How an Occupational Therapist Can Help Parents I West End Mamas
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How an Occupational Therapist Can Help You as a Parent

By Teddie Buchner (she/her), Adult & Pediatric Occupational Therapist

The “occupational” part of Occupational Therapy can be confusing to most of us.  We spent some solid time picking the brain of our Occupational Therapist, Teddie Buchner, to get to the bottom of it so that we can all better understand how an Occupational Therapist can help you and your family.  

So, What the heck is an Occupational Therapist?

In the context of “Occupational Therapy”, “Occupation” simply means anything that occupies your time. As an adult, that can refer to basically anything that you spend time doing during the day. Sleeping, working, education, caring for others, self-care, leisure time, eating, driving, sex, showering….all of it. 

Occupational Therapy in the transition to motherhood

Becoming a mother is a major life transition and the experience is as unique as each mother and baby pair. While we have tons of support for the medical aspect of conception, pregnancy, and childbirth, too often, little attention is given to the non-medical aspects of becoming a mother. 

Many women look for support with adapting to the changing life roles and the diverse experiences of pregnancy and early motherhood that are specific to each maternal-infant pair. 

Occupational therapists are uniquely equipped to collaborate with women to address the challenges women face when transitioning to motherhood including the complexities of establishing healthy roles, routines, and coping strategies to ease that transition

How can an Occupational Therapist help me?

  • Occupational therapy can help educate women on common parenting challenges
  • Develop both realistic expectations and effective coping strategies focusing on co-occupations between mother and infant to enhance bonding
  • Increase confidence in supporting healthy development
  • Engage in enjoyable age-appropriate play
  • Identify atypical situations early to facilitate optimal intervention

I’m having a hard time as a new mom.  Can an Occupational Therapist help me? 

Absolutely. Although counseling and an empathetic ear is part of the strategies that are used to help mothers, an Occupational Therapist would focus more on the IMPACT of the life change. 

For example, if a mother is experiencing Postpartum Mood Disorder, the Occupational Therapist would look at how that is impacting the mother’s “functional performance”. Does it make it hard to sleep, does it make it hard to play with your baby, does it make it hard to clean the house, go to work, grocery shop, cook dinner, socialize with friends? Then they would collaborate with the client to design interventions or strategies to improve performance in these areas. In this case, it’s not so much “therapy” in the classical sense of the word (it’s not psychotherapy or psychology) but the goal is to help the mother with strategies to live her day to day life.  

The occupational therapist spends time with the mother to better understand where the breakdown is happening in their functional performance (for example in playing with their baby, in being able to make meals for the family, in getting good sleep, etc.) and addressing those parts of the problem to bridge the gap of where they are and where they want to be. 

What tools would an Occupational Therapist use to help me cope or perform better?

  • Motivational interviewing to explore their readiness to make changes and guide them through the decisions required to facilitate that. 
  • Helping them set up a routine or habit that will enable them to reach a goal
  • Education about infant development so they have realistic goals about co-occupations like breastfeeding and play and foster better engagement in those
  • Providing adaptive equipment to help with a physical barrier
  • Perhaps a home visit to evaluate the environment and suggesting modifications that would address barriers there
  • Working together with other providers to assist with cognitive rehab strategies
  • Supporting the mother in helping them advocate for their child or their own health care or educational needs

Occupational Therapy may seem very non-specific but, if you are having trouble with or are unsatisfied with your “functional performance” in sleep, leisure, play, work, education, social interaction, or activities of daily living, an occupational therapist can help you.  

Fun fact: Occupational Therapy is covered by most employer health plans.  We know we can help you feel your best and live your best life. Book a virtual pediatric Occupational Therapy appointment with Teddie today!

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