Episode 02 Sunit learns a few things from Kate Melillo about the importance of making early connections with baby

Kate Melillo

Kate is a Pediatric Speech Language Pathologist with experience in early childhood education and has created the “toolkit for postpartum healing” with her sister.

Has an interest in early intervention and went into business with her sister and husband who is a mental health counsellor.

Her passion is inspired by the fact that there isn’t a lot of education or preparation around motherhood. She often asked herself “why didn’t anyone tell me this?” in the early days of being a mom. Not much talk of how to take care of yourself and your family and your baby.

Sunit agrees that there is so much energy put into the “fun” parts about becoming a mom that there isn’t a lot of proper preparation for the things that really matter. The overwhelm from being caught off guard and being unprepared can lead to PPD. Sunit asks Kate what effect PPD can have on the baby and why it’s important to prepare better before baby comes.

Kate shares how the unexpected early arrival of her preemie son (while she was still in school) caused her overwhelm in the early days. The combination of still being in school, a preemie baby and the psychosomatic thoughts affected her greatly in the early days, but postpartum can present itself even over a year after having a baby-often caused by something that happens early on.

Because she is a SLP-she knew that when a mom has PPD-it puts the child at risk for social and cognitive delays all the way into early childhood. There is research that shows this and it gave her anxiety as a new mom knowing that her mental state was affecting her baby.

The focus is always on the baby being healthy-ie the pediatrician always checks over the baby to make sure baby is healthy and growing well but never checks in to see how mom is doing. But the mom’s mental health affects the baby.

Sunit asks Kate to share tips of things to do and keep in mind if early childhood education isn’t your forte.

Kate says that preparing by having some nursery rhymes and songs in your toolkit is a great thing to do. You tube is a great resource. Kate says that hand gestures along with music and singing are a great way to engage babies. Sunit asks about baby sign language and Kate says it is a controversial topic but a safe bet is to pair the verbal word with the gesture if you want to do baby signing with your kids. Hand motions and pointing to objects help babies learn attention skills.

DOs-get your arsenal of songs/games ready before baby comes and become aware and intentional of your hand gestures and pointing in early stages. Talk to them and acknowledge what they are doing (I see you! I see you are sitting up in your chair! Wow, you must have a strong belly!). It grows their vocabulary, gives them reassurance and reinforcement.

DONTs – Don’t NOT interact with your baby. They’re never too young to interact with them. Also, don’t cater to their every whimper. Resist the urge to “save” them all the time. It’s ok for them to be left to their own devices for a few minutes. Use the “talk and acknowledge” from a distance. If your baby is truly distressed you’ll know. Sunit refers to the sleep expert she interviewed who also said that you need to teach babies to self soothe while still tending to their needs.

Sunit asks if babies can hear you in the womb and Kate says there is research to show that they can and that they can identify you. They are able to pair up and build neural connections to decipher around what they heard in the womb (which was muffled) and what they hear now. Get dads in on the fun of talking to baby in utero because they will recognize dads tone when they are born.

Sunit says her biggest takeaway is to recognize that your own mental health does affect babies in the early days and that’s why it’s so important to prepare well and get your support system set up BEFORE baby comes.

She asks Kate for tips for an overwhelmed new mom who may be doing more of the “donts” right now. Kate says that she recommends setting very small goals for yourself-like-5 minutes to get outside every day. Kate says you can even just start with 1. Just do what you can handle and work your way up. She reiterates adopting the “village” mentality and building your support system so that you don’t feel alone. If you feel like you don’t have a village, check out the resources available to you in your community and online. There are many resources and support groups that are free. When people offer to come see the baby, tell them to come over and tell them what you need! Take the baby so you can have a nap, clean your house, do your dishes, etc. Ask for the time you need to interact with your child.

Sunit asks Kate for one piece of advice for the mom who doesn’t have a baby yet-how can she prepare? Kate says that right now you have the opportunity to set yourself up for success-organize PP aspects BEFORE the baby is born. Figure out your support, figure out your systems and do dry runs before hand to ensure you are ready. Make it easy for yourself, station the things you will need often in every area of your house where you spend the most time. Ask for multiples of things that you may use a lot of (ie-more than one “baby seat” for more than one room of the house). Get your finances in order-who will pay the bills if you are the one that pays them right now? Get your logistics in order. Think past the birth experience at all the other practical things you need to be thinking about.

Sunit says that’s why she started MMPS-to inspire moms to think about this stuff ahead of time. She asks Kate about her Self and how she holds on to what she loves to do. Kate says she loves to write and her blog was inspired by that love. After her son was born, starting her blog was a place for her to express herself without rules and do something for her SELF.

Her blog is here

You can go here to access the toolkit!


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