How to help and support mothers of a newborn: Part 2
Here is part 2 of my unsolicited advice on how to support mothers of a newborn. Some practical tips for partners and family and friends.
Suggestions for partners
Ask the magic words, (see yesterdays post)
Get hands on from the beginning. Learn how to bath the baby and change nappies. These one on one activities are the building blocks of a positive relationship with your baby
Cook any meals, e.g. cooked breakfast in the morning before going to work, or take over cooking dinner as often as you can.
Make sure the new Mum is eating three wholesome meals a day (protein will help keep her full and blood sugars more stable, also include good fats, veggies, leafy greens, nuts and seeds etc), as well as drinking plenty of water. Healthy, nutritious eating often becomes overlooked with young children.
Bring her a drink of water when she’s breastfeeding. Not enough water can leave her tired, foggy, flat, dehydrated and even constipated
Encourage her to take a shower when baby has a sleep or offer to hold baby while she showers.
Run her a bath
Offer to take baby out for a walk so she can have some quiet time
Keep the main area where she hangs out tidy. It can be stressful to look around at the mess in her “Nest” while she is busy with baby.
Do the groceries or shop online if that service is available in your area.
Do a load of washing and hang it out.
Make the bed
Accept or ask help. If someone says “Is there anything I can do?” Say yes. It could be a simple as bringing over a roast chook for your dinner.
Take charge of visitors making sure they do not stay too long. You are her gatekeeper.
Emotional Support: Tell her she is doing a great job.
Let her cry or be “emotional” without trying to fix her
Let her de-brief the labour and birth with you, especially if she’s had a disappointing or difficult birth. If she appears to be struggling with her birth experience, or if you suspect she may have some emotional trauma from the birth, or if you just can’t cope with these talks, suggest she talk through her birth to a professional such as a midwife.
Do not behave as if nothing has changed and follow your old routine, be that gym, sport, mates, pub, even if you are on paternity leave. She needs you right now
Do not expect your partner to be interested in sex. She is more exhausted than she has ever been in her life
Develop a thick skin. Your partner will correct you at times. Other times it may seem like she wants everything to be done her way. This is normal. It’s just her way of trying to bring order to a situation that often feels out of control (plus she might actually be right sometimes).
Do not suggest she weigh herself, “you know just for interest sake.” Yes, this is a true story and I nearly committed my first murder when I heard these words spoken on day 3 by a new father to his partner.
Friends and others
Drop and run: Drop around a meal and leave. No need to stay. 10 minute visits turn 30 minute visits and one visitor turns into ten and it exhausting! If you do stay more than 10 minutes make it is to wash the dishes, fold the laundry and if there is no laundry then do some.
Food that can be eaten with one hand, one fork or spoon win extra points!
Wait to be invited: yes newborns are lovely, so adorable and soft and the newer the better but you must respect the new family’s space. Let the new parents enjoy this precious time with their newborn. Ask to visit first. Do NOT drop in. If you have arranged to visit make it short and sweet.
If you are lucky enough to be invited for a visit
Do not wear a lot of perfume. Heavy perfume is an irritant and can bother a baby. You’re not going on a first date with the guy/girl of your dreams. So, don’t douse yourself in Chanel No5 or the latest Hugo Boss. Newborns can break out when they are held by someone with a lot of synthetic perfume on. The fragrance portion of most perfumes are chemicals that are endocrine disruptors that do have the potential (however small) to interfere with the baby’s hormonal development. Also, you never know what they are allergic to.
If you are sick, stay away. It’s important to remember that new babies haven’t yet developed strong immune systems, and they are especially vulnerable to illness. If you are feeling under the weather, even if it’s just a snotty nose, stay away. Rearrange your visit when you are feeling better, do not risk making a newborn baby sick.
Wash your hands: Even if you’re well, you can carry germs and bugs that can make little babies sick, for example, whooping cough. Always, always wash your hands before holding a baby and avoid kissing them – especially on the lips, face or hands which often go into their mouths. Never stick your fingers in the baby’s mouth, washed or not.
Assume the role of host. Do NOT wait to be waited upon. It is a privilege, not your right, that mum and dad have invited you into their home to share the very important, early days at home with a baby. Head straight to the kitchen and offer to make one for everyone. The new parents have enough on their plates looking after the baby, let alone entertaining a host of people for days or even weeks on end – and you can help them out by looking after them
Wait to be offered a hold. Do not go in and scoop up that baby.
Offer to take some photos. Especially of mum and baby, she will take heaps of the baby but have very few of herself
Run some errands. Ask and ask again. There are sure to be parcels to collect from the post, cars to service, items to drop off somewhere.
Help with older siblings: If this is not the family’s first baby take the older kids out. Take them to the park. Do not feed them any junk. Please! Another idea is to create an activity bag for older siblings
Help with pets: Walk the dog or change the kitty litter.
Text from the shops. “ I am at the shop, do you need milk or …. Some people won’t accept help even if it’s offered over and over. Instead of asking mum or dad if they need anything, try calling from the supermarket or department store and ask about specific items. It’s a subtle difference but when someone feels like they’re not putting anyone out it can be easier to accept the help offered.
If you notice the household is low on something, loo paper, milk, detergent, drop of a care package at the front door later and let them know it is there.
Send a note, letter or poem. Good old snail mail brings a smile to our faces and demonstrates some thoughtful effort.
Listen: Sometimes the one thing a new parent needs is someone to listen, especially when that listener comes without judgment or criticism. A new parent may simply need to unload on someone who has walked this road previously. Withhold unsolicited advice, and just be a good friend by listening.
Tell the new mum she is amazing, because she is.
Supportive gift ideas
- Cleaning service
- Mow their lawns
- Massage voucher
- New water bottle
- Easy to eat snacks, fruit, muffins, cookies.
Have you just had a baby?
Please feel free to add your comments on anything I have missed.
The information provided on the Femidist website is intended for educational and/or entertainment purposes only. While the information published on this site is believed to be accurate at the time of writing, it is not intended in any way as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the physical or mental health of yourself or your baby, please seek assistance from a qualified healthcare provider