In a recent mental health report, the World Health Organization stated that around 13% of women who have just given birth, experience a mental disorder – primarily depression. And in developing countries like South Africa, this is even higher with around 20% of women suffering from depression after birth. While not every new mom suffers from ongoing baby blues after giving birth, these statistics show that the postpartum period is a fragile one for both mom and baby, with experts suggesting that maternal mental health is just as important as physical health.
Regardless of whether it’s the first, second or third time around, there’s no doubt that pregnancy and birth is life changing – and new moms need time to adjust to the ongoing hormonal changes, sleepless nights and enormous responsibility of being a new parent. In fact, the emotional stress and change can be both physically and mentally overwhelming, which is why so many new moms need love, support and understanding in order to thrive, not just survive.
So, if you’re planning on visiting a new mom who’s just given birth, here are a few things you should remember when you arrive:
This might mean arriving with a home-cooked meal or offering to take the baby so the new mom can shower or eat with two hands, rather than one! Because, the truth is, having a new baby means a jam-packed schedule of feeds, diaper changes and sleep sessions.
This leaves very little time for new moms to take care of themselves. Rather than waiting to be offered a cup of tea, take the lead and make a hot drink for yourself and the new mom, tidy the kitchen or even offer to entertain the older kids for an hour or two. These seemingly small acts of kindness make the biggest difference to a new mom.
Respect the rules of the home
If you have to leave your shoes at the door, switch your phone to silent or keep your voice down, it’s important to make the new mom feel comfortable in her own home. Respecting the house rules she has implemented, will help her to feel at ease – whether you agree with them or not.
For instance, if the new mom insists on whispering while the baby sleeps, don’t challenge her and suggest that babies should sleep in noisy environments. Or if the new mom wants to rock her baby to sleep, avoid saying things like, “You might be spoiling your child by holding her too much.”
Chances are, the new mom and her partner have discussed and agreed on the best ways to ensure a healthy, happy environment for the new baby and it’s a good idea not to challenge these ideas – especially so soon after bringing the baby home.
Don’t bring germs into the house
Whether you visit the new mom in hospital or at home, it’s important to consider the health of the new mom and her baby. This means ensuring you don’t bring any germs into the hospital room or home.
Some key ways to maintain good hygiene around the new mom:
- Always wash your hands when you arrive, and again before you hold the baby.
- Hand washing should be followed by a spritz of sanitiser as research shows that washing alone isn’t always effective enough.
- Avoid touching or kissing the new baby’s hands, head or face. It’s also important not to let the baby suck on your fingers.
- If possible, leave your kids at home when you visit. Older kids are exposed to plenty of germs at school – simply from being around other kids all the time – and the truth is, some are carrying viruses or harmful bacteria without even realising it.
- If you bring a new toy for the baby, make sure it’s thoroughly washed first.
Be attentive and listen
Rather than offering endless advice or suggesting, a better way to do things it to sit back, listen and let the new mom talk and express her feelings. If she is experiencing post-partum depression in any way, lending an ear and being her support system is one of the best ways to help. Of course, being attentive also means being in tune with what the new mom needs.
Perhaps she would love a nap and wants nothing more than for you to take the baby for an hour. Or she might need help preparing a healthy meal or washing and sterilising the baby equipment. The aim is for you to listen and help when you visit and keep the topic of conversation light and positive.
Give a purposeful gift
Before you arrive with yet another fluffy toy, consider what the new mom really needs. While it might not be a pretty gift, something practical will always win in this sense.
3 great (and meaningful) gift ideas for new moms include:
A massage (and an offer to watch the baby while she has it!)
New moms experience a lot of tension in their necks, backs and shoulders, so there’s a good chance she’ll really appreciate the chance to have it sorted out with a soothing massage.
An UberEATS gift card
There’s nothing that says, I’m here for you and understand what you’re going through more than helping the new mom plan meals ahead. This will not only allow her to avoid the shops, it’ll also buy her more time with her precious new baby as she won’t have to spend time in the kitchen cooking.
Offering a new mom a little time for herself, whether it’s a 30-minute nap, long bubble bath or trip alone to the store is worth its weight in gold. This is because caring for a newborn is a 24/7 job and moms rarely allow themselves any time off, yet many moms really need it. Offering her the option of a little “me-time” will help to reduce anxiety and stress in the long-run.
Tammy is a wife, mom and freelance writer with 15 years’ experience in the media industry. She specialises in general lifestyle topics related to health, wellness and parenting. Tammy has a passion for fitness and the great outdoors. If she’s not running around after her daughter, you’ll find her off the beaten track, running, hiking or riding her bike.