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Support During the Postpartum Phase: Part 2-Supportive Things to Do When Someone You Know Has a Baby

Updated: Jun 28, 2023

Welcome to the follow up post from our previous post, Support During the Postpartum Phase (link here). This post was thoughtfully made by two mamas who want to call in friends, family, and other supports to help share wisdom on what support actually looks and feels like during early postpartum. If you know someone who recently had a baby or will in the near future then you’re in luck! Keep reading to learn some invaluable tips and tidbits on how you can be supportive in those precious first few days, weeks, and months.

So, what is support? Support means to help carry the load; to care for and about; to prop up; and to give assistance. It is an other-directed action. Sometimes people will know what they need in order to feel supported, whereas others won’t really know but strongly long for support. Because there can be such a wide range of support we wanted to offer some direct yet gentle nudges. We have heard from many, many moms through our work and personal lives that they wish family and friends understood.

Showing up for a new mama, whether it’s her first baby or not, is truly a kind and loving act. Most people generally consider themselves to be a good support but can struggle with reaching out to a new parent because they don’t know how to help. Thankfully you now have a guide so that you can support a new mom and do it right. Here are some of the pearls we have collected and offer:

Visit the Family, Meet the Baby

Meeting a fresh, new baby is so exciting. We get it that you’re stoked to meet the little babe! However, consider giving the new mama and her family some time to adjust after they get home. Adopt the mentality of visiting the family and meeting the baby. Keep your visit short and spend some time talking with the parents about how they’re doing. Do not stop by unannounced, regardless of your reason. Always ask when you can visit and don’t take it personally if you are told no or if you have to wait a few days or weeks to come over. You can send a card, drop off a meal or care package, or shoot a text letting mama know you’re thinking of her.

Be a Good Listener

New motherhood can be isolating and lonely. Follow mom’s lead for where the conversation goes. It’s common for new mamas to crave “adult conversation” such as work updates, your own personal updates, funny stories, and so on. Stay off your phone and really listen to what mom is saying. Ask her what’s been good, what’s been hard, and how she’s been feeling lately. Offer validation, love, and comfort such as a hug.

Offer a Helping Hand

Consider a supportive role being one that takes on practical tasks, such as laundry, dishes, or vacuuming, as ways to support a new mom. Another great idea is to bring food or a care package with you. Coordinate a meal train so that during those first few months the new parents don’t have to worry about meal prep. Diapers are pretty much always appreciated. Moms go through a lot physically and thus need to recover physically, so something supportive of postpartum recovery can help. Ask the mom if she needs anything in particular.

Keep Visits Short

Plain and simple. Keep visits to under an hour, unless okayed for you to be over longer. If you arrive early or late, let mom or dad know; you may need to hang out in your vehicle until they’re ready for you. If coming from out of town, coordinate your own accommodations such as getting a hotel room. Inquire what the parent is comfortable with regarding visitors (such as number of people, who, how long) and if they want you to practice safety measures such as washing hands, wearing masks, getting certain vaccines, etc.

Give Space

Allow the parents to send updates when they want to. Asking for pictures, videos, or other updates can be annoying and overwhelming. This depends on your relationship with the mom, too, so consider how close you are to the new mama and her family.

Offer Practical Advice, Help, or Resources

There’s an overwhelming amount of things to do, learn, and figure out in motherhood. It can be hard to ask for help. So gently offer permission to the new mama in your life that she can ask you for help. Offer some relief by taking care of chores, picking up groceries, shoveling snow, hanging out with siblings (they’re important, too!) or connecting to resources in your community for various needs. Still seek permission to do these tasks as it can be uncomfortable, seem needy, or make the new mom feel like she’s putting a burden on you even though you are fully willing to help. Ask permission if you can offer feedback or education. Wisdom can be helpful when not veiled as shame or belittling. Encourage talking to her doctor or baby’s pediatrician for medical concerns. Be aware of crisis information and be willing to be part of a crisis plan, depending on your relationship with her. Avoid unsolicited advice or sharing about negative experiences. It’s not helpful.

Stay Connected

Extend your support and care long after the newborn stage. Moms need support all the time, forever. It’s thoughtful, kind, and loving to stay connected to a new mom after she gives birth to her baby. It’s better to stay connected long after and to foster the relationship as you both grow and live your lives.

Next is a specific, curated list of what to avoid no matter what your intentions. Doing these things can have a negative impact and reaction for the new mom, which leads to her feeling more stressed, anxious, and uncertain about having visitors over in case something happens.

  • Avoid kissing, holding, changing, feeding, etc baby unless specifically asked or initiated by the parent.

  • Skip silver lining talk (“at least…”) or warning of the future (“just wait…”).

  • Prioritizing your wants as a visitor vs the needs of the parents

  • Check your own wants at the door.

  • Avoid commenting on baby’s clothing, temperament, sleep, weight/size, or parent’s choices. It’s not your place.

  • Wait to come over if you or someone in your home is sick.

  • Hold off on perfume or other strong smells, wear clean clothing, and don’t smoke before visits.

  • Do not say anything about mom’s postpartum body, weight changes or size, “bouncing back,” or appearance in general. “You look tired” is also a no-go.

  • Do not post baby on social media or send pictures to others without permission.

  • Avoid prying for a birth story or oversharing other birth stories. Birth can be traumatic for some and you can trust the parent will share what information they want you to know.

Being supportive of a new parent requires thoughtfulness and intention. Your desire to show up for the new mom and her family is touching and important so that she knows who is a part of her community. Following these tips will help her to appreciate and be grateful that you’re in her life. Thank you for being willing to listen and understand.

-Celleste & Kirsten

Connect with Kirsten here

DISCLAIMER: The content of Duluth Perinatal’s website, blog, or social media is for informational and educational purposes only. Nothing found here is intended to be a substitute for professional mental health or medical diagnosis, treatment, or advice. Discuss any health or feeding concerns with your infant’s pediatrician. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay it based on the content on this page.

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