Welcoming a new baby into the world is a joyous time. But for mothers, it’s also a challenging one, both emotionally and physically. While the baby demands around-the-clock care, it’s important for partners, family members, friends — and mom herself — to make time to care for mom’s needs, too.
Nirvanni Chatoori, PhD, RNC-MNN, perinatal educator at Memorial Family Birthplace, shares these simple strategies to give mom/new parents some care and moments of rest.
Encourage Self-Care and Rest
During pregnancy, moms experience a variety of permanent and temporary physical and emotional changes. These changes continue into the postpartum period, which can last for weeks or months. After baby is born, mothers need time to heal and get back to feeling like themselves again. Only when mom can care for herself can she be at her best to care for baby.
That’s why it is important to encourage self-care in mom. Self-care includes doing things she loves doing, whether it's reading, baking, having a cup of tea, or exercising. You can help by taking care of the baby and giving mom the time she needs to be alone.
Moms can also use alone time to catch up on sleep. While experts always say sleep when baby sleeps, that isn’t always possible. But even just lying still and closing her eyes for a few minutes can rejuvenate a new mom.
You can also help by putting no demands of your own on mom or dad’s time. If they say they aren’t ready for visitors, respect their wishes and plan a later visit. Don’t stop by unannounced or ask them to do things they may not have the time or energy to do yet. Life is hectic with a new baby, so we should all give new parents a break.
Give New Parents Time as a Couple
You can also help give new parents time as a couple. It’s no secret that a new baby puts a strain on a relationship. If you can, volunteer babysitting services for the baby or their older children. This will give mom and dad time together for a date, walk around the block, or even a nap together. Time as a couple is important to keep their relationship strong.
Help Prepare Before Baby’s Arrival
Caring for mom starts before baby even arrives. You can help moms get ready for life after birth by:
- Gifting handy postpartum care items like witch hazel foam or a peri-bottle/travel bidet
- Preparing and freezing meals that parents can easily pop in the oven
- Creating a healthy snack basket of foods that are easy to eat with one hand
- Cleaning the house shortly before baby arrives
- Volunteering to care for pets or older children when the new baby arrives
These little, considerate things can take a lot off a new mom’s plate. And will help her focus on her baby and herself.
Watch Out for Signs of Postpartum Depression
Possibly the most important thing you can do for a new mom is to keep an eye on her mental health. Postpartum depression, a serious condition, affects hundreds of thousands of women each year. However, the right treatment can help mom bond with her new baby and even save her life.
You’ll want to look out for these signs of postpartum depression in a new mom:
- Crying uncontrollably
- Extreme mood swings
- Feeling angry, anxious or hopeless
- Feeling low energy or exhausted all the time
- Feeling numb
- Feelings of guilt
- Not eating enough
- Trouble sleeping (beyond just getting up with a baby regularly)
If you notice these signs in a new mom, encourage her to contact her obstetrician and talk about her feelings. Some “baby blues” are normal and are caused by lack of sleep or excess stress. But you should take signs such as excessive, uncontrollable crying, not eating and not sleeping seriously.
Another sign of postpartum depression is if a mother expresses thoughts of harming herself or harming her baby. If a new mom expresses these feelings to you, consider it a medical emergency. You should seek medical attention for mom as soon as possible.
Memorial Family Birthplace offers a wide range of prenatal education classes, including a class on caring for moms after birth. This class teaches parents what to expect in the postpartum period. It also offers techniques for self-care during this challenging and joyous time. We help parents prepare to care for baby — and themselves.