New mums need a listening ear
Taking care of a baby’s needs 24 hours a day and responding to their entirely appropriate demands is often incredibly overwhelming. Mums need to be offered a space where there are no demands, no judgements and no criticisms. Perhaps she wants to vent, perhaps she needs to cry, laugh or maybe she just wants to sit in silence. Perhaps she doesn’t know what she needs – it’s usually best to ask first rather than assuming.
New mums need to be treated like capable adults
Offering a new mum unsolicited advice means treating her as if she is helpless and can’t take care of herself or her baby. Mums may feel vulnerable at times, but they are still individuals with agency who can decide over their own lives. Offering unsolicited advice, however well-meaning, sends a subtle message that they can’t cope without our intervention and can mean that she holds back from asking for help. We can’t go wrong with communicating clearly, and asking “is there any way I can help?”.
New mums do need support
Especially because this is such a big transition in her life. But it is best to ask what she needs and when. Social support is what she needs, but on her own terms. It is important for a new mum to feel secure, taken care of and understood. She needs people around her who understand and who are willing to make themselves available to help.
New mums need their boundaries to be respected
This means considering her needs, even if you want something different. A new mum’s friendships and family relationships will strengthen when these people don’t take it personally if she asks for privacy, doesn’t want to hand over the baby or keeps less contact than she used to. By looking after your own needs without putting additional demands on a new mum, you are facilitating a trusting community environment for the baby to grow up in.
New mums need us to remember
...that there are trends when it comes to raising babies and children. There are generational differences. There are changes in research, knowledge, official advice and understanding. There is no “best” way to raise a child. There is also a lot of pressure to get things right and we can ease the pressure by letting go of our own expectations.
Ultimately, new mums need us to be available, rather than imposing, to help them do the best that they can!
First published at nisad.ngo on 14 June 2021 in response to the blog post: Letting go of expectations as a new mother