Finally…you are home with your new baby. You have given birth and now the important task of getting to know your baby is at hand. You are exhilarated but tired, excited but slightly anxious. How will you manage? Will you understand what your baby needs? Will you know what to do?
And then it begins…family and friends wanting to come and visit.
Of course everyone wants to meet your new baby. A small, cuddly infant is a joy and nothing feels better to a grandparent, aunt or uncle than holding the newest family member.
But now your home is full and busy, with people coming and going. Presents, advice, people needing attention. You have just given birth and you and baby need something totally different than the chaos that can accompany visitors. As a new mother, you are producing copious amounts of oxytocin and prolactin as your breastmilk supply is established. This can make you feel anxious and easily overwhelmed by too much noise and commotion. These hormones send a message signalling a need for peace and quiet. Physiologically a mother responds to closeness and skin-to-skin bonding time with her baby. A calm environment is important in the early days of mothering.
So what can mothers and their partners do to prepare for the first few weeks after baby is born? Many refer to this time as a “baby-moon”. A time for parents to immerse themselves in their new baby, getting to know their infant, sleeping and resting, doing nothing but the bare necessities…food, sleep, cuddling, feeding baby. We know that babies who have this time of deep connection with their parents tend to breastfeed well. Mothers develop good milk supply. Parents learn about baby’s cues for sleep, eating, holding. Families bond. Everyone falls deeply in love.
During this baby-moon time, visits should be brief and only as desired by the parents. Here are some ideas for what new parents really need in those first few weeks:
- Prepared meals
- Help with errands
- Help with household chores like laundry, dishes, tidying
- Loving reassurance and information (no unsolicited advice)
- Paid help (a postpartum doula)
- Help with older children
- Help with pet care (dog walking)
- Gardening or shoveling
New parents need plenty of loving support, encouragement and help. The more assistance a family receives, the easier the transition to parenting the new baby.
So go ahead and let family and friends know ahead of time that you will be treating yourselves to a baby-moon. When they ask what they can do to help, be sure to let them know. Keep a list of chores tacked to the fridge and when they ask “how can I help?”, you’ll know just what to say. Be sure to remind them that one day soon you will be ready to enjoy longer visits, introducing your baby to family and friends at your own pace.
But in the meantime…
Immerse yourselves in your new baby. Get to know one another. Ease into parenting. Let your baby lead the way as you learn more about each other every day. Touch, cuddle, nurse, sleep and then do it all over again. This time together is special and important. Relish it and let the love happen.