Are you feeling overwhelmed thinking about how you'll cook, clean and care yourself while caring for your newborn baby around the clock? Chances are, you’ll need some help with those everyday tasks that you normally do on your own. A little planning during pregnancy can go a long way to feeling peaceful and happy during that special but exhausting time. Asking for help can be hard though, especially when you are used to doing everything on your own and you don’t want to burden your loved ones. Here are 4 tips for establishing support during the postpartum period (typically defined as the first few months after giving birth).
1. Identify your needs. Ask yourself a few questions such as what do I need to feel well? Is it 9 hours of sleep per night? A chance to get outside every day? A hearty breakfast each morning? And what is the one area of the house that bothers me the most when it's not kept up? What am I feeling anxious or concerned about when thinking about bringing home my new baby? Identifying your needs is a great first step in asking for help. This makes it easier to think about what type of support you wish to have. Are you hoping friends will bring you meals? Wash your laundry? Hold your baby so you can get a nap? Make a list of what you would like to see happen.
2. When someone offers you help, accept it! It's not uncommon to hear "let me know if you need anything!" when a friend or relative comes over to meet the new baby. Be prepared to respond to this statement by letting them know what you need! Refer to the list you wrote for tip #1. Here are a few examples:
"It would be great if you could the trash out when you leave"
"Could you double your dinner and bring over a serving when you come to visit next time?"
"Could you play with our toddler for a few minutes before you leave?"
Chances are, people who make this flat statement really do want to help, but have no idea what to do and don't want to impose on you.
3. Reach out and ask! Tell people with whom you feel comfortable what you need and how they can help. Understandably, it can be uncomfortable to ask someone for support when they don't offer on their own. Here are a few ideas to make it easier:
Provide choices. Ask if they would be willing to walk the dog or load the dishwasher. If the idea of one sounds awful to them, they can pick the other!
Tie it into a compliment. Does your Aunt Judy make the best lasagna in the world? Tell her how much you love it and what a treat it would be if she brought some over when she comes to visit the baby.
Write it down. Make a short list of to-do items that you need to keep your home running, hang it on the refrigerator, and let guests know it's there if they have the time and energy to help.
Show appreciation. This might not be the time in your life where you feel like you can take the time to write elaborate thank you notes, so a very enthusiastic "thank you so much! This makes our day so much easier!" may be enough to make a caring family member feel appreciated.
4. Hire a professional. If help from family and friends is not an option or not enough to meet your needs, consider hiring professionals. Remember that this precious newborn time is temporary. With some budgeting and planning ahead you may be able to hire a postpartum doula, housekeeper, babysitter, or dog walker to help out - it doesn't have to be an ongoing financial commitment!
Remember that getting the support you need to feel well is not selfish. It doesn't just help you, it's also good for your baby! In fact the whole family benefits from having a well-rested, relaxed mama.
Wondering if a postpartum doula could fit into your support plan? Postpartum doula care beautifully complements the support you are already receiving from family and friends and can help fill in any gaps. Check out our postpartum services page to learn more!