Society tends to tell expecting parents in this country that the thing they need the most is lots and lots of things.
It’s part of a tired and pervasive myth perpetuating a dangerous lie: You don’t need help.
But the truth is that mothers always have and always will need help. Good moms need help. All moms need help.
We polled thousands of mothers about what they needed most in the days, weeks, and months following the birth of a child. All of them said that what they needed most was help.
Help is beautiful. Paid help is just as beautiful.
What if you started believing that?
The below forms of help are wonderfully-equipped to support mothers in the early days. Add these services to your registry or use financial gifts toward purchasing them.
Allow others to take care of the cooking while you tend to your baby. Whether it’s your favorite restaurant meal delivered to your doorstep, a meal kit of healthy ingredients, to-go coffee, or someone to fill your water bottle, nutrition is something you’ll need easy access to in the early days after having a baby. Meal deliveries from friends, nutritious meal delivery services like Sakara Life, or support people like doulas (who often do light cooking) can help keep you full and hydrated postpartum. A cash fund can go toward coffee delivery or takeout, too.
A CHANCE TO FEEL LIKE YOURSELF
Postpartum, you’re often deprived of alone time: to take a shower or a long walk, to blow dry your hair, to engage in a skincare ritual, to have time with a partner, to have an opportunity to feel like you again. Childcare services such as babysitters and mother’s helpers, and even doulas provide time to have a few glorious minutes (or hours) to yourself. Coaches or mom’s groups allow you time to navigate the identity changes that often present themselves postpartum — and provide space to get to know yourself again.
Postpartum sleep troubles are often brushed off as temporary — a short-term reality of new motherhood. But rest is of paramount importance for physical healing, mood, and emotional wellbeing. A lack of it can feel crushing. Infant sleep consultants can help you understand baby sleep and educate you on naps or safe bed-sharing. Baby nurses, infant care specialists, and doulas can step in to take over overnight feedings so that you can get the rest they need.
HELP WITH OTHER CHILDREN
A postpartum journey with another child is a different kind of challenge. Lining up childcare support for older children can allow you time to rest, recover, and bond with your baby. There will always be inevitable chasing and juggling, but helping hands provide much-needed peace as you enter postpartum again.
PATIENCE, ENCOURAGEMENT, REASSURANCE, VALIDATION
Someone to tell you that you’re doing a good job doing things your way; someone to tell you that it’s okay if things are hard; someone to tell you your baby loves you; someone to ask about you — these are the needs of new mothers. They also happen to be the types of validating, and supportive messages doulas and support groups share with the mothers they work with.
FRIENDS WHO ARE IN IT
Whether you’re looking for someone to text in the middle of the night, a group chat with other moms, or someone to say, “I get it,” virtual and in-person support or mom groups provide peer support. Often, they’re paired with education around topics top of mind with new mothers, including lactation, sleep, and mental health.
HELP AROUND THE HOUSE
When you spend your waking hours caring for others, little things like washing breast pump parts, doing dishes, folding laundry, or changing your sheets can feel insurmountable. (In other countries, female family members often take over house chores while new mothers rest.) Housekeepers and doulas (who often do light housework) can also fill these care gaps, tending to your home while you tend to your baby.
How you’ll feed your baby is often a stressful decision, and a feeding journey is often full of ups and downs. Lactation consultants can help you troubleshoot feeding issues, make a plan that works for your family, and provide hands-on or virtual support (for breastfeeding, pumping, or formula feeding). The best lactation consultants understand your needs — and support your journey with no judgment.
MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT
Becoming a mother is a transformation like no other. And since postpartum is a time of sweeping hormonal changes, weepy days are often a reality. But sometimes, symptoms linger. Fortunately, perinatal mental health professionals diagnose and treat perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs) such as postpartum depression (PPD) and postpartum anxiety (PPA). If you don’t feel like yourself or symptoms such as crying, irritability, or anxiety are getting in the way of your day-to-day, reach out for support. While they can feel debilitating, PMADs are highly treatable. Resources such as Postpartum Support International have directories of trained providers worldwide. These providers can help with everything from symptoms of PPD and PPA to helping you process a traumatic birth.
Even if you had a beautiful birth, labor and delivery are still significant traumas on the body. Lingering symptoms such as leaking or pain are treatable, too. Healthcare providers and specialists such as pelvic floor physical therapies specialize in the muscles involved in birth — the pelvic floor and the core — and can help you gain strength and rehab. These kinds of services are often included in maternity care around the world.