Hint - it's not another babygro.
I've had so many messages from people in response to my previous blog about how it resonated with their experience and how they wish they had had better support after giving birth. As I read these messages I was frustrated by how many other women had a similar experience to mine.
Studies have found that there is a lower incidence of postpartum mood disorders in cultures that have rituals that provide support and care for a new mother. Around 1 in 5 women in the UK will experience mental health issues during pregnancy or in the year after giving birth Given these statistics, all I can think about was how desperately we need a cultural shift in how we support new mothers and what a difference it could make to their well-being and experience of becoming a mother.
A mother can't do this on her own. She needs her 'village' to know how they can support her to do this. I've pulled together a list from my own experience and from what other mums have said they found helpful.
So 'village' if you're listening (and I hope you are), here's what a new mum really needs from you.
It doesn't matter if you bring food to put in the fridge or freezer, cook something while you're there or gift her with food vouchers. It's so easy as a new mum to reach for the biscuits and not eat as well as you should so making it easy for her to eat nutritious food is one of the most thoughtful gifts. Bonus points if she can easily eat the food one handed while feeding the baby.
Babies are cute and cuddly and lovely but she needs attention too. Ask her how she is doing and then listen. Hear her. If she's worried about her mental health, help her to find support. If she's struggling with breastfeeding, help her find breastfeeding support. If she's unsure about what to do, rather than offering advice, listen and help her figure out what she wants to do.
Be of service.
Make her a cup of tea, get her a snack, load the dishwasher, fold some laundry, take out the rubbish, ask if she needs anything picked up from the shops, play with older children. Anything you can think of to lend a hand and lighten the load.
New mums (and people in general) can sometimes awkward about asking for help. So instead of asking 'is there anything I can do to help' which can make a new mum feel like she's asking for help, suggest something specific like 'can I put on a load washing?'.
Don't be offended.
The early days after giving birth can be emotionally overwhelming and physically demanding so don't be offended if she wants privacy and quiet to bond with her baby, recover from the birth and get to grips with breastfeeding.
Be on time.
If you do visit, be on time and don't overstay. She may have asked you to come at certain time for a reason like nap or feeding time.
So much of the focus tends to be on the new baby and we forget the mother. We forget to see her, hear her and support her.
The role of a postnatal doula is to provide exactly this kind of support to a new mother. If you'd like me to be part of your village and support you as your postnatal doula please get in touch, I'd love to hear from you and help you have the start to motherhood that you deserve!