7 Ways to Support Mom After Baby
If you're a new mom and you can't remember if you even brushed your teeth this morning, welcome to postpartum life. Ask just about any mom about the days, weeks, and months after having a baby, and you're sure to get a similar response. Something like, "I'm really tired." Having a baby takes a toll on a mom's body, mind, and spirit. It's not all bad and exhausting, but it's not all unicorns and rainbows either. Not for every woman all the time, anyway. Unfortunately, the postpartum period (which can impact women for up to a year after birth) is just not simple, and assuming that it is leaves mom to fend for herself.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) revised postpartum recommendations in April 2018 to recommend doctors have contact with patients within three weeks of giving birth, followed by another visit no later than twelve weeks after birth. This change makes a real positive impact for moms in the postpartum period. Any physical or mental health challenges or concerns will now likely be caught earlier.
"The first thing I notice is how we prepare so well for baby, but by comparison, a mother's preparation and anticipation of her own needs dwindles greatly," says Lizzie Langston, host of The Postpartum Coach podcast. Support the new mom in your life by giving her the freedom and space to own her individual experience—the good and the not so good. Also important is giving her time to find her bearings again on who she is, not only as a mom but as a stand-alone individual. Here are six ways to support mom after baby.
1. Ask Questions and Follow Up
Of course, conversations are easily all about Baby, but when was the last time you asked Mom how she's feeling, physically and mentally? Instead of settling for a one-word answer, go a step further and offer a lifeline of support just in case she needs it. "Don't be afraid to push past her initial response of how she's doing," says Langston. "If she responds with a simple, 'good,' you can follow up with, 'tell me about it. How is postpartum feeling?'" Keep in mind, one in nine women experience postpartum depression, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and not all warning signs look the same.
- RELATED: Should You Hire a Postpartum Doula?
2. Suggest an Outing
Every mom's comfort level is different regarding when, how, and even if they'd like to get out of the house. Simply asking if she'd like to take a walk, go to the park, or go for a drive may be just what she needs. Langston suggests a short hour-long outing as a nice way to switch up her day. It's also a nice change from everyone always coming to her. Be sensitive to her recovery of the birth experience though, because her endurance and strength may be limited. Move slow and easy, and let her lead.
3. Offer to Do Specific Tasks
Lisa Hanes, LMFT, RN, a certified nurse-midwife in Santa Monica, California, suggests that you "bring food or groceries, do laundry, go for a walk, clean, or change the bedding." Your doing these little tasks means Mom has a moment to herself or to bond with her baby.
4. Schedule Phone Calls
Calling on the phone doesn't put pressure on the new mom to tidy up or clean off her counters. Phone calls are easy, so don't be afraid to reach out, especially if you do not live nearby. "One of the unexpected burdens of the postpartum experience seems to be the unanticipated loneliness we feel as moms," says Langston. "Our spouse goes back to work, our baby doesn't talk or smile back much yet, and there we are alone, in our house, figuring things out."
5. Share Your Stories and Struggles
Finding connection through a common life experience, like having a baby, is so powerful. "Most parents like to hear the commonality of the ups and downs, highs and lows of life with a newborn," says Hanes. "Share surprising and funny moments, feelings of joy, as well as inadequacy and unease."
6. Offer to Be Her Postpartum Advocate
It’s critical for Mom to keep her post-delivery doctor appointments, but getting there with a baby is tough. Offer to stay with Baby while she goes or to go with her to appointments as her second pair of hands and ears. Having a helper there means she won’t be rushed or distracted if her baby starts to fuss. It’s vital Mom has time to discuss all she needs with her doctor. Langston says keeping regular post-delivery doctor appointments means any changes in mental or physical health can be caught early.
7. Set Your Timer for Visits
Days with a newborn are busy with laundry, cleaning, and responding to friends and family members. Visitors are wonderful, but can also be draining sometimes. Hanes suggests limiting visits to 30 to 60 minutes at a time. Adult conversations and connections are so valuable, but can also add stress when fatigue is a big factor. Watch the clock, and don't overstay your welcome.