[Virtual Baby Shower!] Supporting a Family During the Postpartum Period
I know it has been quiet around here for awhile! The kids and I are on Spring Break now, so I’m hoping to get a few things scheduled, as much is bouncing around in my head following Annabelle’s birthday (a month ago now!), an amazing time at the American Montessori Society’s annual conference, my first night (four nights!) away from the kids, and the everyday awesomeness of the classroom. We’ll see how much I can get in writing before the final weeks of the school year and the arrival of our littlest family member. Speaking of new arrivals, the incredible Multicultural Kid Blogs bloggers are hosting a virtual baby shower and many bloggers are writing baby or baby shower related posts as part of the celebration, including me! Read on for more:
At Multicultural Kid Blogs, we consider ourselves a (very large) extended family, and so today we are taking time to celebrate those members that are about to or have recently welcomed new little ones into their lives. We are so happy for them!
The co-hosts of this blog hop, listed below, have each written posts related to baby showers or more generally about becoming parents, plus we’d love for you to link up yours below.
Also be sure to visit our Facebook page to leave your advice and well wishes for our guests of honor!
the piri-piri lexicon
Creative World of Varya
La Cité des Vents
Dad’s the way I like it
Tiny Tapping Toes
All Done Monkey
9 Ways to Support a Family During the Postpartum Period
1. Deliver Food
The biggest challenge after both of our children’s births was figuring out how to keep ourselves fed while keeping up with the constant diaper changes, nursing sessions, and drive to snuggle and breathe in our babies’ sweetness. We ate a lot of takeout, and picking it up was kind of a pain.
Making a meal, baking some treats or snacks, or picking up some easy breakfast staples (yogurt, berries and bananas, granola, pastries) to drop at the door of a family with a new little one at home can be such a huge blessing. Just make sure you’re aware of any applicable dietary restrictions or major aversions. If you live nearby, you can even help make and store some freezer meals or long-lasting pantry staples before a new baby is born. Having plenty of good food on hand can really help ease the mind of a mama who is busily attempting to prepare for a new arrival.
If you’re acquainted with others who love the family you’re hoping to support, you can consider organizing a meal schedule to make it easy for others who might wish to help by offering a tangible way to do so. Our town’s parent resource group uses Take Them a Meal to coordinate dinners for postpartum families, and I’m sure there are a number of similar options.
If you don’t live nearby or just don’t like to cook, you can always check out resources local to your loved ones for ordering meals to be delivered by someone else. Here in the DC area, mommemeals seems like a great option, though I haven’t used the service myself. You can also ask about favorite nearby restaurants and find one that offers delivery, or use amazon to order a case of a favorite snack.
2. Keep Your Distance, or Don’t
Every family is different, and I think that’s incredibly important to remember when attempting to be helpful, or just to show your enthusiasm in the first weeks following the birth of a new baby. Some are eager to share the experience with as many loved ones as possible right away, and others prefer a period of quiet and privacy. Find out where the postpartum family in your life fits on that spectrum.
I know I’m not alone in occasionally assuming that others will want things the same way that I want them. Those who wanted to show their new babies off to everyone as soon as possible may be inclined to assume that visiting a new arrival right away is the best way to show their enthusiasm. I, on the other hand, like privacy myself, so I tend to keep my distance from friends with newborns and wait patiently to be invited. Instead of going to either of these extremes, it’s probably wise to simply ask questions about what the family wants – ask before the baby comes and ask again afterward. Things can be intense following a birth, and sometimes these things change.
To use myself as an example I tend to have a hard time directly voicing my preferences, especially with people outside the family, and I remember hoping none of my coworkers really meant it when they said they wanted to come visit me in the hospital after my first was born. I generally enjoyed their company and certainly wanted them to meet my baby eventually, but the idea of having them in my hospital room, mere hours after I had given birth, sounded terrible. I figured I just wouldn’t tell anyone I was in labor, and then I wouldn’t have to worry about it! It worked, for the most part. On the flipside, I wouldn’t be surprised if my distance has made me seem unenthusiastic to friends who might have liked some company right after their babies were born. I’m trying to remember to ask rather than assume that everyone else wants space.
3. Wash hands
Everyone has different preferences when it comes to others holding their newborn. Some parents may not be all that worried about freshly washed hands, but it certainly can’t hurt to freshen up before getting your first baby snuggles in. If you want to be extra careful, you can throw a receiving blanket over your shirt, too, to avoid bringing baby’s sensitive skin in contact with any potentially harsh residues from your laundry detergent, perfumes, lotions, etc.
While we’re on the subject of holding the newborn, too, unless the new parents have expressed a desire for a break, this really isn’t the time to show off your baby soothing skills. If baby begins to cry, immediately offer him or her back to the parent. They may be happy to have you try some calming techniques, but I know I’m not the only one who has found myself torn between coming across as rude to a visitor and standing helplessly by while my newborn cries when my instinct is to get them back in my arms as quickly as possible. The main idea is just to be sensitive. Handing a tiny newborn you’ve only just brought into the world over to another person can be difficult. For many others, it’s a huge relief and leaving you to rock and soothe for an hour or two while they get a much-needed nap or shower could be a sanity-saver.
4. Take Pictures
New parents seldom need reminders to take pictures of their precious newborn, but what many of us forget to do is ask others to take pictures with us in them. Some are camera shy, of course, and many won’t feel up for being in a photo in the first days postpartum, so it’s important to ask first. If you’re handy with a camera, though, any moments you can capture of the family, or even just one parent and the newborn, are likely to be treasured for a long time to come. I still wish that I had more photos of me with my babies when they were newly born.
5. Consider Older Siblings
Families with more than one child may have newborn care down to a science, but figuring out how to balance the needs of a new baby with those of older siblings is a special challenge. If you’d like to bring a gift to a family that already has more than enough baby gear, consider something engaging for the older children to enjoy. If you’re the sort who enjoys making things, and there are toddler or preschool-aged children involved, you can even make a “busy bag” or two (so many great busy bag ideas on Pinterest, of course), or prepare a few pages for a “quiet book” (link for Pinterest inspiration). If you’re not crafty yourself, you can support homemade by searching for either of these things on etsy.
There’s no need to do anything elaborate, though. Simple items like bubbles, sidewalk chalk, a set of watercolors, or a new book are wonderful ways of not only honoring older siblings, but giving tired parents tools for keeping their older ones happy during baby care. If you’re close with the family and live nearby, offering to take an older sibling for a play date with your children, on a special outing, or even just out to the yard to play, can be tremendously helpful, too.
Whether you’re bringing something for the older children or not, try to acknowledge them and give them a bit of attention when you visit anyway. It’s easy to imagine how all of the new baby excitement can leave older siblings feeling ignored or insignificant. Make them feel important, too. Take time to listen to anything they may be wanting to say.
6. Encourage (or just hold the advice)
Everyone seems to have an opinion on parenting and baby care, and oftentimes the advice one person gives is in direct conflict with that given by someone else. Having seasoned parents to ask advice of is a wonderful thing – I know I rely heavily on experienced parent friends. The key word here, though, is ask. Offering advice when the new parents aren’t looking for any can lead to second-guessing and insecurities in new parents who are just getting their bearings. What new parents need most of all is encouragement, not suggestions that they should be doing things differently.
Keeping up with cleaning after a new baby is right up there with food prep: there just isn’t time for it! When visiting a family with a newborn, jumping in and washing a few dishes, tossing in a load of laundry, or cleaning a bathroom can be a huge blessing. Be careful with this one, though - it’s another one of those areas where asking first is helpful. I add it to the list only because I have heard so many friends mention how wonderful it is when visitors clean up, but personally the embarrassment I feel over knowing that a friend looked closely at my dirty bathroom or got a whiff of my family’s laundry basket outweighs the relief of having one of these household chores taken care of. Silly, I know, but it’s the truth. If you don’t live nearby or don’t feel comfortable jumping in to help clean, you can always give the gift of a cleaning service or, for families using cloth diapers, a diaper service for the first month or two.
There’s more to helping around the house than cleaning, too. Oftentimes there are home improvement or organization projects families are trying to finish up when a baby arrives. If you’re an out of town guest, or particularly skilled in some area that would be helpful around the house, offering to take on a project can help ease the stress parents may be feeling about getting everything settled following a new baby’s arrival. Personally, I know I’m looking forward to my dad’s postpartum visit, not only because I like my parents, but because he’ll be putting a beautiful new floor in our basement. Now if only I had a painter or an interior decorator in the family! Of course it’s hard to know what a family may need, so you’ll have to ask questions or simply offer your skills and see if you can find a way to jump in and help with the settling in. This is a great way to help in the days and weeks before a new baby’s arrival, too.
8. Keep it Short
Newborns sleep frequently, and frequent naps are fantastic for new parents’ recovery as well. In many situations, a long visit may be just what a new family needs, but in others, the parents may be too exhausted to visit for long and a shorter stay will be best. It’s probably easier for your hosts to ask you to stay than it would be for them to politely ask you to leave before you’re ready, so keep your visit short and sweet and consider it a great honor if you’re asked to stay around.
If you’re coming from out of town, bring a book, plan a solo outing or two, or lose yourself in a home improvement project from time to time. Ask questions and do your best to read the situation. Disappearing into your own activity for awhile will give the new family time to recharge without feeling like they’re neglecting you.
9. Listen and Ask Questions
The birth of a child is a huge event, whether it’s the first, second, or sixth, and parents of newborns have a whole lot going on in their minds. If your visit turns into a long one, you can help tremendously by being a listening ear and allowing your loved one to talk through whatever is on their mind. Everyone is interested in hearing how the baby is doing, but comparatively few ask sincerely about how the transition is going for the parents, how the birth experience was, what has been most exciting and most difficult, etc. Show you’re interested by really, truly listening, and ask questions to show your loved one that you’re up for hearing all about what’s on their mind. This can really help with the mental processing of the whole situation and make the challenges of parenting in the postpartum period that much easier.
What are your suggestions for postpartum support?
No two families are exactly alike, and this list won’t apply to everyone. What would you add? What did you need most after the birth of a child, and what did others do that was most helpful for you? What’s your favorite way to show your love and enthusiasm for new arrivals in your family or circle of friends? I’d love to hear!