Welcome to the fourth post in this series, Thriving through the 4th Trimester. Follow me as I share what I learned applying traditions from other cultures to my own postpartum journey. It is my hope that this knowledge will serve as a guide for how to truly care for a woman, as she transitions from maiden to mother, in the most wholistic way possible.
I hear a lot of partners say (especially if Mama is breastfeeding) they don’t know how to help in this postpartum timeframe. I think a good way to look at it is:
Mom’s job is taking care of baby, and your job is taking care of Mom.
That statement is not meant to take away from your roll as a parent, in any way. But Mama has been through something significant and she needs her own caregiver at this time. I highly recommend reading the previous posts in this series: Setting an expectation for Rest, and Caring for the Healing Postpartum Body & Mind. Those posts will help you set a foundation for how you can care for Mama during the fourth trimester.
A to-do list specifically for the partners:
- Showing affection can be challenging experience in this postpartum time frame. Hugging, kissing, and/or cuddling your partner could feel important to her. On the other hand, she may not want to be touched. A new baby has more than likely been attached to her since it came out of her womb. Maybe what she needs is space. Try not to take it personally if your affection is initially dismissed. It could behoove you to ask her what she needs. “Do you need a hug or a kiss? Do you want to cuddle? Would you like me to draw you a bath and hold the baby while you have some time for yourself?” These are all good questions to ask.
- Tell her you appreciate her. Show appreciation for what she has done and what she is doing. Babies don’t show appreciation. Sometimes Mamas need to hear that they are appreciated; they might also need to be reminded that they are doing something significant. It can be as simple as saying, “Thank you.” Other examples include:
- “Thank you for bringing our child into the world.”
- “Thank you for taking such good care of our baby.”
- “You’re doing a great job.”
- “You’re a great mom.”
- Ask her what she needs from you. Check in with her daily to see where she could use more support, and what you could do differently to provide that support.
- Encourage her to communicate her feelings Ask her what was really hard for her, and also what went really well for her each day. Don’t try to fix it. Just listen.
- Encourage her to rest. Make sure that laundry and dishes are clean and the house is picked up so that she doesn’t see that kind of mess laying around her. This will prevent her from feeling like she should be taking care of those things instead of focusing on baby and resting.
- Take care of the older children. Take them out of the home, and do something fun that’s just for them. If they need to get to school/day care and it is possible for you to make their lunches, get them dressed and ready and/or take them, do it.
- Feed Her. Make sure she always has water and snacks beside her. Serve her meals. Hold the baby so she can eat comfortably.
- Help her get comfortable. Help her get situated wherever she is sitting or lying down with baby in the most comfortable way possible so that she can rest. Bring her and baby blankets to keep them warm. Fluff their pillows. Bring her a nursing pillow.
- Massage her. Ask how her body is feeling and offer to massage some oil/pain cream into any areas where she is feeling sore.
- Hold the baby. If you see that she is holding the baby, offer to take baby so she can take care of herself. Toileting, showering and eating are all difficult tasks to do while holding a baby.
- Change diapers. There will be no shortage of diapers to change. Check and change as often as you can.
- Help Mama with toileting. If you notice that she is going to the bathroom, offer to fill her peri bottle with warmed healing herbal tea. When she is in the bathroom, ask if she would like a pad-sicle from the freezer.
- Help with feedings. If Mama is breast feeding, you can: bring her the baby when it’s time to feed, help her get situated with nursing pillows, and make sure she has her nursing gear (haaka, pump for the other side, nipple shield, nipple cream) whatever she is using. Make sure it’s clean and within reach. Make sure she has a water within reach while breast feeding. After she is done breastfeeding, ask if she would like a nipple-sicle. If baby is bottle fed you can: warm and prep bottle and feed baby.
- Be her accountability partner! Help her remember to do the things she has set out to do. That could be eating specific foods, or drinking specific teas, taking her desired postpartum supplements, or even getting to her or baby’s required doctors appointments.
Partners, hear me out: This period of time is temporary. Your new family will settle into a rhythm before you know it! Investing time and effort in these early weeks can I have a lasting effect on the whole family. Your family is worth the effort.
If you are currently pregnant or have just had a baby, consider sharing this with your partner so that they can provide you with the kind of help you need to be able to focus your time where it’s really important!
Next post in this series—Thriving Through the 4th Trimester: Nourishing Mama with Food