We often shower attention on families during pregnancy, but not during the postpartum period — when in fact the postpartum period is the time when families need the support of their communities the most! When a friend or family member has a new baby visit them. Help. You want to meet that amazing new little person and be there for the parents!
WHEN AND HOW LONG TO VISIT
• Always call/message in advance to schedule the visit. Do not drop in unannounced. Be on time.
• Mothers often report feeling isolated after 1-2-3 months at home with a newborn (and any other children), and welcome longer visits in the later weeks/months.
• Very close friends/family may be invited to come for longer or more frequent visits to help in the early weeks, but should always ask the mother what type of visit — short or long — would be most helpful to her.
PREPARING FOR THE VISIT
• If you are ill in any way — even the tail end of a cold — stay home. Visit when you are well.
• Do not wear perfume, scented body lotions, or aftershave. These linger for hours or days after your visit and are often overpowering for baby and mother, who have heightened senses of smell.
• Leave your children and pets at home, especially in the early weeks, when the family is likely to want quiet, rest, and minimal outside germs. One exception is bringing your children over for a playdate
• Bring food.
DURING THE VISIT
• Wash your hands when you arrive, and let the mother know that you have washed them before touching her baby.
• Ask to hold the baby; offering to hold the baby after a feeding so the mother can take a shower or a nap.
• Do a chore. Do it without asking. Load the dishwasher. Wash the dishes in the sink. Sweep the floor. Fold that basket of laundry you see sitting there. Take out the trash. Scrub the toilet or wipe down the counters while in the bathroom. Watch the older siblings, or take them out of the house on an outing. Or, offer to take dogs for a walk. Adjusting to a new baby can be hard for pets, too. They need a little extra love at this time, as well!
• Give advice only if the parents specifically ask for it.
• Follow the mother’s cues about how long a visit she’d like. Remember that it can be very difficult for her to ask you to leave once you are there, even if she truly needs sleep/ self-care.
• Ask whether the family has set up an online meal-delivery calendar, such as Meal Train or Take Them a Meal. If they have not, organizing one is a great job.
• Check with the family for information about food preferences, sensitivities, and allergies, as well as any other preferences (food delivery times, locations, dates). Respect that information.
• Bonus points: bring a complete meal (main dish, salad/veggie side, and dessert) and/or meals containing ingredients that promote breastmilk production, such as oatmeal (oatmeal lactation cookies are one option), whole grains, dark leafy greens, beans, vegetables, and nuts/seeds.
• If you do not cook, consider bringing a collection of healthy snacks that the mother can grab and eat one-handed while nursing, such as nuts or trail mix (unsalted), dried fruit/veggies, precut fruits/vegetables, hummus, and whole-grain crackers.
IF YOU ARE A CLOSE FRIEND OR CLOSE IN-TOWN FAMILY MEMBER
• Run an errand. School drop-off, grocery store etc. Call and say, “I am going to the grocery store. What can I get you? I will drop it by on my way home.” Note that it is “What can I get you?” not “Can I get you anything?”
• Be gentle and compassionate with the mother. Ask her what kind of support would help her feel better.
If you are a gentle, considerate visitor who puts the family’s needs first, your thoughtfulness will be a tremendous gift and be remembered and appreciated for years to come!
Image Credit: http://www.happy-bandits.com/