Oftentimes, when it comes to self-care, nurturing and support, mothers miss out.
Not on purpose, not by design, but often by default: the needs of other family members – particularly infants and children – take priority. This is especially apparent following the birth of a new child. Of course, babies deserve a lot of attention.
But who takes care of the caretaker?
Throughout life, but especially in the weeks, months and first year following the birth of a baby, women need care and support. Mothers need as much care, attention, love and support as their newborns. This may seem a revolutionary concept, but it’s not.
Traditionally, a community network made up of family and friends formed an essential part of women’s healthcare, both before and after the birth of a child. However, these days most people live outside of such close-knit communities and lack the ‘village’ support that is essential during the weeks and months following the arrival of a newborn.
Mothers are missing out
Basically, women need care and support after having a baby. More than they are currently (in most cases) getting.
In many cases, a high level of care and attention is applied in preconception, throughout the pregnancy and in the lead-up to birth… but after this, all focus moves to the baby (who quite rightly deserves a lot of attention) and outside of a six week follow up, the mother’s health and needs are rarely prioritised.
The fourth trimester
The first three months after birth is often described as the ‘fourth trimester’, a period of adjustment for a newborn to life outside the womb. They’ve spent the best part of 40 weeks cocooned inside their mother: next to her heart, protected against the elements, never hungry, never cold, constantly rocked. As a result, the adjustment to life outside the womb takes time and helps explain the neediness of a newborn.
However, the fourth trimester is also a huge time of adjustment for any mother, regardless of whether it’s her first, second or seventh child. Around the world, in many different traditions, the weeks and months following pregnancy and birth are honoured as a special time for the mother herself: a transition. In many cultures, women are not expected to carry on their normal lives, there is no pressure to ‘snap back’ to where they were before, but instead they are revered and recognised for the changes they’ve undergone and journey they are beginning.
Top tips to nourish mothers
- After giving birth, remember, this is the time to put the needs of a new mother first – over and above any visitors. Limit visitors to people who will help her and the family or make her feel good; and set time limits on visits so she won’t feel tired out.
- Stock the pantry and freezer with nutrient dense food and yummy healthy snacks. If visiting, bring food – preferably a dish that can be spread over a couple of meals.
- Always have water on hand and regularly offer a new mother water or herbal tea to drink, to ensure she’s getting enough fluids.
- Resist the temptation to get too much done or plan too many activities. It takes time to adapt to life with a new baby and recover from pregnancy and birth. There should be no rush or pressure and, especially in the early days and weeks after baby’s birth, encourage a new mother to take it one day at a time.
New mother’s need help and support, and it’s important that you reach out to them to see how they are doing.
How did you handle the first few months after birth? Share with us in the comments.