Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The care and feeding of a brand new Mother.

The stork has been busy this year. There are so many new babies this year... a bumper crop I'd say! With all of the new wee ones comes some new moms too. And yes, dads as well, but this post is not specifically about them.

I am writing this post because after countless conversations with many new moms, I think there are some fundamental policies that should be strictly adhered to once that little baby has made the transition from snug uterine home to its mother's arms.

They are as follows:

Phone before showing up at the hospital (if hospital policy even permits you to visit at all). The same goes for visiting at home. The new family may want a nesting-in period by themselves, or may want to show off their precious bundle at every opportunity. Find out.

Dads, have something prepared for your wife and baby ahead of time. Pick out something for the baby all on your own and find a little something to show your wife how proud you are of all her hard work to grow and birth YOUR child. Having a baby is a momentous occasion, and a cause to celebrate. Act like it. Buy flowers, balloons, a special keepsake, decorate the house for the big arrival home, let her know you are as excited as she is about this transition into parenthood.

Don't show up empty-handed. Gifts for baby are lovely, gifts for mom - wonderful too, but really what every new mom wants is something far more simple. FOOD. Bring casseroles, stews, lasagnas, muffins, loaves, whatever yummy item you can think up or pick up. Especially if there are other children to feed. Dad will also appreciate this. Feel free to leave them on the doorstep.

When visiting, respect visiting hours and don't out stay your welcome. A quick visit is appreciated in those early days especially. Don't forget to wash your hands before handling the newborn. Don't expect to be fed and catered to. Find out what you can do to help. Dishes need washing? Laundry to be thrown in? A quick sweep or vacuum? Make yourself useful.

Avoid making any other comment about the appearance or behaviour of the new offspring that might not be well-received. New moms are tired, hormonal and viciously proud of the little life they have just produced. They only want to hear about how beautiful their baby is and not how he reminds you of your balding and overweight second cousin.

When the baby cries and you are holding her, give her back. Or ask if mom would like the baby. Some moms may be fine with you trying to comfort their newborn, but most of them just want the baby back to soothe themselves. There is nothing more upsetting and uncomfortable for a new mother than to see her crying baby in the arms of someone else unless she is tired and overwhelmed, in which case help her out by all means... just request permission first.

Compliment her on the baby's name. You don't have to love it or even like it. She does and that is what matters.

Respect that mom may do things differently than you. She may or may not breastfeed. She may or may not co-sleep. Whatever it is, let her figure it out with her partner and child on her own. If she wants advice, she'll ask for it.

Don't assume its easier for you to drop in and see baby. Maybe mom loathes the idea of guests when her floors are unwashed and laundry is piled high. Perhaps she would like the outing. Find out first what is easier for her and then be accommodating.

Just because you have had 8 children does not make you an expert of anyone else's children other than your own. Ok, after 8 children you probably are quite adept at mothering, but really every new mom wants to feel like she is the expert of her own baby. I'm sure there are lots of things you could do better and more efficiently, but unless she is endangering the health and well-being of little Bobby, bite your tongue unless you are complimenting her on what a good job she is doing.

While you're at it, compliment her on how good she looks. Post-partum weightloss is NEVER a suitable topic of conversation unless you are praising her appearance.


What other tips do you have for the care and feeding of a new mom? Was there anything well-intentioned family or friends did or said that drove you nuts? Or that you really appreciated? I'd like to hear all your stories from the early days of mothering and things that helped or hindered your progress.


Shaun and Bonnie said...

Bang on!!! Hit pretty much everything!!! Especially the casseroles!!! Perfect idea!!

mandypants said...

One tip I want to remember: when you are phoning to congratulate the happy family, don't expect a phone call back. I felt overwhelmed by all the calls I felt "obligated" to return.

Morgan said...

Great post! Can you send this out too all my relatives and friends?

Anonymous said...

thank you for writing this.. everytime i think about delving into this topic my bloodpressure gets so high- it's gonna be over... because i would like to add- not everyone had the same Birth Experience- and some people are not up-and-at-er..and also save opinions about everything to yourself ie. breastfeeding, sleeping,unless asked.. and also if you come to help and cook- Do the Dishes Man....

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