Entering into parenthood for the first time is a totally unpredictable experience for anyone. With each child added to the family comes new fears and major life changes. Too often, new moms (or experienced moms with new additions) are unintentionally neglected with the excitement of a new life. While well-intentioned partners and family members make great efforts, new moms often have needs that get overlooked.
If mom is exclusively breastfeeding, this adds to the sleeplessness that goes along with new parenthood. We love this sweet baby so very much, we often don’t understand their needs and crying. It can feel daunting, especially when running on very little sleep. We all learn with experience which inevitably comes with time. With every person having different opinions on what you should be doing with your baby, it becomes even more confusing. Below you will find tips to support new moms/new parents. These tips are realistic and touch on deeper needs of new parents. If you enjoy these tips and find them helpful, I encourage you pass it along to help more new parents and those supporting them.
Also be sure to scroll to the bottom of this post to see other helpful blog posts and adorable images from newborn sessions!
Sleep is extremely hard to come by in those first weeks and months. While you cannot guarantee a full night’s sleep for new parents, encouraging naps can make a huge difference. If mom is exclusively breastfeeding, pumping enough is not always possible. However, once baby is full, go ahead and take over so that mom can lay down for an hour or two. If expressed breastmilk is available, then dad or another person can take over one or two feedings so mom can lay down.
If possible, mom and her partner should both have designated night feedings. EVEN IF THE PARTNER WORKS, THEY SHOULD STILL BE DOING SOME OF THE NIGHT FEEDINGS, even if it is just one so that mom gets one good stretch of sleep during the night. Domestic labor is still labor, and one parent working outside of the home DOES NOT negate the need for sleep of the parent who is home with baby.
It becomes a SAFETY ISSUE. When mom (or any parent) gets almost zero sleep for days on end, they end up falling asleep in unsafe positions with baby. For example, they may fall asleep in a padded recliner or rocking chair, or on a couch that puts baby at risk for suffocation. Studies have shown this to be more dangerous that safe co-sleeping practices. Hormones released during breastfeeding make it nearly impossible for an overtired mom to stay awake at times.
If you are the partner of a new mom, be sure you’re contributing to letting mom sleep. If you are a grandparent or closer relative to new parents, it is so helpful to take baby for short periods and highly encourage mom (and dad) to nap. Two or three hours of sleep can make a huge difference.
Meal trains are an incredible way to help new parents. The lovely part about meal trains is that you can participate from afar by ordering food to be delivered. While dinner is the most common, don’t forget about breakfast and lunch foods too. All of them are really helpful. Even something as simple as a fruit basket can be helpful to snack on if a meal train didn’t get started. Keep in mind any dietary restrictions for the new family. It isn’t helpful if they can’t eat it or greatly dislike the food.
Either do if yourself, or chip in to hire someone for the first month or two. Cleaning and laundry compile extremely fast with a new baby, especially if other children are in the house. If the new mom is typically accustomed to keeping a very tidy home, these tasks building up can cause unnecessary anxiety and depression. New moms often feel a sense of failure when baby is fussy. It amplifies it when she cannot keep up with the impossible task of keeping a clean home and laundry.
I recall being a new mom and my partner having to return to work very quickly. It was extremely lonely at times. I was home with this new baby, whom I loved with every ounce of my being, that cried constantly, always needed to be held and comforted, and didn’t sleep unless he was being held. I was so tired, but even more so, I was incredibly lonely. Having another adult in the home who is there to visit can seriously make a huge difference. Bring a meal while you’re at it.
Postpartum anxiety and depression can come on strong and be very obvious, but not always. Sometimes signs are subtle and more gradual. A new parent may not be able to recognize the signs themselves because they may not understand what is going on. Some things partners and close family/friends should watch out for are-
If you recognize these signs in your partner, friend, or family member, it is imperative to have a conversation with them and encourage them to seek help. New moms often will not discuss this on their own as it is a source of shame and guilt, especially those that experience intrusive thoughts. They may not recognize the signs and symptoms on their own. Never shame a new parent who is experiencing signs of PPA or PPD. It is not the mother’s fault and she needs help to feel better.
Let her know how great she is doing and how beautiful she is! When she is feeling doubt in her abilities, provide a helpful hand and words of encouragement. New moms don’t want advice from every single person that makes her feel like a failure. New moms want advise given in a graceful why that may actually help them with their baby. If it isn’t helpful then keep it to yourself. What I really needed as a new mom was someone to tell me that holding my baby was okay, that it wasn’t my fault he cried a lot but here were some practical things I could try to help calm him, that my intrusive thoughts were more common than I knew and I wasn’t crazy but that getting help was important to deal with these things. Being supportive to the new mom is highly impactful.
Overall, new parenthood is challenging for each parent. If you really want to be a supportive partner, friend, or family member, following these tips will make a huge difference. Remember that these days, weeks, and months are fleeting. Each day may bring new challenges, and new accomplishments, and new experiences. While moms are almost always the main caretaker for a newborn baby, especially if she is exclusively breastfeeding, it is imperative that she have support, help, and love throughout the process. Not only will it help her, it will also help the newborn baby!
I hope you find these tips helpful. Please comment below if you have other tips to add that others may find helpful! As a mom of 4, an RN for almost a decade, and a newborn photographer, I find these tips to be universally helpful for new moms and new parents! Be sure to check out my newborn photography website linked below!
Here are some other blog posts that you may find helpful as well!