A new mama is like a superhero. She just made it through the incredible challenge of pregnancy and childbirth, but she can barely take a breath before she has to dive into her next adventure of mothering. It’s an endless job, full of daily obstacles and victories; but who takes care of mama? Hopefully, the answer is “all of us”. Below are a few ways we can all help support the new mama:
Breastfeeding: It’s hard. Encourage her to keep at it; it’s a skill just like anything else and it takes practice. Contact La Leche League for her and find out the schedule of meetings in her area. Give her a ride if she needs one. Help hire a lactation consultant to come to her house for support. Be there when it’s hard. Listen. Don’t judge.
Diet: Mama needs optimal nutrition to make milk and heal her body. Buy or make some food to bring to the new family. Whole food based recipes are best, to avoid food intolerances for everyone. Whole grains and legumes, grass-fed meats, organic eggs, fresh fruits and veggies, and good fats, like avocado, nuts, and seeds are ideal. Make the new mama some lactation muffins! With ingredients like oats, flax meal, brewer’s yeast, coconut and almonds, these will be delicious, nutritious and encourage milk production.
Sleep: As baby’s sleep schedule is anything but a schedule in those first 3 months, help mama by encouraging her to sleep, or at least rest, when the baby sleeps. At only 8-9 hours of interrupted nighttime sleep for baby, mama cannot get enough to heal and make milk and thrive. She needs to nap or it will wear her down. Rest is especially important if the new mother is experiencing mastitis. Ask if you can come over when baby is napping, so that mama can nap too without keeping one ear open. Chamomile tea for mama is a very gentle and effective herbal relaxant that is safe for breastfeeding.
Healing: Let’s face it, things are a bit sore after childbirth and suckled nipples can get raw. Nutrients like Zinc, Vitamin C, and protein can be helpful to speed the healing process. Sitz baths with topical herbs like Comfrey, Witch hazel, Plantain and Aloe can be soothing and healing. Papaya, eaten between meals, can decrease inflammation by breaking down the protein debris with enzymes. Help the new mama find help with healing if she’s struggling.
Mood: “Baby blues” is a normal event after childbirth that is due to the sudden change in hormones. Breastfeeding can also make your hormones go haywire. While we expect these changes to resolve in a couple of weeks, about 20% of women develop postpartum depression. Watch for warning signs: chronic crying, panic attacks, sadness, detachment, anger, and scary thoughts. Don’t try to fix it, but help her get help if it is needed. Most of all she needs to feel supported.
Image Credit: Pacific Birth Collective