Its hard to ask for help when you have a newborn. There’s just too much happening. Your vagina is on fire, your nipples are more cracked than the plains of Africa, and your baby — oh yeah, your baby. I was blessed to have had a great support system around me postpartum. So today, I want to share with you a few things my family and friends did for me that I found to be most helpful during postpartum. Things that I hope to do when my friends and family have babies of their own. Because now I realize, new moms always need help. Even when they don’t ask.
1. Bake lactation cookies
Breastfeeding was so difficult for me! I would cry every time Yusra was hungry. My nipples were cracked and sore even before my milk came in. Thankfully, my sister in law made me a huge tray of lactation cookies. And boy, did they make me lactate! I think. There are no studies to show that these actually work but they are made with various different ingredients such as oatmeal, flaxseed, and brewer’s yeast that supposedly increase your milk supply. Either way, these cookies were great to snack on after each of Yusra’s feeding sessions. They were also the perfect treat when getting the munchies, which is always when you’re breastfeeding. I could taste the love in these cookies and it was especially great to not have to share them with my husband as he was ‘too afraid to start lactating’.
2. Bring a meal
Our friends brought what Imad and I deemed ‘the best Chinese food we ever had’ to the hospital when they came to visit us (ah, pre-Covid days were so good). It was the most excited I saw my husband since seeing Yusra for the first time. Hospital meals are never great and there was just something about my mom’s rice and curry that just wasn’t hitting the spot for us at the moment. It was a gesture I would never think of but being the recipient of it, I would recommend for anyone to do it for their loved one. Because yes, its fun to pamper a baby just for being born, but what about pampering the woman that just gave birth? So the next time you’re off to meet a new baby at home, grab a small bite to share with the new parents. It saves them the trouble of hosting you and gives their taste buds something new and exciting to enjoy while you bond with the baby.
3. Help with daily chores
It’s one thing to have your mom do your laundry when you’re a student in college, but it’s another thing to have your mom do your laundry after you give birth. The second one IS OKAY. If someone comes over and you’re comfortable enough asking (you know who they are), get them to work! I asked my friend to come by and take out my winter clothes and re-organize my closet when it started getting chilly outside. It was such a huge burden off my shoulder as she stored away anything that I wouldn’t be able to nurse in and I finally had access to my sweaters after spending the last few days rather cold. Because let’s face it, your partner will be just as tired as you to take on all the housework. Whether its loading the dishwasher, vaccuming and mopping, or just grabbing some groceries on your way over, a little goes a long way.
4. Provide gift receipts
We were so thankful for all the gifts our friends and family gave Yusra when she was born. The amount of clothes, stuffed animals, toys, and knick knacks made us feel so loved. However, given how small our apartment is, and our attempt at a minimal lifestyle, sometimes it became difficult to find a place for things. Items not yet age appropriate or seasonal clothing did not seem relevant for us to keep but were stuck holding on to as we had no option to return or exchange them. Remember, it is the thought that counts. So think about the growing family’s space, their lifestyle and parenting choices, and whether or not they’re in need of the gift. I find it most helpful to just ask before purchasing something. Whether its a link to a registry/wishlist or something that the new mom has been eyeing, there’s always something to gift. If all else fails, give essentials you’ll know they will always need. Diapers and wipes, for example, will be needed for at least the first year and they never expire!
5. Avoid giving advice
Being a new mom in the era of internet and social media has its pros and cons. For one thing, if there’s any questions to be answered, a quick Google search will either give us what we need or have us spiraling down the black hole of ‘either/ors’. The point is, if you have advice to give, chances are, the new mama has already heard it. Trust me on this one. Wait for them to ask you a question (we will, if we have one) before sharing your well-intended knowledge with them. The most overwhelming part about our friends and family visiting our newborn baby was the advice they brought with them. They either marveled at the fact that Yusra was a good sleeper or they were concerned she was sleeping too much. Veteran moms told me to give her formula and offer water because breastmilk was not enough to satisfy her hunger and quench her thirst. They were shocked at the fact that we do not co-sleep and that our beautiful daughter was alone in her crib at night, feeling lonely- and unloved. Needless to say, the involuntary advice we received was never helpful. Stop it.
Truth is, I did not have any experience about the hardships of pregnancy and postpartum prior to going through it myself. Having done it only made me wish I spoiled the new moms in my life more. But the friends that did give birth before me did not give off the impression that they needed help. Now I know that they did.
Fortunately, women are very strong and resilient. And becoming a mother only makes them stronger. Help them stay strong. Because it really does take a village.