Meet the Baby Whisperer
As a neo-natal nurse with ten years experience handling newborns, Kelly Johnson thought she was perfectly prepared to have a baby of her own … until she got pregnant.
Despite all her training, Kelly found she was just as susceptible to the anxiety every new mum feels on arriving home with a brand new baby.
In setting up her company Baby Whisperers, Kelly aims to help other women avoid going through what she went through as a new mother. By combining her professional knowledge with her own personal experience, she can offer new mums practical advice and emotional support during those first, overwhelming days at home.
Trained as a nurse in her native Canada, Kelly specialised in Neo-natal Intensive Care. After arriving in Cayman, she worked at the NICU in George Town Hospital for five years until her son Samuel was born in December 2011. But despite having handled tiny premature babies, nursed sick infants and provided comfort and support to parents in her role as a nurse, she found herself unprepared for the journey ahead of her as a mother.
“Looking back, the first signs of trouble started during pregnancy, when I was put on bed rest for a month” says Kelly. Sam arrived early at 32 weeks, and while the baby was healthy, Kelly suffered from a post-partum hemorrhage. Nothing had gone according to “plan” – both pregnancy and delivery had been far from straightforward.
There was little reprieve from bad luck once she got home. The final straw for Kelly was the discovery that all the breast milk she had so diligently expressed had gone sour, and the only reward for her labour was a baby who viewed the bottle as the enemy. Three months after giving birth, Kelly was diagnosed with post-natal depression.
Although the odds were stacked against her from a medical perspective, Kelly is convinced that the main reason for her post-natal depression was the lack of support available to her during those first weeks at home. Her husband had no prior experience with babies and felt as helpless as she did. Her parents lived overseas, and while friends helped where they could, they had busy lives of their own.
Research shows that women who deliver away from their “home” are 70% more likely to develop post-natal depression. In other words, having your mother (or a female relative) on hand to lend a hand and to give advice and reassurance is as important today as it was in generations past. Parenting books are simply no replacement.
In Cayman, where many of us live far from our families, this can present a problem. But Baby Whisperers can now fill the gap.
“A new mother who feels confident in her own abilities is more likely to adjust quickly to her new role,” says Kelly. “Every new parent worries about whether they are doing things right and continually wonders if their baby’s behaviour is normal. Simply having someone there to answer their million questions can make all the difference.”
At Baby Whisperers, Kelly and her partner Claire Hendriksen offer a service that is aimed at giving women the confidence they need. In the first five days after leaving hospital, they will visit mums at home to offer tips on feeding (breast or bottle), bonding, scheduling and coping with sleep deprivation. They check on the health of both mum and baby, and go over basic skills learned (and easily forgotten) in hospital such as bathing and umbilical cord care. Kelly and Claire are available 24/7 to their clients, who often feel most worried and alone in the middle of the night.
“I wish there had been someone who could offer the kind of help and guidance Baby Whisperers does at the time we had Sam,” says Kelly’s husband Greg. “It was stressful enough trying to figure out how to look after a new baby, but I found it even harder watching my super-capable wife struggling to cope. As a father and husband, I wanted to help but wasn’t sure how. Being able to call on a qualified maternity nurse for assistance would have been an ideal solution for us all.”
Baby Whisperer clients are quick to agree. New mother Katie Pearson describes her recent experience: “Our daughter arrived two weeks before my parents had booked to fly out to Cayman to help, so we engaged the Baby Whisperers to help us for those first two weeks, and were so glad we did. Kelly’s help with breastfeeding in particular was invaluable and her knowledgeable advice on all other aspects of caring for a newborn helped make us much more confident, which we are sure has made for a calmer and happier baby. Of all the money we spent preparing for a new baby, this was some of the best spent. I cannot recommend this service highly enough to other new parents.”
For Kelly, Baby Whisperers allows her to balance family life with her passion for working with newborns and their parents. “For me, the best sound in the world is a baby’s first breath. There is nothing more rewarding than watching a new parent grow in confidence, and if there is any way I can help with the process, then I want to be there to do so.”
Baby Whisperers offer packages ranging from $250 to $800, depending on the level of support required. For more information, call 324-1380.
Kelly also runs classes on The Purple Period of Crying, and posts helpful advice for new mums on Baby Whisperer’s facebook page.