New mothers need a lot of support once the baby arrives. Practical support is the best gift you can bring her!
Instead of a new onesie or a diaper tower, consider these options, as described by Sharon Holbrook in a Washington Post article:
- Bring food. New parents do not have the time nor energy to plan meals, grocery shop, and spend hours in the kitchen. It is an incredibly nourishing act to feed someone you care about. Nourish her. Bring everything she needs, including paper plates. Eat with her if she wants the company, and just leave the food with her if she wants to collapse later and eat it on the couch.
- Support her baby-feeding choices. So she wants to breastfeed – it’s not for you to fret about the baby’s weight gain, and don’t give her the idea that she has to hide away out of sight while she’s nursing (but do give her privacy if she wants it). Instead, bring her a glass of water while she’s nursing. She is always, always thirsty. If she decides to stop breastfeeding and move to formula acknowledge that she knows what is best for her family. Don’t lecture, or inquire why she stopped. Let her be, and thank heavens there are safe, nutritious formulas.
- Call or text her from the grocery store, drugstore, or Target. “I’m out at ________. Can I pick up anything for you while I’m here?” Small to you, huge to her.
- Take the big kids. If she’s just had her second or third child or beyond, offer to drive the older ones to preschool or soccer. Invite them over to play with your kids. If you’re close, see if the new parents would like you to pick up the big kids for an overnight visit.
- Listen, and don’t assume she is loving new motherhood. If she shows signs of postpartum depression, help her feel okay about asking her OB/Gyn or midwife for additional care. She may not know if what she is feeling is a normal bout of blues, or something that could use a little extra attention from her medical provider. If you struggled yourself, please talk about it, so new mothers who aren’t joyfully in love with their babies don’t feel so lost and alone, and know when to ask for help.
- Support maternal leave and postpartum care in the United States. By now most of us have heard the statistic: the United States is one of just three countries in the world that do not provide guaranteed paid maternity leave. (Papua New Guinea and Suriname are the other two.) What does that mean, really, for American mothers? Most women I know, women in professional jobs like teaching and business, cobble together some mix of vacation days, paid disability leave, and unpaid time off. (Like 87 percent of Americans, their jobs offer no paid parental leave.) Let’s hope she doesn’t get sick after her leave, nor her baby, because she now has nothing left. And what about those who aren’t even this “lucky”? Consider this: many, almost one-quarter in one recently reported study, American mothers return to work within one or two weeks of birth. Shocking.
Please consider giving a mother the best gift possible: support.