As a first time mum and new mum, I did not realise the impact of friends and family wanting to visit. Whilst their intentions were kind hearted, the visits often left me physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted. I found it very hard to say no to visitors and I also thought if I said no to visits from friends and family, that I would be seen as rude and not coping or adjusting to new family life. In hindsight these were all silly thoughts and knowing what I know now, it is absolutely ok to say no to visits if you choose or need to.
It is a lot – Between juggling your new routine, learning the new habits of your new bub, adjusting to your milk coming in, taking care of your new baby, feeding with bleeding or cracked nipples, eager visitors, stitches and trying to also recover from the birth! So much has and is happening to your body!
Family and friends would often ask “how is the baby sleeping?”, “is the baby eating well?”, “is the baby settling in to its new routine?”, “can I hold and give the baby a cuddle?” but no one asks the mothers these same questions if they are sleeping, if they are ok or if they need a cuddle.
Here are some tips of mine for helping a new mother:
1. Limit your visiting time
I remember having a friend visit who stayed for ages and despite dropping so many hints, I could not get rid of them. I felt so bad but after a few hours, I had to ask them to kindly leave so that I could sleep as I had been up pretty much the whole night. I was breastfeeding, pumping, topping up, washing and sterilising too.
When visiting a new mother, find a time which suits the mother for a visit. Never just turn up as it is very overwhelming, disruptive and the family may be trying to catch up on some sleep. New mother’s are busy and fatigued so if you are so lucky enough to have been given the go ahead for a visit, limit your visiting time. Personally, I found that 30 minutes was a good time frame as there are so many visitors throughout the day.
And… please, please, please do not visit if you are even slightly feeling unwell.
2. Please help
If you have some time when visiting, offer to help the mother. Sometimes it is easier to be proactive rather asking if the mother needs help as most of the time she will reply that no help is needed. I remember constantly having to make tea for visitors and then collecting up and cleaning all the cups when they left in my exhausted state. The best visitors I had were the ones who were proactive, asked if I needed any help and made me a cuppa. Did I need any help? HECK YES! It was also so nice to have enjoyed a hot cup of tea which was very rare in those first months and not having to feel like I had to entertain our visitors.
The family might also need some laundry done, the plants watered, the dog walked, clothes folded and put away, stacking/unstacking the dishwasher, getting some groceries, gardening, vacuuming, refilling the nursery goods like the wipes dispenser, taking out the rubbish, putting gifts away, entertaining older kids, petrol in the car, offer to make the family tea instead or even something as simple as holding the baby so that the mother can shower. Trust me, they will have a list of things needing to be done.
3. No typical gifts
We are so thankful and lucky that our little man got so spoilt but I just remember our hospital room being filled with so many flowers and gifts. It was incredibly overwhelming. Being asthmatic, I felt wheezy from the flowers in our room and the smell was overpowering, so much so that I had to ask my husband to remove them from our room despite how beautiful they were. Gifts were filling up our room making it very claustrophobic for us and hubby was carrying bag loads of things home each night! I felt bad that he had take the gifts home and I knew that at some stage that it would have to all be unpacked. I just wanted to take in the newborn cuddles and not have to worry about anything else.
Despite these gifts coming from a good place, other gifts which I would have loved and preferred were home cooked meals, meal delivery service, grocery delivery, an in-house pamper voucher like a mobile hairdresser, toys to entertain older children, gifts for the new mother such as lactation cookings, a masseuse, a pamper voucher, lactation cookies, a door walker or a engaging a company like Fantastic Services*. Admittedly, hubby does most of the cleaning in the house but when we engaged Fantastic Services to do a full house clean, it was so refreshing for the whole family. Hubby did not have to worry about the cleaning so got a lovely break, I didn’t feel stressed that we were not spending enough time together and I felt a lot less anxiety knowing that it was one less thing to have to worry about. To receive $20 off your first booking, simply enter my referral code tribeofwuwu when creating your account. Besides Fantastic Services being affordable, it gave our family time together, a break from the chores and time to do things we wanted to.
4. Offer to go out of the house together
This is a hard one depending on the recovery of the mother, however this was a memory of mine which has really stuck with me after I had bub. When my mum came to visit me, she said when she had me, that going for a walk really helped her. I just had this all these thoughts in my head – I won’t be ok if I leave the house, it has been fine being home so why do we need to go outside? What happens if someone makes the baby sick? Do you know how the pram even works? I was so consumed with the baby, overwhelmed with getting the baby bag packed, did not have any make up on, was lacking confidence as a new first time mother and getting out of the house took forever (like hours!).
One day mum offered for us to go out for a walk on a path at our local beach as she knew that I loved that walk. She is not a big beach fan so I was very surprised that she even wanted to go there. As reluctant as I was to leave home, she made the process so easy for me and I enjoyed our time out together so much. Mum got the baby bag packed, offered to drive to the beach, helped get the pram out (which we both laughed as we had no idea how to use it but eventually figured it out), changed bub’s nappy and all I really needed to do was breastfeed when I needed to. Plus! I had a hot tea for the first time!
You cannot force a mother out if she does not want to be but since mum made the process so easy and having been one of my favourite places in the world, I was happy to go. To be honest, those first weeks are all a haze for me but I remember being out again and feeling a little like myself again and it is a memory I hold so dearly.
5. Choose your words carefully
There was so much advice we were given and reflecting on it all, most of the advice did not help or work. This little bub is your baby and you know this baby the best. Go with your instincts!
Encourage the mother and family that they are doing a good job. Watch for comments and advice which may be taken wrongly, such as mentioning how tired you are and how the house looks a little more messy. Don’t forget to credit the dad’s as well!