Making life easier…one baby step at a time
You are standing in your living room, your baby is in her car seat on your living room floor and you and your partner are looking at each other with furrowed brows. “Now what?” you say to each other. You just got home from the hospital with your brand new baby. And they didn’t even send you home with instructions. You’ve never raised a human before but somehow someone thought you were ready to live with one.
So many new parents (and even those having their second, third, fourth and even fifth baby) find that it’s not the easiest transition. Our culture isn’t set up to take care of new moms. Sure, some moms are lucky and have very involved partners who share all the responsibilities and help take care of mom so she can get some sleep and nourishment. There are some who have family members who are also helpful. Unfortunately, the reality is that most people don’t get the “Cadillac of Care” that is ideal. What does that mean? How can you get it? How can you help your friends or family members with a new baby to get “Cadillac Care”?
1. Ask for a visiting nurse. The hospital can help you arrange for a nurse to visit you at home the day after you get home from the hospital. The nurse will check on mom, check on how she’s healing, check out the baby and chat about breastfeeding. Unfortunately, not all visiting nurses get updated information about breastfeeding so it may still be helpful to call a breastfeeding counselor or visit a local breastfeeding support group within the first week of your baby’s life (like Breastmilk and Cookies at Babies in Common).
2. Be sure you have a doctor for your baby who is truly supportive of breastfeeding. Besides them telling you that they are, how do you know they truly are? Ask them this question, “If I have challenges with breastfeeding or my baby is losing weight, what would you recommend?” The best answer is “We’d connect you with one of our favorite local lactation specialists.” This is so important for breastfeeding (and pumping) success but it’s also indicative of how supportive your baby’s doctor will be of your breastfeeding a baby that is older than a year, if that is your plan.
3. Find a breastfeeding counselor or lactation consultant you can call or visit or who can visit you.
A breastfeeding group is valuable because you meet other moms and they ask questions that you may not have thought of. Moms consistently say that they were surprised at how much they learned and how much fun it was. However, having a breastfeeding counselor (someone trained in providing help with breastfeeding) or lactation consultant (someone who has passed the exam of the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners) that can help you with more specific questions is beyond helpful. Why? Because nursing is so repetitive, any problem you might have is likely to get worse if you continue to nurse without getting any advice. Some issues can be handled over the phone. Other issues may really need a couple hours (or more) of time with your breastfeeding counselor or lactation consultant.
4. Plan out a schedule of who will cook for you (and be specific about what you like and don’t like so you’ll actually eat it). Mealtrain.com is one online site that makes this possible in a super-easy way! If you have a friend coming over to visit, tell them that the price to see the baby is a package of eggs, some nuts, some fruit and whatever else you need from the grocery store. Knowing that you have meals in the freezer and healthy snacks (hard-boiled eggs, nuts, fruit, yogurt, veggies and hummus) ready to go is one of the most important things to help you feel good after having a baby. You don’t need friends and family bringing you one more onesie or outfit. Your baby should be naked most of the time anyway, while enjoying skin-on-skin time with mom!
5. Give birth at a birth center or at home. If you are considered low-risk and want an unmedicated birth, this is a great option to consider. Birth centers discharge moms and babies after 6-12 hours and then a midwife comes to visit on day one and three and have nurses and midwives available via telephone at all times. Homebirth midwives stay with you for 3-5 hours after you give birth and then visit you again on day one, day three and day ten. And they are available 24-hours for phone calls and can pop over to see you at any time if needed. They take care of mom AND baby and give mom’s partner and any other relatives ideas of how to help.
6. Hire a postpartum doula. These are amazing women who have a passion for taking care of moms (and babies) and have experience and compassion that has led them to their work. Typically, a postpartum doula is scheduled to come to your home for 2-4 hours per day on a few days each week. It can be less or can be more. It’s ideal to “reserve” their time before you have the baby so you’ll know that they are available for you. Postpartum doulas help you with breastfeeding, taking care of the baby, helping mom get some sleep, fold laundry, cook, tidy up, go to the grocery store and run other errands and so much more.
7. Communicate with your partner about your roles. As someone once said, “Mom is in charge of input and everyone else is in charge of output!” Meaning that moms should focus on feeding the baby and everyone else can change diapers. I think people forget that moms need just as much care (and sometimes more) than the babies. Moms have sore vaginas or surgical wounds that need dressing. They are bleeding. They are tired. The are going through major hormonal changes that cause biological changes in their brain so they have a hard time remembering things. Moms want to make milk. They also want to eat and drink (or know they should). Everything else if everyone’s job. Partners and grandparents and aunt and uncles and friends and neighbors are the ones who need to be setting up the “mommy baskets” that mom needs at her chosen nursing and resting spots. A “mommy basket” holds water, snacks, mom’s cellphone, paper and pen and the TV remote. And literally, it’s ideal if someone can actually feed mom (don’t even let her lift a fork!) at least for the first few days. Partners: Pamper her. Hug her. Rub her shoulders (that helps her milk flow). Let her cry. Be involved. Tell her you love her. Be there.
Unfortunately, we’re no longer a society where new moms are consistently surrounded by many other mothers and grandmothers who ensure that the new mom is fed, bathed, warmed and supported. But we can all do our part to bring it back. New moms need to demand “Cadillac Care”. New moms need to reach out and ask for help. Accept help. And then when your baby is a little bigger, offer to help. Make a meal. Fold some laundry. Run an errand. Go to the grocery store. Donate breastmilk. Why? Because we all have babies in common.