Supporting the Postpartum Woman
Abby serves the Central Arkansas region as a homebirth midwife with skilled care in natural birth and a heart for mothers!
The topic, that I write, is one that I have become very passionate about. Over the past 7 weeks, my eyes have been opened to what a woman goes through after she has a baby. I had the blessing of being at my friend’s birth, as a friend, and since then, I have had more of an insight to the realities of the PP season. I am a midwifery student and have been in countless postpartum apt, and there, I have only seen a small portion of what moms walk through during the PP season.
Now, I understand that some women DO have an amazing recovery period and they report feeling their normal “self” a month after birth. Their baby latches and nurses perfectly. No nipple pain, no engorgement, nada. They are able to sleep 7 hrs. a night, because their baby is sleeping 7 hrs. a night. Their husbands got 2 weeks off work to stay home and help, they have several helpful family members, and a supportive church group that has been making meals upon meals to feed them. For these women who have beautiful PP recoveries, I am SO extremely happy that you did! I wish every single mother could walk through an easy recovery…
For you mommas who have walked through an extremely difficult PP season (or currently are), my heart goes out for you. I wish I could sit with you and cry with you. I understand that your attempt to breastfeed is getting so discouraging. Your breasts are engorged, your baby will not latch well, you have been seeing a lactation consultant, your midwife, a chiropractor, and a massage therapist, and NOTHING seems to be the magical cure. You have all the right and good supplements to take. All your food is healthy and nutritious. You are awake all night, exclusively pumping (still 7 weeks after your baby had it’s tongue and lip tie removal) and bottle feeding, because your baby will just NOT latch on to your breast and now you feel like something is wrong with you. Your emotions are all over the map, and you feel like a nagging and negative wife and an unsuccessful momma. You feel like this season will never end and at the same time, you are trying to enjoy your newborn baby because everyone is telling you to “enjoy it, your baby will grow up so fast”.
NOTE: I am a firm believer that your situation is shaped by your ATTITUDE. I know pain and experiences are subjective. I understand this. All people process things in their own way. They have a past that shapes how they process things now.
One thing that is a bit humorous and frustrating is the number one question mothers get after pushing out a baby...“how much does the baby weigh?” They do not hear, “How is your perineum? Did you have to get stitches? Maybe we should give you time to sleep and eat and establish nursing before we bombard you with visiting?”
Some women get 2-3 weeks of good PP support, while some do not get any at all. Why is it that your support team is on board and helpful 2-3 weeks after birth and not so much supportive 3-4 months after you had your baby? I mean, shouldn't you have it all together at this point? You have had plenty of time to get into a routine of things. You should know how to multitask by now.
For those of you who do not realize it...some women may STILL be processing the following, weeks and (sometimes) MONTHS after birth: Their thoughts and emotions towards a very traumatic birth. Difficulty breastfeeding and latching. Mastitis and plugged ducts because of their baby’s difficulty to breastfeed. Their emotional and hormonal swings. Their sleep deprivation. Their weight gain because they are eating more just to keep up their milk supply OR their lack of caloric intake because they do not have time to eat. Their messy home. Their fussy baby. AND so much more.
Do not get me wrong, I could write up another blog post (probably will) about all the beautiful blessings of motherhood and postpartum. I do not want to bring a sense of negativity, but rather a reality that the majority of mothers face.
There are some women who do not want to hear “things will get better” “hang in there” “there is light at the end of the tunnel” and “just enjoy your baby, sleep when they do, and eat when they do”. Those women just might want YOU to empathize with them, hold space for them, and sit in the mud and mire with them, not saying a word, but just being there for them.
If you ask a PP mom if you can do anything for them, they are more than likely going to say “I think I am okay.” This is the easier thing for them to say. Why? Because it is easier for them to grin and bear it and not let everyone know they are still needing help. I was once encouraged to not ASK a PP mom what she needs but to rather STATE how you are going to serve her. A woman will more than likely accept your offer if you just text her and say, “Hey, I am bringing you dinner tomorrow night. I am also going to spend 3 hrs. at your house holding your fussy and crying baby while you take care of you.” Do not ask if you can do that, just say you are going to, and if the woman has other plans or REALLY does not want you to help her, she will say so. Give her some room to deny your offer is she really does not want you coming over to help.
If you are looking for ways to better serve postpartum women and families, 2 weeks or 6 months out, here are some easy and applicable ways to do so:
1) Make the family a meal! This seems like an easy and popular thing to do. Remember to ask the mom if she has any diet restrictions and try to be creative and also make foods that can be frozen. I love offering mothers meals a few months after she has her baby, because it is most popular for families to be flooded with meals RIGHT after the birth. SO, be different and reach out a couple months after the birth.
2) If you are holding a baby and it starts to get fussy and upset...please try to console it yourself instead of taking the easy way out and handing the baby back to its mother. Moms really appreciate someone else trying to console their baby.
3) If you are going to visit the new baby and mom, please do not come empty handed! Bring something that will help the mom recover, bring willing hands to wash dishes or sweep a floor.
4) Offer your entire afternoon to hold and console the baby while the mom gets a shower and a nap. Only bring the baby to momma for feedings.
5) Offer to spend the night with the new family and take the responsibility to stay up with the baby all night, so mom and dad can get a good night’s rest. (this is even a blessing 9 weeks after birth, I promise!)
6) Have a mom make you her grocery list and go out and run her errands.
7) Drive and accompany the mom (especially if she has other little kiddos) out to any apt she might have.
8) Send a text message of encouragement with words of hope and love. If you are an experienced mom, give some advice to the young mom.
9) Provide your presence and time for the mom. Like I said above, some women really resent words of affirmation. I know people are trying to be kind and loving and they don’t know how else to help, so they say things like, “I am so sorry...this season will end soon...just try to take care of yourself”. Be the type of friend that can just listen and maybe not say anything at all. When you offer positive sentiments of how things will get better, it can actually be more discouraging for the mother if things don’t get better.
10) THIS ONE IS IMPORTANT! Do not take offense if a mom does not want visitors for a couple of days after birth. Mom is recovering from stitches, trying to establish good breastfeeding, healing, resting, and so much more. Try to understand and give the new family space. Maybe, you should be the one to suggest that everyone stay away from visiting the new family so quickly after birth?.?.?
11) Send the mom some helpful items like mother’s milk tea, good probiotics, a gift card to a good take out restaurant, throw away paper plates and cups (so dishes won’t be a burden), Vitamins, breast pads, etc. Flowers and cards are nice and kind, but a mom really just needs some practical items too.
12) If a mom has other children, offering to watch them or take them somewhere fun for a day could be a huge blessing. If a mom doesn’t trust many people to watch their children, outside their own bird’s eye view, then offer to do something fun with the children in their home. It makes a huge difference when another adult is nearby to entertain the toddlers and kiddies.
I am so sure there are other and plenty of good ideas to better support and love on our postpartum moms, so share in the comments if you have any other ideas. :)
I have so loved hearing and reading my followers (on Facebook) responses to my PP support questions. It has really helped me and I know other mommas and future mommas have enjoyed learning from them as well.
I really hope that you enjoyed reading this! My desire and passion is to change the way we support postpartum women, and that starts with you! Reach out to a postpartum momma that you know.
Love, grace, & kindness,
Abby Kay ❤
*note that if you are a mother dealing with Postpartum depression, PLEASE contact your care provider and notify them. Do not feel ashamed of feeling depressed and anxious, reach out for help.