The photo above is of many generations of hands. The youngest is of my new nephew, just 5 days old in this photo. The oldest is the hand of his great grandmother on the bottom. The hand on top is of his mother, my sister. The hand on the far right is of his grandfather, my father.
I am posting this with the other Frugal Friday posts at Life as Mom. If you have any other tips or ideas related to helping a new mother, please add a comment so that all may benefit.
Frugal Ways to help a new mother:
- Bring a treat to the nurses station if she has a hospital birth. I know, I know, I’m leading with a tip for someone else, but hear me out. I have worked in hospital settings for longer than I care to mention. Hospital staff are mandated to give individualized care to patients, but unfortunately the hustle and bustle of medical care often leads to the individual getting lost in that process. Patients become room numbers. Care becomes when the last meds were given. Help to give your loved one a name and a face by bringing a treat to the workers AND leaving a note so that the next shift will see it. “I want to thank you for all you are doing for my sister Myrtle Turtle. Please accept these homemade cookies on behalf of the family as a token of our appreciation.”
- Bring the mother something she can eat. I’m a little amazed at the foods that they bring you in the hospital while encouraging you to breastfeed your baby. I was served black coffee, broccoli, and caffeinated tea all in the same day when we had our daughter. Needless to say, I didn’t eat those foods and requested something else. My sister, who has many food allergies, was still served foods in her allergen groups. Luckily, she caught the mistakes. Her friend Rita had brought over a quart of blueberries freshly picked from her garden. These were fine to keep at room temp and were always handy when my sister wanted a snack. Remember how hungry you get when you are breastfeeding?
- Bake the baby a birthday cake. No, no, don’t feed it to the baby. My cousin brought one of these to the hospital when we had our daughter, and it was so fun to have a birthday party for her when she was just a few days old.
- Encourage breastfeeding. It is both frugal and good for the baby, but it can be tough at first. I often give new mothers The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding and have found it quite helpful in my own experience. My friend Kristi reminded me when we were having a tough time nursing that the baby is the one who has to learn how to nurse. I had never thought of it that way, and it helped me to relax and learn the process together. What if she doesn’t want to breastfeed? Support her decision. She doesn’t need you to tell her all the reasons why her choice may not be what you would do.
- Give her space but check in often. Remember how emotional those first few days can be? Remember how your hormones are wreaking havoc on your body? Check in but do not stay long (UNLESS she wants for you to). I remember how exhausted I would get after just a few minutes of visiting but at the same time I wanted visitors.
- Be specific in offering help. I am terrible at accepting help from others: most people in caregiving professions are the same way. People would ask me what they could do to help, but I didn’t want to ask for help. Instead, it helps to offer suggestions. “I have some soup in the freezer that I would like to bring over to help you all out with meals. Can I bring it by this week or would next week be better?” If you do bring food, include the ingredients.
- Bring the mother something just for her. My cousin brought a shawl for me when I was in the hospital in case I became cold. It was a hand-me-down shawl which made it quite frugal. Think of all those free body washes and lotions you have picked up at the drugstores these last few weeks. Make those into a pampering gift bag for the mother.
- Help with older siblings. If there are older children, bring something just for them. It can be something as simple as a big brother pin or a box of crayons and coloring pages. Ask if you can help with their care. “I’ll be going to the park on Monday with little Susie Q. Can I pick up Junior and bring him with us to give you some time to rest with the baby?” Remember to be specific.
- Don’t forget about her. Colic often presents itself at about 3 weeks old, and if the baby has it, this can be a very trying time for all. Check in with the mom around this time to see if you can do anything to help. Again, be specific in your offering to help.
- Watch for signs of post partum depression. If you notice signs, talk with her directly and with her family members about it. If you have had a personal experience, tell her about it so that she does not feel so alone. Her partner is probably already concerned and approaching that person will most likely be a relief. Suggest the partner speak with the midwife or OB about the symptoms. In addition to whatever the healthcare provider recommends, suggest that she get some fresh air and sunshine, light exercise such as a walk around the house, and that she is taking her multi-vitamin. Most importantly, make sure that she and the baby are safe. Lending your ear and being there for her is perhaps the most frugal help you can offer anyone. Note—all suggestions are given in good faith. In the case of post partum depression, I encourage you to speak with healthcare providers to help with diagnoses and treatment options.