The most important thing that a loved one can do is assist mom in connecting to her baby. This can be difficult to do when we have built a culture around “letting mom rest” and sending the baby to the nursery. Research shows us that babies actually need to be with their moms as much as possible from the moment of birth throughout the first 10 days postpartum. Newborn babies are not difficult to care for and mom will actually sleep better knowing that her baby is nearby and safe. Respect mom’s instincts and decisions and allow her to lead in her new role. The most hurtful thing someone can do is to tell a new mom that she isn’t doing something right. That can cause guilt and ultimately harm the connection a mom feels towards her new baby.
Becoming Her Protector
Women are taught to be strong and capable, but after the birth of a child, a woman needs to feel completely taken care of so she can meet the physical and emotional needs of her baby. The best thing that her husband, partner, or close family member can do is to get prepared for the best way to care for her. As I said before, this may not look exactly like you may think. Moms don’t need someone to “take the baby,” “feed the baby,” or “give mom time alone.” Moms need their basic needs met so they can spend as much time with their baby resting, feeding, and bonding. One of the most important things you can do is to be prepared for the “baby blues” which normally peak due to hormone fluctuations on days 3 and 10. These feelings are completely normal and actually serve a purpose when they are within reason. They help to remind mom that she has just been through a very physical and mental experience and needs to rest and depend on those around her. Historically women would have given birth, gathered their baby in their arms and rested for 40 days. All of her meals and needs would have been taken care of, and she would have allowed herself to cope with everything that becoming a new mom entails. While we are pretty far removed from this method of bonding, you can help create an atmosphere as close to this as possible. You will most likely find that mom will work through the “baby blues” and move towards more balance as she becomes more accustomed to life with baby. There are times when the baby blues turns into postpartum depression and anxiety, if that is a concern you should help the new mom seek help. A good website is: www.postpartumprogress.com
In Their Own Words
“A big step in caring for moms and babies in the hospital is the recent support for ‘kangaroo birth care.’ Mom is able to hold her newborn immediately after birth, skin-to-skin, uninterrupted for at least one hour. This enables baby to adjust to extra-uterine life while easily maintaining breathing, temperature, and blood sugars. All Kentucky birthing hospitals have this information, although not all have implemented the practice yet. TJ Samson in Glasgow was one of the first in the state to start this, and the nurses have said the immediate calming effect was one of the most surprising results. When family members are clamoring for birth measurements to share and fighting for a chance to hold the new baby, remind yourself and others that this is one of the most important times to support the new mother – by giving her this calming and peaceful hour (or more). She’s worked hard for these precious moments, and she deserves to hold and bond with her new baby. Respect mom’s time with baby, and respect baby’s time with mom. Her body is the only environment he/she knows!” ~Dana Bennett, Regional Breastfeeding Coordinator
Because babies were generally taken away from their mothers and placed in a nursery, family members became accustomed to getting to see the baby weighed, measured, etc. They could take pictures and “ohh and ahh” over the baby immediately after birth. A common practice was calling (now done through Facebook and texting) the baby’s time of birth, length, and weight moments after he/she was born. Kangaroo care changes this practice a bit. You may hear the lullaby song and then it may be longer than you had hoped before you get to announce the news and take those first pictures. Be assured that mom and baby are doing what nature intended and that they are feeling each other’s warmth, baby is hearing mom’s comforting heartbeat, they are looking into one another’s eyes and falling in love. I encourage you to be supportive and understanding even if this is not the same experience that you had when your babies were born.
How to Visit a New Mom
I was thinking through what friends and neighbors could do to help moms during the first couple of weeks with a newborn. I posted this question on the BabyNet KY Facebook page and quickly had a long list of suggestions. Here are a few that seemed most popular:
1. While some moms may specifically request visitors at the hospital, most would rather limit it to just immediate family. Giving birth and bonding with baby takes a lot of work and a calm environment.
2. Email or text if possible so you do not wake a sleeping mom or baby!
3. Bring a meal. Call ahead and see what the new mom would like to eat. Bringing frozen meals or gift certificates for take-out are good ideas as well. Ask if they need anything else like diapers or wipes.
4. Clean something while you are there: the bathroom (secretly), sweep the floor, or offer to start a load of laundry.
5. Do not expect to hold the baby, but if she asks you if you would like to, offer to let her take a shower or get something else done while you are holding the baby.
6. Set the ringer on your phone to ring after 20 minutes to make sure that you do not stay too long.