46 easy ways to care better for newborn mothers. (Part 2.)

 In Birth, Motherhood, Postpartum

Why is it so difficult to care for newborn mothers?

I was talking about this with one of the mothers I care for. We were chatting about how hard it is to care for newborn mothers. Not because the tasks are difficult, rather because they’re so very simple.

And it’s super easy to forget the simple things!

Women take care of so many small and invisible tasks that keep the lives of our families running smoothly. Often there are numerous things we do that no one even notices, because we do them without even thinking of them as tasks. Things like changing the hand towels, putting the clothes away, cleaning out old food from the fridge, remembering to buy toilet paper, organising the baby sitter, carrying the mental load etc.

But after a woman gives birth SHE MUST REST, so that she can heal.

In traditional cultures around the world there are some common principles observed for postpartum healing. One is rest. Rest! Let people take care of you mama, let someone else make the bed and put the washing on!

Another is retreat. Retreat from the responsibilities of everyday mental and emotional tasks such as writing the grocery list, remembering to pay the car registration, or considering how upset your father in law will be if he doesn’t get to to see the baby right away. You need to let someone else worry about these things for a while.

So often, no one knows what they can do to help a new mother rest and retreat. No one seems to know how to care for newborn mothers. Or even that they need to be cared for. And, it can be really hard for mothers to articulate what they need in order to rest and feel nurtured. 

I keep wondering how can a new mother rest and recover if no-one takes over her usual tasks? All those invisible little chores a mother does, often without anyone even noticing. Someone needs to assume responsibility for all these things, so that she can rest.

I wonder if you’ve ever been asked by somebody what you need help with?

Perhaps someone said to you something like ‘let me know if I can do anything’, or ‘let me know if you need a hand’. Or maybe you’ve said this to a friend when you wanted to help, but just didn’t know how? I know I’ve said this when I genuinely wanted to offer support but also didn’t want to intrude.

Being asked what you need help with can be an overwhelming proposition for a new mother whose brain is rearranging itself inside the hazy, oxytocin bubble of new baby land. 

If you’re sleep deprived, super hungry, covered in baby poo, trying to feed your baby, trying to boost your oxytocin, trying to remember how many wet nappies, or how long since you fed, or which side you fed from, looking at an empty fridge, and a pile of dishes, and feeling a little overwhelmed, it can be really hard to pinpoint what exactly you need help with when a completely vague offer is made.

Which is why before baby arrives, it’s a good idea to consider what tasks you’d love to receive help with when you’re in the midst of early motherhood. So that when someone asks you, ‘is there anything you’d like me to do?’ Instead of your mind going blank and whispering ‘no thank you, I’ll be ok’, you can easily and clearly respond with a specific suggestion.

Very often people would dearly love to help you but they just don’t know how, or don’t want to intrude. People don’t know all the things that need to be done, unless you tell them!

So, I asked some mothers what everyday tasks they wish someone had helped them with in their early weeks of motherhood.

I hope these ideas will start you thinking about what you can ask for help with, during your postpartum recovery.

Here’s the list!

  1. Make some snacks
  2. Make a meal
  3. Stock up the snack station by your bed or breastfeeding chair and refill thermos and water bottles
  4. Meal planning for the week, or the day, or just the next meal
  5. Write a shopping list
  6. Grab some grocery essentials like milk, eggs, tea, 
  7. Buy household essentials like toilet paper, garbage bags, soap, nappies etc
  8. Set up online grocery shopping
  9. Tidy the kitchen
  10. Do the dishes, empty or load the dishwasher
  11. Clear out old food from the fridge
  12. Empty the bins
  13. Clean the sink 
  14. Clean the toilet
  15. Vacuum
  16. Sweep
  17. Open the blinds and curtains
  18. Put the washing machine on
  19. Fold and put away the washing
  20. Make the bed
  21. Change and wash the bed sheets
  22. Change the bath mat and hand towels
  23. Pay the bills, phone, gas, electricity, water, set up online bill payments
  24. Sort through the mail, clear out the important things from the junk 
  25. Fill out the birth registration forms
  26. Fill in excursion forms for older children
  27. Make lunch boxes for older children
  28. Empty lunch boxes
  29. Play with or plan and do activities for older children
  30. Take siblings out so you can snuggle with baby
  31. Get siblings ready for school, kindy, or daycare
  32. Daycare, kindy, or school run for older children
  33. Attend to school dates, events, homework and projects
  34. Bedtime routine for older children
  35. Hold your baby so you can spend time with older children 
  36. Hold your baby so you can take a shower and use the bathroom
  37. Get ‘all the things ready’ to go on an outing – nappies, wipes, cloths, snacks, spare clothes etc
  38. Care for any animals
  39. Clean litter boxes
  40. Walk the dog
  41. Help with the garden
  42. Help you get to any appointments you may have
  43. Attend with you any appointments you may have
  44. Bring you a cuppa
  45. Keep you company so you feel connected, loved and supported
  46. Tell you what an amazing mama you truly are

You could put this list, or a list you write, on the fridge for everyone to see. You want to get all the invisible tasks and chores you do out of your head so that someone else can take responsibility for them for a while, so you can rest, recover and snuggle with your baby. 

As women, our habits of being responsible and of taking care of others can be so deeply entrenched in who we are. This can make it nearly impossible for women to receive the kind of help they need in order to recover from giving birth.

But mama, after giving birth your need to rest so that you can recover better. And in order to rest you need to get really clear on things you can delegate and ask for people to help you with. Early motherhood is not a time to strive for independence. The postpartum period is the ideal time to ask for and accept help and to receive lots of love and care. So that you can both heal your body better and care better for your beautiful baby.

Let’s care for newborn mothers by wrapping them in a swaddle of love and nurture! 

Thank you so much to the wonderful women in the Newborn Mothers Collective who shared with me their thoughts on what they would have loved to have received help with during their postpartum period. You can find out more about the collective here.

To find out why receiving support is so important for healing and recovery after giving birth, read my free guide to postpartum recovery You can get it here. 

To enquire about booking in home postpartum doula support click here.

This is Part Two of a three part blog series unpacking why new mama’s need support. You can read Part One here!

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