How to support the new mom in your life
As a new mom, I had no idea what I needed help with... everything was new and slightly overwhelming, and I felt like I should be able to take care of it all by myself.
Friends would say, "let me know if you need something!"
I'd nod and thank them... and then never ask for help. The second time around, I was much more willing to ask for specific things I needed, like an ice cube tray because I was guzzling water like it was going out of style.
If theres a newborn in your life, there is a mom who is in need of help (but she probably won't ask for it.) And a Happy Mom is a better mom, wife, and friend.
How to support the new mom in your life
7 ways dad can help a new mom
1. help with a middle-of-the-night changing or feeding
Because I didn't have to go to work in the morning during my maternity leave, I remember thinking that it was selfish to ask dad to wake up to feed and soothe baby or change a diaper in the middle of the night.
The lack of sleep really starts to stack up and a night of good rest can be a game-changer for mom's daily routine. A new mom that is living entirely on disjointed cat naps is a mom that is going to have a more difficult time coping during the day and showing up happy + healthy for those around her.
If mom is exclusively breastfeeding, this may not feel like an option because she would need to pump while you feed baby. Try taking the bedtime rotation, instead, so mom can go to bed early, while you give baby a bath, read books, and put on pajamas.
2. Play a vital role in the labor experience
My husband and I took a labor course together at the hospital to prepare for Ryan's arrival. When I went into labor, he was my partner and right by my side timing my contractions, writing it all down, and holding my hand.
He massaged my back and cooled me down with a washcloth... all the while staying calm as a cucumber. Since he was the only one I wanted in the room during delivery, it was wonderful that he was so committed and helpful especially since I pushed for three hours with each of my boys.
If you're not prepared to provide some level of comforting support, make sure to have an honest conversation with her BEFORE you're on the way to the hospital. This gives her the opportunity to invite her mom, sister, or even a doula to the labor & delivery room. (Click here to download my birth plan template that will help you discuss this and other important details for the big day.)
3. Tell her she's beautiful
Remind her how much you love her. After months of not having her body to herself and enduring a painful and emotional birthing experience, she isn't feeling her best physically or emotionally (or socially). A genuine compliment from you can make all the difference in her day.
4. Give her a massage
Her body's been through what some would compare to a car wreck... labor isn't easy, whether she did a natural birth, used all the medicine available to her, or had an emergency c-section. Help ease her tension and achy muscles with a foot or back massage. Allow her to feel your love by touch.
5. Be an active father
All the things she's doing? Do them too. Change diapers, feed, bathe, and play with baby. Do all of the things a new baby needs together, as a team, so mama feels supported and not alone on her new journey.
6. Drop the expectations
A clean house or a warm cooked meal every night is NOT going to happen. It's going to take time to adjust to the new routine of having a newborn in the home. Let her find her groove and navigate her new life... and have her favorite healthy take-out on speed dial.
7. Spend time together as a family
If you're the main provider and working while she's on maternity leave, remember that she's likely been cooped up in the house all day cooing at a newborn baby.
You may be tired when you get home from work, but she'll appreciate the companionship of an evening stroll or trip to the park. The fresh air and the dedicated conversation time is a great way to keep the relationship between the two of you blooming, too.
Supporting your daughter as a grandparent
I have the luxury of having my parents close by, and I know not all mamas have that, so I cherish it and let them know often how much I appreciate their support. It has especially been a blessing after the birth of our second child, because my mom was able to entertain Ryan while I took care of newborn baby Leo.
1. Be available after baby comes home
Whether you're able to meet baby at the hospital or not, consider taking a few days off to visit your new grandchild and your daughter (or daughter-in-law) about a week or two after she comes home with baby.
During that first week, she'll still be sore and tired and adjusting to the on-demand feeding needs of a newborn. During the second and third weeks, she'll have more confidence in being a mother, and she may be ready to lean on you for support.
2. Don't forget about mom
It's natural to want to spend your time playing with (or talking about) your sweet grandbaby, but mom might be feeling a bit left out. She did most of the work, after all, and she's suddenly in a whole new world that she hasn't quite figured out yet (and she probably hasn't had a proper shower or adult conversation in days).
Before you ask how the baby is eating or sleeping, ask her how she's feeling and how you can support her. Has she had lunch yet? Is there a load of laundry or a stack of dishes that could be washed? Can you prep dinner for the family?
3. Offer advice when asked but don't take differences of opinion personally
This is a tough one on both sides! My mom works but she was able to take about three weeks off to be with me every day after each baby was born. There were times where we bumped heads... I was trying to navigate new motherhood and do things the way I planned, and she had her own opinions based on her experience.
The best advice I have is to limit the unsolicited advice (you may not even realize you're doing it) and try not to feel like her choices are a reflection on your choices 30 years ago. And, mama, know that the advice is well-meant and not questioning your abilities as a mother.
4. Keep in touch regularly
If you live further away than you'd like from your grandbaby, you can still commit to keeping in touch regularly. Mom is going to be so sleep deprived and out of touch that she may not remember when she last called you. If you can, use Facetime (or Skype, etc.) to video chat so you can see baby grow and reach milestones.
5. Remember that, while this may not be your first, it is hers
This goes along with #3, but I feel that a gentle reminder doesn't hurt. You may have several other grandchildren, and you likely spend the most time with the ones who live closest to you—but keep in mind that this is your daughter (or son's) first child.
You may not find baby's first tooth or first words as exciting as she does because you've recently enjoyed it through your older grandkids, but you should still attempt to recognize that it is a special moment in their family and they are excited to share it with you.
helping your sister as a new mom
If you're auntie or uncle to a sweet new niece or nephew, it may be weird to see your sister as a mom. You remember telling her scary stories when she was little or getting bossed around by her because she was older...
As aunt or uncle, you're in the unique position to be the super fun awesome relative that baby loves to see at the door because it means PLAY TIME!
My sister (Auntie Tata) is my kids' favorite person. She will play with them for hours and she was amazing at entertaining Ryan when baby brother Leo was born. It really helped Ryan adjust better and not be jealous of his new little brother because he had Auntie Tata's full attention while I was busy with the baby.
Supporting your friend who's a new mom
1. Bring meals
I remember my bestie stopped by with sushi the first time she came to my home to see Ryan and I, it was perfect and just what I needed. I will remember this meal for the rest of my life, seriously. It was that good.
Even if you plan to visit at 2:30 in the afternoon, bring some sort of food that will keep in the fridge. As a new mom, she has most definitely ditched the lunch at noon, dinner at 6pm schedule.
2. Let her shower
If you're over anyway and planning to stay for a little bit, tell her you'll watch the baby while she gets in the shower. She'll appreciate it (especially if it's the middle of summer and she's spent the whole day nursing the baby heat magnet) and it'll take ten minutes, tops.
3. talk REAL with her, and listen
As her friend, she's more likely to tell you the things she's REALLY struggling with, the things she tries to hide from her family. She may feel completely lost, she may feel like she doesn't know who she is anymore, she may not be bonding with her baby, she may have postpartum depression.
She may feel ALL of those things at once. Ask how she's doing and listen to her. Let her know she can text you anytime she needs to.
4. help her get back into her fitness routine
If new mama was into fitness and maintaining a healthy lifestyle before having baby, then you should help motivate mama to get back into her favorite exercise class or routine as soon as she's cleared by her doctor (usually around 6-8 weeks postpartum).
She may not be feeling the greatest about her post-baby body (or her energy levels) and she could use any motivation to get moving on this uphill battle. If she's not up for a barre class, you can do some easy at-home exercises together or go for a walk/jog with the baby in tow.
5. This is about her family, not yours
If you were a mama before her, don't tell her how to do it. Allow her to figure some things out on her own, and try to remember when you were in her shoes. No new mama likes the "know it all" friend who comes around to judge her choices and show her a "better" way.
The last piece of advice is to give mom the gift of community.
It takes a village to raise a child and she may feel lost and without a tribe. Get her a pass to a mommy and me yoga class, or invite her to a baby story time at the library.
I'm very excited to announce the Happy Mom Conference, presented by Land of Mom, to take place in Los Angeles, CA early this spring. Treat the mom in your life to this day-long event where moms can get inspired, get empowered, and connect with other moms on the motherhood journey.
Moms will walk away from this event with tools and resources to be able to discover, embrace and love who they are so that they can live their happiest life!
Click the image below to get more information, including special promotions and giveaways.