Barbara Higham shares an essential lists of the do’s and don’ts of visiting a new baby.
In the early days and weeks following the birth of a baby, new parents mostly want to be left in peace and to spend time together. Even after a straightforward delivery, the mother will need time to recuperate and regain her strength, and if her birth was difficult, she will want time to recover. Getting to know a new baby, learning to breastfeed, and getting some rest in between caring 24/7, demands a restful environment. New parents do not want to worry about entertaining visitors because they will be too tired or preoccupied and it is unlikely they will have time to waste on extra household chores for your comfort.
Friends or relatives may offer to help out when a new baby arrives. While an extra pair of hands can be welcome, some visitors may bring advice and comments that are not at all helpful: What Big Teeth You Have, Grandmother
A new mother deserves to be looked after by others in her family and by any guests. That is simply how it should be and she shouldn’t feel she needs to adopt the role of hostess for some time. One way to reinforce that message so that she doesn’t inevitably end up making drinks and food for any guests is for the mother of a new baby to stay in her pyjamas and robe for the first few weeks. That makes it clear to any visitors that she needs her rest. A mother needs to be specific about the kinds of help she would appreciate, whether it is doing a load of laundry, making a pot of tea/coffee or fetching something from the grocery store.
By taking care of the new mother in the early days, she will have more strength in the months ahead: How Cultures Protect the New Mother
Anyone visiting a mother who has a new baby needs a copy of the following list!
- Bring food when you visit (meals and snacks that need little or no additional preparation).
- Make sure she always has something refreshing to drink by her side.
- Make a meal and serve it to her, or leave a packed lunch ready.
- Do some grocery shopping for her.
- Clean up the kitchen, wash the dishes, vacuum, tidy up.
- Do laundry, iron, fold the clothes, and put them away.
- Brush her hair, give her a back rub, or a foot massage while she breastfeeds her baby.
- Change the baby’s diaper.
- Look after the baby while she takes a bath or shower, or a short walk.
- Accompany her when she has to go somewhere to offer an extra pair of hands.
- Offer to take her to a breastfeeding mothers’ meeting, give her contact details of her local IBCLC, or buy her a good book to help her with breastfeeding or postpartum parenting.
- Listen to her worries.
- Send her links to posts on Women’s Health Today and Breastfeeding Posts.
- Comfort her.
- Let her know what a good job she is doing caring for her baby!
- Offer to take care of or entertain her older children for a couple of hours or walk them to, or collect them from, school.
- Keep on offering your help and support.
- Give advice when she complains about being tired or about how difficult everything is.
- Ask whether the baby is getting enough milk or is sleeping through the night yet. These frequently heard questions serve only to undermine a mother’s confidence.
- Cause her stress by offering to take her baby from her for any length of time. She might be grateful for the same offer at some point but a new mom will want to hold and be with her baby.
- Expect her, or any member of her family, to offer you refreshments.
- Create more work by bringing huge bags of unwanted baby clothes. A small bag containing the right size for the baby now is more manageable to sort through than a large one, particularly if you take away what she doesn’t want rather than leaving unwanted clutter.
- Forget that the mother needs help for some months (years!), not just the first few weeks.
- Forget to keep on offering your support.
Stern and Kruckman noted that cultures who had a low incidence of postpartum mood disorders all had rituals that provided support and care for new mothers. These cultures, although quite different from each other, all shared 5 protective social structures …