Finding Your Ville-age: A New Mom’s Guide to Somerville

Today’s post was written by Kat Rutkin, a Somerville mom, Executive Director of Somerville Local First and co-moderator of the Somerville Moms list. Kat has written on the Beat in the past about Summer Fun with Kids in Somerville & Beyond and Indoor Retreats from the Cold to Keep the Kids Busy.

Now that I’m out of the blissful sleeplessness of the newborn phase with my second son, Graham, I can’t help but think back to when I had my first son, Sumner, a few years ago. We had relocated to Somerville when I was about seven months pregnant with Sumner. It was an exciting time, but also a bit lonely. I remember being somewhat lost about what to do, where to go and what was baby-friendly (pro-tip: it wasn’t the T during rush hour). As I grew into my role as a mom, I realized that even established ‘Villens might be confused about what to do with these new humans in their lives, how to make friends with other sleep-deprived parents, and the best places to go.

In an effort to share what I learned over months of research, here’s a list I’ve compiled of essential services, places, shops and groups that will help you find what you need to navigate these precious and sleep-deprived few months ahead. Because the list of resources is large, I’ll be sharing it with you in a series of posts.

Graham cloth diaper

Graham sporting a too-cute cloth diaper.

The first thing you’ll need is support, preferably in the form of a group of like-minded parents who’ve just been through the same thing as you. Your own parents, helpful as they are, will likely have forgotten the horror of feeling like you’re on Mars* when you wake up for the 35th time in 24 hours. You can use a good coffee** and a chat.

I may be biased (I am one of the moderators) but the first thing you should do, if you haven’t already, is join the Somerville Moms list. It’s a Yahoo group that’s about 12 years old and includes more than 3,000 families from Somerville and the surrounding region. Because many of us are transplants, we don’t have family nearby we can call for support. This list is what I call my cyber-village. It’s a circle of support on all topics related to baby and child-rearing, as well as a great resource to find secondhand items, referrals to pediatricians and doctors of all kinds, restaurant recommendations and more. This is also where I found many of my friends, either through deliberately organizing a coffee group or through selling my secondhand stuff!

To join SomervilleMoms, follow the prompts on the website.

You will then receive an email asking you to send a brief biography to the moderator at SomervilleMoms-owner@yahoogroups.com. New members are added to the listserv approximately once a week, after the moderator receives bios.

There are also several Facebook groups, including Somerville Moms and Parents of Camberville as well as many subgroups based on your child’s age.

Graham and Sumner

Big brother Sumner keeping Graham company.

If you don’t want to make your own circle of friends, there are several established groups for new moms around town that meet on a regular basis.

The Jewish Children and Family Services (JCFS) offers several area groups for parents of newborns during the week. You do not have to be Jewish to attend. In Somerville, they are held in conjunction with the Somerville Family Network at the Cummings School (42 Prescott St.) on Fridays from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.

For a full list of area meet-ups, check here.

There are also new mom groups that you pay to attend through services like Mommybites Boston and others.

The Birth Center at Cambridge Hospital also offers a drop-in breastfeeding support group twice a week. I found them incredibly helpful as we stumbled through those first few days of nursing. I decided to go when I found myself staring at my cat, not understanding how she could probably nurse with way less effort than I did, despite her penchant for being confused by her own reflection. The nonjudgmental approach to assistance from the leaders of the group helped me continue to nurse my son for 13 months. Although I delivered both my boys at Cambridge, you do not have to be a patient to attend these groups.

Cambridge Hospital Breastfeeding Support Group. Tuesdays and Thursdays 10am-noon in the Cambridge Birth Center. Call 617-665-1164 for additional information.

Babywearing International of Greater Boston: If you have a fussy baby (and we all do from time to time) wearing the baby could be a real sanity saver. If you find yourself intimidated by the number and styles of carriers available, check out a meeting of Babywearing International. The leaders are awesome and will help you find the right style and design for your needs, and help you figure out how to get your screaming octopus of a darling baby into that thing. You can even check out a carrier from their lending library for a refundable deposit. Their chapter president recently helped me figure out how to nurse my second in the carrier while I run after my first born. It’s the little things that contribute to parenting success.

BWI meets several times a month at different locations in the region. Check the website for details.

Sumner Elmo diaper
Sumner practicing cloth diapering before Graham’s arrival.

Diaper Lab: While technically a retail store, I consider Diaper Lab a community resource. It sells cloth diapers but also has workshops on diapering and babywearing, babywearing drop-ins, and can help you troubleshoot problems with your diapers (everything from rashes to fit to laundry problems!). There is no way I would have considered cloth diapering without Diaper Lab’s support, and it turns out it’s super easy and adorable to use cloth. They also have an experiment to own program that allows you to try out some diapers at home and return them for store credit toward purchase when you’re done. With so many to choose from this is a great option. (I’m partial to fitteds and covers myself, but definitely try them all!) Buying diapers from Diaper Lab not only makes your baby’s behind 3,000 times cuter, but it also supports a business that employs working moms and helps so many moms in the region make the switch to cloth. They also have classes on breastfeeding basics, newborn care and becoming a dad.

Diaper Lab: 200 Elm St. North, Cambridge (but actually in Davis Square, part of the store is in Somerville!)

Stay tuned for future installments on the best places to eat and shop with your baby!

*Really happened to me, thanks to the advice of Gina Ford to put a red light in the nursery for late-night changes and feedings.

** Coffee alone can’t offer you support but my favorite cups are the cold brew from Union Square Donuts (you deserve a donut too), anything from Bloc 11, Forge or Diesel (bonus points for changing tables), and La Brasa’s iced coffee (and the TOAST).

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