Mothering the New MotherI often hear from women of the generation ahead of me that they wished that they had a postpartum doula when they had their kids. Now these same women are becoming grandmothers and want to provide support to their daughters and daughters-in-law, but are unsure of the best way to help. One of the roles of a postpartum doula is the instruction to the supporting family members/friends how to mother the new mother. What does this mean? Let me give you an example to put this into perspective.
When a child is young and unable to support themselves their needs are met by their mother. When they are hungry, they are fed; when they are tired they are relaxed into sleep, when they need a bath, they are bathed. The child doesn’t give direction on how things should be done; rather the mother is following the cues given by the child as to what their needs are.
The new mother is often in a similar state following the birth of her child. She is tired, sore, hungry, looking forward spending time with her new baby. The task of mothering the new mother is to anticipate and meet her needs before she has to ask. There is also the emotional role of mothering the new mother. Providing the mother with an outlet to express her concerns, joys, and range of emotions is very important. Listening helps one better understand the mothers’ needs and how to meet them.
So what are some specific examples of how to mother the new mother?
First, it is the mother’s role to take care of her new child, not those who come to visit her and the baby. This means, bring food instead of expecting food to be provided. Take care of the household tasks like laundry, dishes, or pet care so the mother is able to spend more time with her child.
Second, listen to the mother instead of paying attention to only the baby. Mother and baby are a unit. Paying attention to one without the other disregards their new relationship that is just beginning. Please do not take away the baby from the mother, unless permission is given. The mother has earned the right to hold and love her baby, as has the father. Once again follow the cues of mom, dad, and baby.
Third, reassure the mom that she is doing a great job. Diapers, feedings, clothing choices, soothing techniques are as varied and numerous as there are different kinds of babies. If it works, go for it. If you are asked for direction, feel free to share, but remember what worked for you might not be what works for them. Letting the mom know that you won’t be offended if she chooses another option goes a long way.
Welcoming a new baby into the world is a wonderful and exciting event, but don’t forget that a mother (and father) has also come into being. Making sure that everyone is getting the support that they need when they need it is one of the best gifts you can give to the new family.
Happy Mother’s Day to all you mothers and mothers to be. Love each other, support each other.
We all have our own stories to share.
Let us embrace it!