Both pregnancy and postpartum, especially “the fourth trimester,” the first 3 months after parents bring their newborn infant home, need a lot more of our attention if the goal is to help parents successfully transition into parenthood.
It is a time that is characterized by significant emotional, physical, and practical lifestyle adjustments (incl. financial), which can be extremely overwhelming and taxing on the new parents’ well-being. It is therefore essential we apply a holistic approach to effectively support growing families, so we can empower them to navigate this transformative period with more confidence and ease.
3 Tips to Help Women During Pregnancy
1. Validate, Validate, Validate
Everyone’s experience during pregnancy is different. Some women feel the glow; others feel utterly miserable. Some women love being pregnant; others hate it. All of it is normal. Whatever it turns out to be is real, and therefore valid, for each individual pregnant woman.
So validate her.
If she is in her happiest glow and feeling amazing – relish in it with her. Don’t bombard her with “Just you wait…” or “Sleep now because you’ll never sleep again!” types of comments.
If she is really struggling physically or mentally – hold space for her. Don’t shame her with “But it’s such a miracle!” or “You’d feel better if you were more positive…” types of comments.
2. Keep Your Suggestions To Yourself Unless Asked
This mother is THE mother.
- Maybe she’s planning on bottle feeding from the beginning, but you really loved nursing and feel like that’s the best route. There is no need to mention that.
- If she wants an epidural, but you think it’s better to go medication-free. There is no need to mention that.
- If she wants to do a water birth, but you think it’s better to deliver in a bed. There is no need to mention that.
When a pregnant woman asks you for advice, you can offer your experience and wisdom. Otherwise, meet her decisions with kindness, curiosity, and the appropriate respect for her autonomy over her own body and her baby’s well-being.
3. Help Her – Physically, Financially, Emotionally
Pregnancy is a lot on the body, mind, spirit, and checkbook. If you are in a position to help, this is a great time to do so.
- Offer to go on a walk with her and ask her how she is doing. Respond in non-judgmental ways.
- Encourage rest and recovery – offer to take some to-do list items off her list, so she can take a nap or just lie on the couch for a little while. You could pay for a house deep cleaning service, offer to take her other children to the park for an hour, go grocery shopping with her grocery list, make a few meals and drop them off, etc.
- Offer to pay for a pelvic floor physical therapy session (rarely covered by insurance in the U.S., but so impactful for a comfortable pregnancy), a prenatal massage, a pedicure (especially when she can’t reach her toes!), a home improvement store gift card for nursery projects, or even some meal prep kits to help make those tired evenings faster and easier.
5 Tips to Help New Moms (& families!) During Postpartum
Some cultures are really good at pouring support on postpartum women and families; some cultures expect new parents to deal with postpartum largely (or entirely) on their own. If we live in a latter culture, in order to become the former type of culture (the one that is good at pouring support on new families), let’s ALL assume that EVERY family with a brand new baby needs an extra hand.
It is then crucial that we make sure our help is actually helping. Here are some ways to do just that for a new postpartum mom that also leave enough room for her unique needs and wants.
1. Help the Mother – Don’t Replace Her
The desire to hold a fresh, new baby and snuggle them is a strong one. They cuddle right in. It’s precious. In many cases, however, what a new mom (or dad!) is looking for isn’t help holding the baby. After a long wait, it’s their time now. Their time to bond and connect and snuggle and coo.
The real help a new mom needs is with all the other stuff she can’t do while holding and feeding her new baby.
Don’t offer to hold the baby so the mom can prep lunch; offer to prep lunch so the mom can hold the baby.
And when you do get to hold the baby, don’t hog the baby. A few minutes of sweet snuggles is precious, but holding the baby for longer periods of time is not considering the feelings of the new mother or father who would like to bond.
Pro tip: A great time to get snuggles in is often while mom and/or dad are taking a nap or shower! Offering a baby watch when the new parents are ready for some shut-eye or to freshen up is a win-win for those craving some longer baby snuggles.