Plenty of attention is given to women during pregnancy and to the new babies that are born, while many new mothers find that their needs fall by the wayside. WHY? The postpartum (after birth) period is a unique and vulnerable space in a woman's life and a time where her need for nurturing is great. When new mothers don't receive the care that they need, it causes problems..for the woman, the baby, and the family as a whole. The good news? It doesn't have to be this way. So here are some ideas for how to take the BEST care of the new Mamas that you know- because that's really what they deserve.
Keep visits short, sweet, and helpful
When a new baby is born, people often emerge from the woodwork hoping for some snuggle time. It's wonderful to know that people care, but too many visitors can be stressful for a mom who is sleep deprived, healing from childbirth, and figuring out how to care for a new baby. It's often best to send a text or note of congratulations and wait for the family to reach out saying they're ready for company. If you are able to visit, keep it brief and do something helpful while you are there- unload the dishwasher, fold a load of laundry, or play with baby so mom can shower. Anything that you do, especially without being asked, will be SO appreciated.
Let her sleep and feed her
Enough said. This should really be the golden rule when caring for new families. Tip: If you bring a dinner meal, be sure to bring some breakfast fixings for the next day too!
It's a sad but true cliche that mothers are not in many family photos. A newborn family photo session makes a great baby shower gift! If that's not doable, stage a nursery shoot at home (you can find tons of tips online) or just take pictures of those everyday moments around the house with a baby. You can be sure that they will be treasured in the future.
Run her errands
It's hard to juggle a car seat, soothe a baby, and coordinate feedings while trying to drive and get anything accomplished. Help a Mama out.
Yes, yes, it's so much fun to shop for cute baby clothes and toys but most babies have an abundance of things that they never even use. How about doing something for mom? Some suggestions: Gift certificates for massage, pedicure, chiropractic care, an acupuncture session, a yoga class...anything that she will enjoy.
A healing basket Look on Pinterest for lots of ideas for herbal baths, sprays, and teas that promote healing and offer some pampering time.
Expert help Gifting towards a housekeeping service, babysitter for older children, diaper service, or lactation support (for the breastfeeding mama) can all be incredibly useful. Postpartum doula care can meet many of a new mother's needs.
Time to herself Whether it's an hour long nap or an overnight break, all parents eventually need some time to regroup and recharge. Book a room at a local hotel or set up a mini getaway in a room at home- whatever works for the family.
Don't forget about her
Sometimes new mothers are shocked at how much their social life feels restricted after having a baby. It's hard to plan outings around newborn care, especially when dealing with sleep deprivation and a whole new routine. Take care to ask a new mother to your happenings. Even if she doesn't come, she'll appreciate the invite. Better yet, make an effort to plan baby friendly outings occasionally or bring the party to her and plan a gathering for close friends at her home.
Ask her how she's feeling. Ask about her birth experience. Ask about parenting and how it's met (or failed to meet) her expectations of motherhood. Just ask and listen. A quiet, caring presence is invaluable.
Take these ideas to heart and go show some love to the new mamas in your life- this weekend and all year long!
Whitney Marsillett is a birth and postpartum doula in Knoxville, TN, and owner of Knoxville Birth & Baby