postpartum support
Postpartum support is about more than just holding the baby. Image: Pexels

When you think about visiting a new mum not long after birth, what image springs to mind?

Do you picture spontaneously popping by, bringing a lovely bouquet of flowers and a cute little teddy bear, and getting inside to see – and hopefully hold! – that precious new baby?

If so,…. Well, I’m sorry to be a downer, but on behalf of new mums around the world I’m going to say, please read on and rethink that mental image.

Mum’s Point of View

Let’s look at this from mum’s point of view: she’s grown this little human in her womb for the past nine months, probably feeling various shades of physical unwellness at some point(s) along the way; she’s probably experienced some stress as well as excitement at the prospect of bringing this new little human into the world, quite possibly around the labour and birth experience itself, and then she’s marathoned through that labour and birth or planned caesarean, and possibly had it go very well or very differently than expected, but nevertheless she’s made it through! – and now, she’s on the other side of it, quite probably sore in one way or another (or in more ways than one), quite probably tired from the exertion as well as from the sleep deprivation that comes with caring for a newborn, is probably riding a roller-coaster of emotions from all that’s going on and all the hormones cascading through her body, including possibly feeling stressed about unfamiliar things pertaining to caring for a newborn and to her own newly-born (or re-born) mother-body, possibly including worry about ordinary things that she can’t do or just feels much too tired to do, in these early days postpartum, not to mention possible financial stressors,…..

Spontaneous Postpartum Support through Mum’s Eyes

Now let’s look at that mental picture through the eyes of a new mum:

  1. Spontaneously popping by: Ugh! Mum’s finally gotten a chance to relax after previous visitors left, or after feeding & caring for baby, or just feels the need to hibernate, but doesn’t want to be rude, but she really isn’t feeling up for a visit at the moment,….
  2. Flowers & teddy bear: Well, thanks! But…. gosh; while she appreciates the sentiment, the flowers are of absolutely no use to her (she may even be allergic?) (plus they’ll just need cleaning up when they inevitably die), the teddy bear is one of dozens that bubba’s gotten already and has no use for at this newborn age, and is just going to collect dust on a shelf in the nursery,….
  3. Coming inside: Refer back to #1 – mum may just not feel up to having visitors, and certainly not in her bedroom sanctuary where she’s hibernating, and she knows that her house is a mess and she doesn’t feel like being – or her house being – on display,….
  4. Seeing & holding baby: Seeing baby is fine, but is that really the primary objective? What about mum?? Mum’s the one who needs support, here! Everyone outside of this little family unit will get plenty of time to see the baby later, down the road. And holding the baby, well, mum’s just borne this precious little thing – whose arrival she may have eagerly anticipated for the better part of nine months – and is absolutely smitten!! 😍 She may not really feel like giving bubba up, even for a quick cuddle! Plus, some people wear strong perfumes/colognes, which can really irritate a little one’s nostrils or skin; not to mention the possibility of outsiders bringing germs into the home and oh-so-generously sharing them with the new baby, who may be somewhat protected by antibodies in mum’s breastmilk, but may also not be,….

Harsh Reality

That may sound harsh, but it’s quite possibly the truth – at least, parts of it, if not the whole. The fact of the matter is that postpartum support should be for MUM’s sake: she’s the one who just physically, emotionally and spiritually went through this whole life-giving ordeal, she’s the one who continues to give life to the newborn, if breastfeeding, or at least sustains life through all the things that mums do for their babies, and she’s the one who’s undergone the massive transformation into a mother – or mother-of-more-than-one – in the process. Mum is the hero, here: she is beholden to no-one.

Good, proper, nourishing postpartum support should benefit mum in any and every way.

Plainly stated, postpartum support should not be for visitors to see baby, hold baby, take care of baby; it should not be for visitors to do what they want, when they want. Postpartum support – good, proper, nourishing postpartum support – should benefit mum in any and every way.

Tips for Effective Postpartum Support

Now that I’ve knocked you down, let me help build you up! You can be the person that mum wants to see most, if you provide her with what she really wants. Here are some helpful tips for offering effective postpartum support:

  1. For starters, mum might appreciate visitors coordinating with her support person ahead of time when would be a good time to come – or, in the least, simply dropping something off (even if unannounced) rather than inviting oneself inside.
  2. Never mind flowers, toys or outfits for bub, smelly lotions for mum: give mum real support:
    1. take her a meal or snacks ((preferably healthy, balanced ones!! preferably in keeping with any dietary preferences or restrictions, which you’ve gleaned from inquiring earlier)) 👉🏻 find recipes & suggestions here
    2. offer to
      • clean her bathroom
      • wash dishes/load the dishwasher/empty the dishwasher
      • tidy living spaces
      • start a load of laundry in the washing machine
      • hang a load of laundry/put it into the dryer
      • fold a load of laundry
      • put away a load of laundry
      • vacuum/sweep floors
      • massage her hands/feet/shoulders/whatever she wants massaged
      • mow the lawn, if you’re into that (even if there’s a dad who ‘could’ be doing things like that, he very well may be exhausted, too!)
      • spend time with older kids so that she can spend unadulterated time with her newborn
      • spend time with the newborn so that she can spend unadulterated time with her older kids
      • spend time with all kids so that she can sleep, shower, meditate, have a cup of tea, whatever it is that she wants to do; even if she just wants to take a break, it’s ok for her not to want to hold her baby all the time. Alternatively, spending time with with all of the kids can give mum & dad an opportunity to spend some time together, too!
    3. even better: if you’re in her home, don’t offer, just do it.
  3. Run errands for her: rather than ask her whether she wants anything from the store, tell her that you’re going to the store, and ask, “What can I pick up for you?” If it seems like it will help, tell her that you’ll keep receipts so that she can reimburse you. (She may really want you to pick up a bunch of things from the store, but feel reluctant to ask because she doesn’t want to be a financial burden on you; if she knows that she’ll be paying you back, she’s likely to feel more comfortable accepting your offer to simply pick them up.)
  4. Ask mum what she wants, how you can help her. Do what you’re comfortable doing (I’m not suggesting that you be a martyr!), but don’t press your expectations on her. And don’t be offended if she says that she doesn’t want anything, yet – not even visits from close family and friends: this is literally a once-in-(this new baby’s)-lifetime opportunity for mum, dad and bub to spend together; it is extremely valuable time for them, a very formative time. It is theirs to do with as they please.
  5. Gift her postpartum doula support. Postpartum doulas do all of the above, and more! Plus, as paid, unbiased bystanders, it can be easier for a new mum to take advantage of all facets of a doula’s support than a friend or family member’s. (You’ll be the hit of the party if she gets the support of a doula that she doesn’t have to pay for!)

Be That Person

If your vision of postpartum support was like the one described at the beginning, never fear: that’s a very common perception of what we’re ‘supposed’ to do for new mums. It’s what we’re used to, in our western culture! It’s certainly what we see in the media. – And I didn’t mean to pick on you or belittle your idea: your love for the new family is beautiful and very much appreciated. I’m just here to shift the perception, to help you get a better idea of the realities of new parenthood and what new mums might actually want. I’ll be the first to admit that a spontaneous visit, a bouquet of flowers, a teddy bear and an opportunity for you to hold the new baby might be just what the mama wants! – Only she knows: it’s her show; ask her, and let her tell you how you can best support her in these early days postpartum.💗

Doula Jenn B wrote this. She is a birth and postpartum doula currently serving in Sydney, Australia with a year of formal doula experience and heaps more births attended, babies held and mums supported beforehand. She offers postpartum support vouchers for the expectant mama in your life! Learn more at or email her at to discuss her offerings or to book a free, no-obligation consultation.

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