DO:Adore and love on the new baby.
DON'T: Forget to give that same attention and love to the mom.
The first weeks after having a baby are arguably one of the most tender and sensitive times of a woman's life. Hormones are regulating, lifestyle is adjusting, identity is shifting. She was born into a brand new, permanent identity overnight which is an emotional process for many mothers. On top of that, she is responding to all of her baby’s needs while experiencing physical pain and discomfort like never before.
While Mom is doing everything she can to ease her baby's transition into the world, it’s important that she too is nurtured during her transition into the world of motherhood. When you consider how much the mother's body and mind are going through, it makes sense to treat her with the love, fragility, and care as you do the new baby. Depending on the situation, she may be just as delicate as her bundle of joy. Show her your care and love by checking in on her, telling her she's doing a great job, and offering your help and support.
DO:Offer to drop off food
DON'T:Expect to see the baby
A dinner drop off is one of the gestures that new moms appreciate most. Not only is food prepared, but the cleanup is easy and it makes the whole evening more relaxed. Another sweet act would be to add a bag full of snacks or groceries with the meal. It’s hard to get to the grocery store in those initial months and chances are whatever you drop off will be devoured (especially if mom is breastfeeding!).
The best move is to drop it at the door at the time you specified, know they will be so grateful, and be on your way. Some moms may not want the company, but feel like they owe it to the guest to invite them in to meet the baby as a thank you for the dinner. But the truth is that the last thing Mama needs to be doing in this tender time is things to please others. The first weeks after having a baby are a time for mom to focus on caring for herself and her baby. If she does invite you in, be sure to keep your stay short. Thirty minutes should be the very maximum. Asking if you can help with any house tasks while you’re there like unloading the dishwasher or switching the laundry are also kind and appreciated offers.
DO:Text or call Mama to check in and ask how she is doing
DON'T:Expect a prompt response
People always ask how the baby is doing. People rarely ask how the mommy is doing. Making a conscious effort to check in with the mom in this sensitive time is one of the gestures she will remember. Saying things in your texts and voicemails like "I'm checking in on you and sending love," or "I am here for you if you need anything," will help her feel cared about and supported.
Those check-ins remind her that she has people to reach out to if she needs help. But do not take it personally if she doesn’t respond. She is both occupied and exhausted, and it may just have slipped her mind. If she is a people pleaser, she will feel like she owes it to you to respond in a timely manner, even if that means doing so when it's inconvenient for her or she just doesn't feel like it. Prefacing your text or voicemail with "No need to respond..." is a nice way to take the pressure off her.
DO:Listen when she shares struggles with the baby
DON'T:Tell her what to do
From the media to family members, Mama has a million opinions coming at her. Even if you are certain that what you did with your baby will solve her problem, be very careful with how you deliver that message. Try something like, "What worked well for us is...." but make sure to end by acknowledging you know every baby is different. It’s also important to accept that the mom may have her preferences surrounding that topic already. Even with good intentions, giving advice that starts with, "You need to...," or "You should not..." can backfire. It may a) make Mama not want to be around you because she feels you're telling her how to parent or b) be a contributing factor to any self doubt and mom guilt.
When you're doing something for the first time, there is a certain amount of trial and error needed for learning and growth. Mom needs to be able to hear her own voice amidst all the others that will guide her to what works best for her and her baby. She can decide on her own time if she wants to try whatever you have shared. But remember, she knows her baby better than anyone else could. Mama really does know best.