7 Loving Ways to Help Support a New Mom After Birth
The first few weeks postpartum can be overwhelming to new moms. During this period, a woman is adjusting to numerous physical, social, and psychological changes. She is healing from childbirth, adapting to changing hormones, and learning to feed and care for her infant. While the postpartum period is often a time of joy and excitement, for many new moms it also presents significant challenges, including lack of sleep, fatigue, pain, nursing difficulties, stress, new onset or exacerbation of mental health disorders, lack of sexual desire, and urinary incontinence. Even doing something as seemingly simple as taking a shower can sometimes take more time and energy than a new mom is able to muster.
Giving birth is an all-consuming experience for the mind, body, and soul with a lot of ups and downs. If you’ve got a new mom in your life, it’s important to provide her with the space and freedom to re-acclimate to her environment at her own pace and in her own way. Here are a few ways to help a new mom after having a baby.
1. Ask and really listen
It’s easy to center conversations around the sweet new baby, but have you asked mom how she’s doing? You may only get a simple “fine” or “tired” in response, but try to get her talking. She may need a little support and encouragement. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) research estimates about 1 in 8 women with a recent live birth experience symptoms of postpartum depression, and the symptoms don’t look the same for everyone.
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2. Don’t stay too long
A half-hour to an hour is plenty of time for most new moms. While a visit from family or friends is often wanted and appreciated, it can also be mentally taxing. A new mom’s days are fully occupied with feeding, changing, cleaning, and laundry. Having guests stay a bit too long can add extra stress to a mom who’s already feeling fatigued. Keep an eye on the clock.
3. Take a walk
Or go to the park. Or offer to meet for coffee. Not every new mom will feel comfortable doing outings just yet, but for some, it might be just what the doctor ordered. The break in the new daily grind may be refreshing, and she might appreciate being able to get out of the house for a bit. Take it slowly and keep your expectations low. If mom had an especially difficult birth experience, she may have limited stamina so take your cues from her.
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4. Do a few chores
For most people, it’s easier to accept help than to ask someone for it. Do your best to either take initiative during a visit (“While you’re breastfeeding, I’m happy to fold that basket of laundry before I head out!”) or ask for a specific task (“What is one thing I can do to help you today, no matter how small?”). Offer to change the sheets on her bed or wash the dishes. Pick up some groceries on your way over or bring her a casserole. Offer to walk the dog or hold the baby while she takes a shower. When you offer to do these little chores, you’re gifting mom with time to take care of herself or bond with her newborn.
5. Offer to be a “mother’s helper”
Postpartum care is critical for a new mom’s health. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, “all women should ideally have contact with a maternal care provider within the first three weeks postpartum. This initial assessment should be followed up with ongoing care as needed, concluding with a comprehensive postpartum visit no later than 12 weeks after birth.”
Getting that care can be a little more challenging with a newborn involved. Offer to be a “mother’s helper” by going with her to these appointments or staying with the baby while she goes on her own. Knowing her baby’s needs are being attended to will allow a new mom to focus on whatever she needs to discuss with her doctor to stay healthy.
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6. Catch up by phone
Simply checking in by phone can help take the edge off the loneliness a new mom often feels. Being home alone with an infant can feel unexpectedly isolating in those first few weeks. It helps to have someone reaching out – and talking on the phone takes some of the pressure off mom to have herself or her house looking tidy.
7. Connect through common experiences
Sharing your own joys and struggles as a parent can be a powerful salve for a postpartum mom. Talking about your own funny new parent moments, along with the times you felt anxious or inadequate can provide a sense of connection.
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