When a woman is pregnant, people tend to nurture her and look out for her well-being more than usual. While some women do not like the extra attention, many welcome the additional support with open arms. Yet, when baby arrives, all the nurturing attention gets shifted onto the new baby, and the new mother’s needs often take a backseat. Newly postpartum mothers often describe going days without showering, eating a home-cooked meal, or having time to take a long, much needed nap.
It’s important to know that a mother whose needs aren’t met is a mother who can’t possibly put her best, most nurturing and balanced self forward. To provide the best care for baby, mother needs to be happy, well fed, well rested, and supported. This is not just her job, but the job of those who surround her—her partner, her family, and her friends.
Here are several things that should be high on the priority list for a new mother. If the new mother is struggling or experiencing signs of a mood disorder, it’s even more important for her loved ones to step up and ensure the following needs are being met:
1. Nurture the Nurturer: One great way to show your postpartum friend or family member that you’re there is to set up a meal-plan. Using a website like www.takethemameal.com allows you to invite friends and family to sign up to bring a hot meal to the family. Many women ask their friends and family to plan to provide 2 or more weeks of meal support while the new mom adjusts to her role. Remember to tell the people delivering the meals to avoid becoming “guests” at meal drop-off time. Many new families express frustration about feeling like they have to “entertain” friends and family who drop by. Be sure to drop the meal off, staying no longer than 30 minutes. And if you’re really inspired to help, wash any dishes in the sink and take out the garbage on the way out! These little things make a big difference to a new family adjusting to huge changes.
2. Sleep: Make sure that the new mom is getting lots of sleep. This means she’ll have to sleep when the baby sleeps, so pre-arrange with friends or family members to take over housekeeping duties. A new mother’s sleep is very important. If the new mom is having diffuculty sleeping, even when baby sleeps, have her talk to her doctor. Sleep loss in the postpartum period can become serious very quickly! Protect the new mom’s sleep time by allowing her to focus only on the baby and herself.
3. Eat Nutritiously: New mothers desperately need a steady stream of nutritious foods. All of the physical changes she has been through can easily take their toll. She needs to eat healthfully and continuously, especially when breastfeeding. Keep her nightstand stocked with her favorite granola bars or other healthy snacks so she can fill her grumbling stomach at the 2 am feeding without having to get up. She’ll thank you for it!
4. Exercise: Be sure to get out every day for at least 15 minutes for a walk around the block. Take baby with you in a baby sling, but make sure she’s bundled up in the winter months! A little exercise is proven to support a stable mood and swift postpartum recovery.
By Melina Mejia Stock