I’d like to start a series of posts about postpartum care. Because I’m pretty sure people will not stop having babies anytime soon, these topics are important to everyone since we are all affected even if you aren’t a parent. We continue the march toward being kind humans to one another and the postpartum time is one of those magic moments to shower parents with kindness, support and education in celebration of their new baby. Why not do what we can to give each other a strong start?
Don’t let someone fool you, having a new baby is a full time job. In the past, and in other cultures, the parents of a new baby and especially the mom are not allowed to do anything except breastfeed and recover. Even if parents seem to have everything under control, chances are they’d still appreciate a hot meal and free hands to eat it with, or an hour or two to do something without the baby,
There are many ways to help a family with a new baby, most of which are obvious. Something that isn’t always obvious is how sensitive and vulnerable parents can become, especially if things aren’t going smoothly, which is all too common. Whatever you are doing, come in with just that desire to help and leave the judgment and the advice (unless asked) at the door.
For people dropping by or dropping items off:
Meals – I did a whole post on nutrition last time in this series so I won’t say much more here. I will say that having someone bring a meal by is amazing, and having easy meals in the freezer are also great. From personal experience, when my twins were born, I found that my husband, mom, and I could take care of the meals but things became difficult when my mom left and husband went back to work. That was after most of the meals stopped coming. Before my little guy was born I really stocked our freezer and pantry (with these: breakfast sausage, meatballs, empanadas, knish, jars of soup using this pressure cooker, bags of parboiled frozen veggies, and other things). These have saved me when I needed to magically make dinner appear with a sleepy baby and tired kids home from school.
Groceries and shopping – picking things up from the store used to be the easiest task but can be really difficult when the parents would rather be sleeping. If you are at the store, text or call to see if you can pick something up and plan to just leave it at the door. Text while at the store in case they remembered something vital, like wipes.
Help with older kids – it goes without saying that a new baby is an adjustment for everyone in the family. Adjusting can manifest in many ways for older kids, from regressing, lashing out, becoming needy, trouble at school, and other attention-seeking behavior. It can be difficult on parents too because your spirited, thriving older kid(s) just became a loud, germ-ridden creature that wants to hug your delicate new baby too tightly. Everyone can get pretty emotional. Having some time when the older kids can just be themselves with someone else, and some time with their parents without the baby can do wonders for everyone’s relationships.
Household chores – yes. Come in, do them without being asked, and don’t ask for thanks. Just know the parents are very grateful.
Just listen – this goes with the no judging and no advice. Parents often just need to talk things out to help process everything that has happened and is happening. Be present, listen, and check in later to see how they are doing.
Give them a little alone time – to do whatever she/he wants, like shower, read, surf the web, sleep, shop, etc. It doesn’t have to be long to be replenishing to body and spirits.
Don’t stay too long or expect them to play host – this just won’t make anyone happy. They are tired and have other things on their minds.
For family members or friends staying for a longer visit:
All the things mentioned above plus …
Help with the care taking duties too – Change some diapers, soothe a fussy baby, feed baby a bottle if applicable, etc. Don’t expect to always be holding and cuddling a content baby, do some of the harder work too.
Keep the breastfeeding stations stocked with healthy snacks and water – breastfeeding can be difficult, especially in the early weeks. Sometimes a mom may be stuck in one place trying to breastfeed while she’s also getting very hungry and thirsty. Having some snacks at arm’s reach is a very nice thing.
Give encouragement and support– This goes along with listening. Family members and friends who are staying to help may be the first to notice if a parent is overwhelmed and needs help beyond what is being given. If it seems like someone may be experiencing a postpartum mood disorder help them find resources and support and encourage follow through. I have some links on the Resource page and I will be writing a whole post on this too.
Parents in the first few weeks with a baby are at the hight of emotion. Helping in any of these areas is so worth it for everyone.