What a New Mum Needs (Clue: It’s Not a Cupcake)
Off to visit a mum and her newborn? You can truly make a difference with these expert tips from Jojo Hogan, pioneer of the slow postpartum philosophy
6 min read
I recently went to do a postpartum visit for one of my lovely doula clients. When I arrived, the house was full of guests who had come to see the new baby.
They had arrived laden with gifts. There were bottles of champagne and boxes of brightly coloured iced cupcakes as well as beautifully wrapped presents of clothes and toys for the newborn. As they chatted, popped another bottle of bubbles and cooed over the new arrival who was passed around like a parcel, I noticed something that no one else had…
Remember, new mums tire easily
Mama was fading fast. Her eyes were beginning to glaze over and although she smiled and gracefully accepted all of the adoration that was being directed at her little one, I could see she was over it. She was also following her baby around the room with a gaze that was full of both longing and slight anxiety. And was that a drop of breastmilk starting to soak through her t-shirt? Baby needed feeding. And mum needed to sleep!
I’m not sure how long the guests stayed as luckily I managed to gently usher mama out of the room with the excuse that she needed to breastfeed her baby. And then, even though she felt slightly guilty at not going back to ‘entertain’ her visitors, I was able to persuade her that a much better place for her to be was on my massage table, drifting into blissful relaxation as I soothed her tired and achy body with a warm oil postpartum massage and then tightly bound her belly so that she was comfortable once more.
I then snuggled her into her warm bed with her baby for a well-needed nap for both of them.
Mums are truly grateful for well-meaning visitors
I also smiled as I remembered that I WAS that visitor once! Many years ago when my friends started having babies, I was the girl that would rock up, bottle of bubbly in one hand and gorgeously wrapped gift in the other to insist that I cuddle with the baby and most probably outstay my welcome!
It wasn’t until many years later when I had my own baby and then went on to train as a postpartum doula that I understood the true needs of a new mother.
Let’s give our guests some guidance
We can’t really blame those guests – well not the ones that don’t have babies! What we can do however is give them a bit of guidance. Most people really do want to help and support a new mum and are more than happy to bring or do what is truly needed.
I’ve put together this list that you can share with your friends and family or think about next time you visit a newborn mother. It contains things that, in my experience are invaluable and will help and support her postpartum recovery more than any cupcake could!
How you can meaningfully help a new mama
Bring a sustaining meal. The best postpartum foods for a new mum are things that are warm, nourishing and easily digested such as soups, stews, broths and dhal. Heat it up while you empty the dishwasher and give the kitchen a clean and then serve it to her and offer to cuddle the baby* while she eats.
Make her a cup of tea and ask if she would like you to cuddle baby* while she drinks it – hot for a change!
Offer to cuddle or rock baby* while mum has a shower and maybe even a nap.
*Keep in mind that some mothers aren’t ready to hand their baby over in the first few weeks, and that’s ok.
There are lots of other things you can do to be of help.
Quick vacuum and micro-tidy
Run the vacuum cleaner around the house and hang out or fold any washing that needs to be done. Throw away any dead or dying flowers and empty bins.
If baby and mum are napping, cook some dinner for her and leave in the fridge for the evening. Give the fridge a bit of a tidy and throw out any food past its best.
Take care of the baby or other children
If mum is happy for you to take baby for a walk in the buggy or baby carrier, do this while mum has a shower and a nap. Alternatively, take toddlers or older children out for an hour so mum and baby can rest.
Ask her if she needs any supermarket shopping picked up on the way. Specifically, she might need nappies, pads, milk and some dinner! Unpack it when you arrive.
Make mums bed
Put on clean sheets if necessary and puff the pillows. Put some flowers by her bedside table and encourage her to see her bedroom as a sanctuary where she can ideally spend as much time as possible resting with her baby.
Give a massage
Give her a foot and head massage or shoulder rub before putting her to bed.
Be a listening ear
Let her voice all of her joys, fears, anxieties and frustrations in a safe, non-judgemental space. Try to avoid giving too much ‘advice’ (new mothers are bombarded with it) but instead encourage and affirm her and let her know that she is the very best mother for her baby, she’s doing a great job and it’s ok to make mistakes as she learns her way with this new little person.
I always remember a neighbour knocking on my door one day and offering to take the baby for a walk while I ate my lunch (with two hands!) and napped for half an hour. It was pure bliss and I’ll never forget her kindness.