Tuesday, 21 February 2012
How to support a new mama
Most new mamas are so organised they have bought everything they need before the birth. So arriving at her house with a beautiful, expensive 3 piece outfit for baby, expecting to sit down and have her hand you a cup of tea or looking around meaningfully at the piles of laundry/dirty dishes are not supportive. Neither is bringing her a box of formula "just in case" her breastfeeding doesn't work out. Neither is boring her with all three of your birth stories. Don't ask to hold the baby, she will offer if she feels like it. Whether it's her first or her fourth child, having a new baby is stressful, wonderful and overwhelming, so keep your visit short and sweet.
She wants you to come in, admire the baby, do something helpful, and leave.
Here are some suggestions of the things you can do:
Help with her laundry
Bring her family dinner to be heated up
Entertain her older children while she naps with the baby.
Make her a cup of tea
Tell her she's looking well
Compliment her baby
Ask her how did her birth go, and listen to her answer
Bring her a gift, not the baby! Hand cream / bottle of champagne / good book
Hoover her carpet
Load her dishwasher
Tell her she's doing great!
Some things she is doing may surprise you, shock you, confuse you. Trust that she has made informed choices to suit her and her family at this time. Resist offering any advice, no matter how much you think she needs it. Most women approach impending motherhood like studying for a masters, so assume she knows her stuff and offer support instead. Whether it's 10 months, 10 years or 5 decades since you had your last child, there is new medical evidence about babies' needs appearing all the time. You cannot expect her to do everything the way you / her sister / your friend's daughter did it. Every single family is unique, is made up of different personalities with different needs, and there is no one "right way" to do things. Pick 'n' mix parenting is what most people would say they do, taking an idea from one book here, a suggestion from a friend there, a whole practice from a traditional society there, and changing their perspective as their family grows.
So smile, be polite, make her day a little easier by helping with a couple of chores, and leave. Text / write a note to her later saying how delighted you were to be allowed to visit and meet her wonderful new addition. You may just be asked back!