As a Postpartum Doula I have spent countless hours in the homes of new mothers. In those homes I often see family and friends come and go; some of these visitors are extremely helpful and some….not so much. It is hard to know what to do to help a new mother, especially if you do not have children yourself(or maybe it has been awhile). The following is a guide for visiting the new mother:
- Let Her Know You are Coming – Do not drop by unexpected! Imagine sleeping no more than an hour at a time for a week straight, finally you have an opportunity to lay your head down on a nice comfy pillow to get some rest, then someone knocks at your door(waking not only you but your sleeping baby as well).
- Ask What You Can Bring- For a new mom, a chance to run to the grocery store is a rare occurrence. When you are calling to ask when to visit, also ask what you can bring. Rest assured, there is most likely something that she needs. Use open ended phrasing that invites an honest response (example: “I am headed to the store on my way, what can I bring you?” instead of “do you need anything from the store?”.
- Feed Her a Home Cooked Meal– If you are visiting during a meal time, do not expect her to feed you! If at all possible, bring a home cooked meal to share with her and her family. Even if you are not visiting during a meal time, a covered casserole that they can heat up later is sure to be appreciated.
- Wash Your Hands– Wash your hands when you walk in the house, especially if you are wanting to hold the baby. It will be much appreciated.
- Clean – If you share a meal together, please clean up afterwards. If you notice a sink full of dishes, wash them. If you see that there is laundry piled on the couch, sit and fold it while you talk. She may not ask you to help out but I am guessing she wont stop you, and she will be grateful.
- Be Breastfeeding Friendly– New moms need to feed their babies very frequently. A new mother may feel uncomfortable nursing around other people, as it is a new learning process for her and her child. A simple statement such as “don’t hesitate to let me know when you need to nurse and I can step out of the room if it will make you more comfortable” goes a long way at relieving tension. Now she will not feel awkward when her baby needs to breastfeed and she doesn’t know how to ask you to leave. She might even invite you to stay while she nurses.
- Play With Older Children – If mom has another child(or more), be sure to give them a lot of attention. It is hard for siblings to see many people come and go, gushing over a new baby while they receive no more than a pat on the head. Bring a toy or a project for siblings and engage with them. Mom will get some alone time with the baby and she will be so grateful that her older child/children are receiving some focused attention.
- Pay Attention to Body Language – If you are wanting to hold the baby then pay attention to moms body language when you are doing so. You may notice that she appears a little tense and does not take her eyes off of you when you are holding her baby; this may be a sign to give the baby a quick cuddle and hand her back over. On the other hand, you may notice that her whole body relaxes as she embraces the break and grabs some food to enjoy with both of her hands or runs off to use the bathroom by herself; guess you get to enjoy holding baby for a bit longer!
- Make it a Short Visit – Being a new mom is exhausting and as much as she is probably happy to see you, a short visit is almost always better. Enjoy the new family, help out a bit, but plan on leaving before she has to ask you to.