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How to best support a Mother after birth

Rachel O'Reilly

By Aaryn Leineke

Throughout my experience guiding births, I’ve had the opportunity to witness married couples and committed partners join together and create the solid groundwork necessary for raising a child. Although it seems like pregnancy and labor is all about the mama, it’s just as much about her support team. Whether it’s an entire clan or just a single committed partner, they are the ones who carry a mother through the experience of labor, birth and the sleepless nights that follow.

If you’re the partner of a mother-to-be, you are probably trying your best to support the mother’s pregnancy and birth. Even with the best intentions, you may be unsure of how exactly to help, or maybe you’re even afraid of what’s going to happen once the baby arrives. Here are some of my tips for how to best support a mother.

During Pregnancy

You have nine+ months before the baby arrives, so use this time to get educated. The development and delivery of a baby is truly miraculous, and being informed on all the changes a woman's body might endure is one of the greatest ways to prepare and show your support. Take classes, read books, talk to others and ask questions. This will not only show your commitment, but also dissipate any fears that may be stemming from the unknown. Here are a few books I always recommend, many of which can be located for free at your local library:

Birth Partner - by Penny Simkin

The Doula Book - by Marshall H. Klaus, John H. Kennell, Phyllis H. Klaus

Pregnancy, Childbirth, Newborn - by Penny Simkin

After Baby Has Arrived

The first few days and weeks after birth will likely be both blissful and exhausting. Create space to enjoy these intimate moments with your new baby, and also plan how you’ll receive outside support.

In the beginning, practice as much skin to skin contact as possible, admiring each tiny finger, wiggling toe and gentle smile. Skin to skin contact has many benefits for the baby such as accelerating brain development, calming and soothing the baby, improving quality of sleep, enhancing the immune system and promoting psychological well-being. If you have never held a newborn baby before, It’s natural to feel apprehensive about it. Know that once your baby arrives it will take time, patience and practice but before you know it, the diaper changes, bathing and dressing of this tiny sweet human will become second nature.

Many loved ones may want to come meet your newest addition to the family, and it’s your responsibility to create and maintain this sacred space. Set the tone for a calm, relaxing, healthy atmosphere, and communicate this to visitors. This is also something you can ensure during the mother’s labor as well.

A new mother will need at least six weeks to recover physically, so it’s important to take initiative around the house - meal prepping, laundry and grocery shopping are a few examples of ways you can help. Taking the baby for a snuggle to a room near by while the mother gets uninterrupted rest is a wonderful way to show support. Remember to plan a meal train for the first few weeks, or for however long you need. Don't forget to seek outside support and consider hiring a postpartum doula to help, which can be especially useful when you return to work, or even at night if you and your partner are losing too much sleep. And feel free to reach out for an extra set of hands from your lovely (or dreadful) mother-in-law!

Most importantly, a new mother will need your emotional support and true presence. Staying patient when she has her weepy moments as soon as her milk comes in (or if it never does) is a great show of compassion. Knowing she may need a hand to walk to the restroom, or in and out of the shower, proves your devotion. Encourage her to take mini breaks for herself, whether that be a walk outside to get fresh air, a manicure, or phone chat with her dearest girlfriend. Being sensitive to how vulnerable she will be when her body is not working the same as it used to, is love. And, don’t forget to tell her how proud you are of her and how beautiful she is, each and every day.