Find out when an online community is all you need and whether it pays to show up in person.
Regardless of how you get it, support is essential when expecting a baby (especially your first). Lucky for us, it is readily available not only online, but often right in your own neighborhood — especially when you live in NYC. The battle royale? The support group, a meetup of a group of women sharing the same experiences, led by one or more experts in the given field. The worthy contender? The online mom community, such as Facebook groups, sites like BabyCenter or Circle of Moms, and invitation-only listservs.
Online Mom Community: You’re relying on the knowledge of other moms, not experts. You will hear valuable feedback on everything from heartburn to breast pumps, but it is based on experience and opinion, not fact.
Support Group: A support group leader is most often a mother, but always a trained professional, either a RN, teacher, lactation consultant or social worker. The instruction is backed by knowledge of various fields. Leaders are often educators and can provide evidence-based resources for expectant moms.
Winner: Support Group. If I don’t know what to do when I can’t feel my baby kicking, I want to ask a pro, not mommytobe23.
Online Mom Community: You are hearing from pregnant women with similar experiences and asking those same women for help, but one element is lacking: face time. The exchanges are through your computer. Faces are replaced by a photo, and words with text. Most often you are conversing with women that you don’t know by name.
Support Group: Your support group meets weekly: same time, same place, same expectant moms. You are sharing your highs and lows, learning what to expect, and venting together. Many women who meet in support groups often remain friends and stay in touch long after their babies arrive. They experience pregnancy together and become moms together with children of similar ages.
Winner: Support Group. A good playdate pal is hard to find.
Online Mom Community: Free. Unlimited. Did I mention free?
Support Group: Many groups require paying the leader, paying for space and resources. They can range from $15 to $30 per meeting and often you must commit to the entire session.
Winner: Online Mom Community. Free always wins, doesn’t it? It is nice to not have to pay for support, but if you find the right group, it is usually worth the investment.
Online Mom Community: Social media is available 24/7, which certainly caters to our impulsivity and impatience when wanting answers.
Support Group: Groups are usually offered only once per week, which in the land of pregnant women means a dozen new questions and concerns. Some group leaders, however, offer email access in between sessions to provide additional support for the more anxious.
Winner: Draw. You can’t argue with the fast food drive-thru support offered online, but it is good to know that some support groups extend their help well beyond the actual meetups.
Online Mom Community: With online groups and listservs, you are gaining knowledge, but that information only pertains to the actual queries posted. For example, you can gain insight into “How many ounces does your three-month old drink?” according to a) who responds and b) how quickly they respond. The community board does not run the gamut of all things pregnancy-related. Knowledge is based on your audience.
Support Group: Groups are more comprehensive. The facilitator has a lesson plan of sorts, ranging from labor to breastfeeding to newborn care. You walk away with an immense amount of knowledge on which you can rely and use towards being a confident parent.
Winner: Support Group. It arms you with comprehensive understanding versus immediate answers.
When it comes down to it, as women we support each other, and different moms have different needs. Support is something you can never have enough of and having people to share your experiences: the good, the bad, and the ugly is invaluable.
This article is by Laura Deneroff courtesy of Well Rounded NY. Conceived with love by former magazine editors Jessica Pallay and Kaity Velez, Well Rounded NY aims to be the singular pregnancy resource for city-savvy moms-to-be. Through reviews, profiles, expert Q&As, local guides and more, Well Rounded curates the New York City pregnancy and helps its readers come to terms – and term! – with pregnancy in the city.