Welcoming a new baby is an exciting event for many families. We spend many months eagerly anticipating and preparing our homes and lives for the newborn’s arrival. But because so much focus is put on the newborn in the early days it is easy to forget about mamma and everything her physical and emotional bodies have gone through during pregnancy, labor, and delivery.
Well-meaning visitors want to help but often don’t know what to do. Here are a few tips to help you support a new mom:
- New moms need rest. When you arrive, tell her, “I’m only going to stay for a few minutes” and then only stay for a few minutes! 30 minutes, tops. Do not expect the new mom to play host. Instead, you can make sure she has a glass of water and a snack. Clean water and healthy foods help nurture the tired, depleted mom. If mom specifically asks you to stay longer, prepare a nourishing meal, do another chore, and offer to hold the baby so she can nap or shower.
- Find a need and fill it. Offer to do something specific rather than asking what you can do. After a woman has birthed her baby, her priorities shift but her needs don’t. For instance, she may not realize there isn’t much food in the house but she will still need to eat. Pick up dinner and drop it off at her house. When you ask mom IF you can do something for her, she may feel she needs to make yet another decision. When you tell her you’d LIKE to do something for her, it can be so much easier for her to say “yes” and simply receive. The difference is subtle but profound. Take care of the laundry, run the dishwasher, and don’t forget about the garbage-please take it out and be sure to put a new bag in the bin!
- Don’t offer advice unless the mother asks for it. Even though we mean well, when we offer unsolicited advice we may be unintentionally interfering with a new mom’s growing instincts and intuition. Women will often talk about their experiences in order to process and find their own way through Motherhood. But, then, when mom does ask for help, instead of saying, “Why don’t you do …..?” or “You should do.…” consider offering statements that begin with “I’ve seen some people try this…” or “In my experience …”
- Find something wonderful to say about the mom. New moms need encouragement. It can be very empowering for a mom to hear that you admire how she responds so readily to her newborn’s cues. It can be comforting for her to hear that you notice she is really good at soothing her crying baby.
In the hours, days, and weeks after birth, a woman goes through intense changes as her body is seeking to regain physical strength and hormonal balance. The best way to nurture a new mom is to help provide an atmosphere where she feels supported physically and emotionally while allowing her to rest, bond with, and explore her precious newborn in a relaxed and compassionate environment. It takes a network of support to grow strong, healthy families. And strong families create strong, healthy communities.
Jen Kowal is a Postpartum Doula who has made it her profession to nurture new families immediately after the birth of their baby. She also leads The New Parent Series at Montclair B.A.B.Y. Check Montclair B.A.B.Y for more information and the current workshop schedule.