FITMOM's Best Practices when Visiting a Mom with a New Baby
There's nothing like the birth of a new baby: little fingers, tiny toes and the insanely addictive smell of a newborn. Well intending family members, friends and colleagues are usually just itching for a chance to visit and meet the new bundle of joy.
In the early days and weeks after birth (and this applies even to an uncomplicated, vaginal birth), a new mom is running on fumes and adrenaline. For many, the very act of sitting may be painful or uncomfortable for a few weeks. All women will experience some swelling a discomfort following a vaginal birth, especially if she's recovering from an episiotomy or an assisted birth (by vacuum or forceps). A once routine visit to the washroom can be a major event. Add in some swollen and tender breasts as she learns to breastfeed and a little (or a lot!) of sleep deprivation, receiving visitors can become a very stressful event.
New mom care is essential to newborn care. The care a new mom receives in the early days not only has an impact on the short and long term health of both a mom and her baby, but it can also impact the health of her other children and the community overall.
At FITMOM, we really love and appreciate the approach in caring for new moms that happens in the Asian culture, where a new mom's needs are looked after by others for a full 30 days after she has given birth. Members of her community will manage daily chores, including cooking, cleaning and caring for older children so that she can rest and nourish herself and her baby without having to worry about the burden of a daily routine. Our North American culture has a very different approach and this sense of community is much less predominant, often leaving new moms alone and isolated. On a positive note, though, technology is beginning to play a role as new software is continuously being developed to help overcome these obstacles. Recently, I was introduced to the Meal Train, which allows friends or family to organize meal delivery for families with new additions.
In keeping with our community minded philosophy, here are FITMOM's best practices for family and friends who are interested in visiting a new mom and her wee bundle in the early days and weeks:
- A new mother should never be expected to entertain you. She should not be making tea, offering a drink or making you a meal. For many new moms, hosting of any kind may be too much. Instead, message her and offer meals that you can drop off. Better yet, just drop off a meal and let her know it's at her door (and don't stay unless asked!). You can also offer to run errands for her, cook a meal at her house, clean her house, do her laundry or take the baby for a walk so that she can enjoy a nap.
- A new mom may not have the energy to hold a conversation, make small talk, hear about your day or just "shoot the breeze". Small talk, even with a BFF, can be incredibly draining in the early days. A new mom shouldn't have to "be polite" because you are in her space, needing to engage.
- A new mom should never have to answer the door to an unannounced, drop by visitor, EVER. If you are given the green light to visit, please refrain from bringing strangers, acquaintances or anyone else with you that she barely knows. Her nipples may be bleeding and sore and she just needs a safe space to figure it all out.
- Please don't show up to visit with other friends or children in tow unless she REQUESTS THIS.
- Offer support and help instead of unsolicited advice or comments. This includes comments about her baby's feeding schedule, how much her baby is eating and how often she is feeding her baby. She may already be worried about this and asking will likely make her feel more discouraged.
- If you are holding her new baby, please return the baby as soon as you are asked. If her baby is crying or distressed, she is usually the best one to calm her baby. It often stresses both mom and her baby when they are separated. Allow the new parents to learn what each of their baby's cries mean in their own time.
Some other ways you can offer support:
- Provide help with older children
- Do laundry
- Help with household chores
- Rock or hold her baby, when asked
- Walk the dog
- Change bedding
- Shop for groceries
- Listen and allow mom to cry, if she needs to
- Listen some more
- Ask mom what she needs
Using these tips as guidance will help ensure that a new mom and her baby get off to the best start possible!