Do new mothers have the level of care that they need?
What can people who care about them do to help?
Excerpted from Salle Webber’s The Gentle Art of Newborn Family Care.
Our culture is without a custom that provides for the care and well-being of the new family as it progresses.
The mother may exist for weeks in a blur of
- sleep deprivation
- lack of companionship
- insufficient food or drink throughout the day
- limited ability to attend to her personal hygiene needs
- confusing demands from the baby
- and in some cases, depression as a result.
The outside world is going on without her. Her partner is back to work after a week or two at most; her friends are busy and seem so well dressed when they drop in. Her clothes don’t fit, her breasts are enormous and dripping milk. She hasn’t had a conversation with an adult in hours—or days. Her focus is on putting the baby to her breast, milk let-down, burping, pooping, and spitting up. The modern world is less than interested and she may feel isolated and alone.
One caring person can change all that. Daily attention and companionship are therapeutic. Sharing the wonder of the child is a lovely experience for all. Remember the miracle that this new life represents, and know that it is an honor to be part of this circle.
We are learning once again how to attend to the needs of our neighbors. Bringing food, cleaning the house, entertaining older children, or simply listening and encouraging are simple, yet vital, services we can offer.
Looking with compassion upon a tired mother, we may:
- offer to do the laundry
- prepare dinner
- go grocery shopping
- massage her weary back.
These are the simple necessities so often overlooked …
New mothers cannot be expected to live by the usual rules of society. They require care that meets the needs of the partnership they share with their babies. As we better understand the importance of the early weeks of life to the child’s later expectations and behaviors, we see the value in being compassionate. As we reflect on the long-term health benefits, physical as well as mental, of full healing after a major medical event, we see the importance of caring for our new mothers.
Photos: Belle Verdiglione