Postpartum Help – What to offer…

Postpartum. It is a time of processing, healing, and adjusting to the new person in your life – YOU.

Birth recreates us, and this new person that we now are can be a startling revelation. The overwhelming emotions and feelings that you can experience after giving birth can surprise and delight, then, just as equally, frighten and depress. Exploring the wide range of normal postpartum emotions during pregnancy, and knowing the red flags of postpartum depression and/or anxiety, gives you the understanding necessary to navigate those first days, weeks, months, and even years (you are considered “postpartum” up to six years after giving birth!)

The Edinburgh Postpartum Depression scale can be a useful tool in determining whether your postpartum emotions indicate a need for additional help.

Preparing for postpartum is just as important as preparing for labor and birth.

Getting to know your new self, the person who is now a mother, while simultaneously getting to know your newborn, can seem a herculean task. Having a postpartum plan in place, as well as a healthy awareness of what is “normal” during the postpartum period is a gift you can give yourself! Simply by taking the time to educate yourself and putting your needs in the forefront as you make a physical plan of how you will manage your household, while also recovering and caring for your newborn, you set yourself up for a more manageable transition into motherhood. Notice, I did not say EASY.

Transitions are never easy, but the transition to motherhood CAN be beautiful.

As a birth doula, I always spend the last meeting before labor begins discussing the postpartum plan. Asking questions such as, “Will you want visitors in the first days/weeks?” “Do you have meals planned and/or prepared for the first few weeks?” “Who will take care of the basic household chores while Mom and baby establish the breastfeeding relationship?” “Which friends or family members are most helpful and will honor your preferences?” helps establish where outside assistance might be necessary. It also helps couples decide who will be helpful, and who will just want to visit! The postpartum period is not the time to try and be a host/hostess. Everyone invited into your space should come with a spirit of helpfulness and peace.

Want to be that person for a new mom?

Offer support. A judgement free ear and a soft shoulder. Now is not the time to process YOUR birth story but to listen and help her process hers. Listening can be hard. It is so easy to want to interject with our story. Whether it be to compare, or simply to try to connect, it’s best to simply validate her experience at this time. That doesn’t mean you can’t offer your shared experience, just do it in a way that helps that new mama feel less alone. “I experienced that too. It was so hard.” “I have had those same feelings.”

Tummy time with a postpartum client.

Offer food. Whether it be a homemade meal, a food delivery gift card, or a store bought rotisserie chicken, anything that provides a meal for the family is a wonderful service. Here are some things to consider when gifting food, especially if it is for a nursing mom. Food you can eat with one hand is amazing – fresh fruit that has already been washed and cut up, bran muffins (because that first poop… best recipe here – ) mini charcuterie in a plastic container that can just be popped back in the fridge, are just a few examples. Warming foods like hearty soups are also great. Meals that can be easily frozen if they don’t get around to eating it those first few weeks when everyone is blessing them are the best! Here are two of my favs-

Offer services. Often new moms don’t even know where to start if you ask the question, “what can I do to help?” I find it more useful to come up with a few options and present them. Texting is probably the best way to reach out but don’t expect an answer right away! Things like, “I am great at laundry! Would coming over and doing a few loads for you be helpful?” or “What day of the week could I take the older kids for you?” or “I would love to gift you a clean bathroom. What day could I come and do that for you?” Hiring a postpartum doula, if it is in your budget, is probably the best gift a new mom could receive! (A quick DONA or search can find one in your area.) And remember, everyone wants to come and hold a baby….and sometimes it’s nice to have a person there so you can shower or eat a meal at the table…but the real help lies in doing the tasks that help the mom with whatever she wishes she could do herself but is too tired or too busy nursing/holding/comforting her baby to do!

Postpartum doula at work!

Offer opportunities. Invite the new mom to do things that still make her feel like she is a part of life outside her home. An invitation to get a cup of coffee or tea with you while someone else watches the baby for an hour can be a lifeline to a new mom. Invite her to meet you at a park, or to take a walk with you around the neighborhood. Include her in plans even if you think the answer will be no. Simply knowing that people are thinking about you can be reassuring to a new mom.

Offer Extra. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention moms who don’t come home with a baby. Moms who have experienced loss, or who have to leave their baby at the hospital need extra love. They need to talk about their baby, feel the same support and be just as surrounded as the moms who were able to bring their baby home. If you know a mom who experienced a loss at any point in her pregnancy, is a fantastic resource. Hiring a doula who is trained in bereavement is always the best practice and stillbirthday has a list on their website.

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