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Throughout all three trimesters of pregnancy, moms receive endless support. Friends throw baby showers, partners help them in their day-to-day and their OB-GYN care teams ensure they and their babies are staying healthy.

Then comes the “fourth trimester” — the first 12 weeks postpartum. The stark difference in the guidance and support women receive throughout the pregnancy and then the support they feel after giving birth can be quite jarring. It is clear that they need continued support after giving birth as their body heals, and they adjust to life with a newborn.

As a partner, family member or friend, here are five ways you can support the new mom in your life.

1. Have a Plan.

Before Baby arrives, everyone in the household should talk through a plan for how life will proceed once they come home from the hospital. It is helpful to write down your ideas. WakeMed Birth and Family Education offers a postpartum planner worksheet that can help you organize your thoughts and address questions you may have not considered.

Essentially you will want to talk through practical things, such as:

  • What household chores will need to continue without interruption and what can be put on hold?
  • Who will ensure that pets are cared for?
  • What meals can we make ahead and freeze for later?

You will also want to discuss everyone’s emotional and physical well-being:

  • How can we form new bonds between the new baby and family?
  • What is our policy for visitors once we come home from the hospital?
  • What are mom’s expectations for physical recovery postpartum?

It is important to remember to be flexible. The plan may change, and that is okay.

2. Offer. Don’t Ask.

New moms are often asked questions like, “Can I take the baby, so you can go rest?” or “Would you like me to get you a snack?” While the person asking these questions has good intentions, it may not be an effective strategy.

It is best to OFFER not to ask. Instead of asking if they are hungry or thirsty, just act and fill up their water bottle or prepare them a snack.

Tell them, “Let me hold the baby for a bit. I just started the shower for you.”

Removing the need for them to consider their response or to weigh in on the question helps alleviate the emotional labor of making that decision. They have needs that can be obvious, and you can help them meet those needs by taking initiative and offering, not asking.

3. Communicate In. Complain Out.

Having a newborn can be challenging. There will be hurdles and frustrations along the way as you establish life with a little person around. Find someone you trust outside of your household that can be your sounding board. This will be the person you should vent to about not getting enough sleep or being so burned-out on changing diapers. That is complaining out — as in complain outside of the household and the relationship.

However, it is important to communicate in. You should be able to talk to your partner in a constructive way and present ideas or offer solutions to issues the two of you may be facing.

4. Know the Warning Signs.

While having a baby is typically a time of joy, it is not at all uncommon for new parents to experience feelings of sadness, anxiousness, irritability and more. These feelings range from postpartum blues to clinical depression or anxiety to postpartum psychosis.

It is important to understand the warning signs of these postpartum issues so that you can support the new mom in your life or find support for yourself, if needed.

For more on this topic, please read this blog: Baby Blues by Elizabeth Jarvis, MD with WakeMed OB-GYN.

5. Spend Time with Baby.

It is important as a partner or caregiver that you also spend time with the baby. You need to get to know the nuances of their cries and what works to soothe them when they are feeling fussy.

You need to know where the diaper cream is and what the nap time routine consists of. This will help you feel bonded to the baby and give mom some relief knowing that you can confidently care for your little one.

Additionally, partners should practice skin-to-skin with baby in the weeks following birth. This is a great way to continue developing a special bond.

About WakeMed Birth and Family Education

WakeMed Birth and Family Education offers classes, tours, support groups, and workshops at each of our hospitals and WakeMed’s Corporate Center. These classes are taught by experienced certified childbirth educators and give you and your family valuable information on pregnancy, childbirth, and life after leaving the hospital.

Learn more about WakeMed Birth and Family Education.

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WakeMed Health & Hospitals