sign up and fill out a short questionnaire.

Nicole said the program began as a study for the class.

“I’m very interested in it because growing up in the countryside, I worked in a kindergarten for five years,” she said. “I watched the struggle that mothers go through, and how hard it is to find people to contact, the pressure of society, how to understand what is right and evidence-based, not what is just fashion.”

She researched along with five other classmates, then became a student manager and is now promoting the Cuddling Cubs program throughout Montana. RMC students help lead virtual support and education groups.

The Cuddling Cubs program is overseen by Dr. Johan Thompson, a registered therapist who began occupational therapy in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Billings Clinic.

“She has a lot of experience and knowledge in working with this population,” Nicole said. “We relied on her in her knowledge, in keeping up with research and figuring out what type of interventions and techniques would be best based on facts for moms at this stage.”

Thompson said moms who used to receive support show fewer signs of depression and have more autonomy.

“We hope to be able to help many moms who feel isolated find grounded evidence to answer many of the questions that arise in a new mom by building a community of support across the state,” Thompson said. “Finding positive connections during a pandemic can be difficult because many outlets and communities are unavailable.”

Cuddle Cubs support groups and educational groups are formed by the child’s date of birth so that each session is filled with moms and babies of a similar age group. Then dates, meeting times and Zoom links are sent out.

“We found the Zoom format very useful, especially in the early days when there could be no set schedule that was best for a child,” Nicole said. “It gives moms the opportunity to be part of a group, no matter what happens at home. They don’t have to worry about getting dressed and organized to get to the place. Everyone said that it was nice to be able to participate in the Internet and learn at the same time. “

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