Updated: Jan 18, 2019
What a new mother needs is a mother- someone who will oversee and ensure that she is getting the care and attention she deserves and requires. This person can be a biological mother, another member of the family or even paid help- but someone needs to be assigned the responsibility to oversee the care for Mom. I often wonder why it is that when any other patient is discharged from the hospital after major surgery, having extra help in the days after the surgery is a given. Yet 32% of live births in America are via cesarean and often these moms are being discharged with no support system in place. For the 68% of moms who are fortunate to have vaginal births- let’s just say we all know that’s not a walk in the park and these mothers can experience a whole other slew of physical ailments after giving birth. Whether it’s the excitement of a new baby or the anxiety that comes along with it- the needs of the new baby eclipse the needs of the mother, who can be in as delicate a position as the baby.
Looking again to the Indian culture for guidance on how to care for new mothers, we reached out to Effath Yasmin, a board certified lactation consultant and cranial sacral therapist with a practice in India. She explained “care provided includes uncompromising confinement at home, no household activities to be done by new mother except bonding and feeding the baby.” So in other words, Mom is given the practical tools to make nurturing and caring for her baby her top priority. Furthermore, “ nurturing the new mother with three freshly prepared meals a day …new mothers are always kept warm and doing house hold activities is considered harmful to her.” In addition to freeing mom to bond with the baby, she is also considered in need of care and treated as such. In India they even go a step further, beyond the generous help offered by the family, they hire a “maid called a ‘Jappa’ to give a bath to baby, massage the baby and wash baby’s clothes. During pregnancy Jappa woman is interviewed and appointed before any other arrangement is done. She plays the role of a post-partum doula”.
This brings us back to the reality of life in America! Thankfully, in America we have post-partum doulas whose job description is exactly what we outlined earlier: 1) someone who will oversee the care of Mom and 2) provide her with the practical tools to focus on bonding with her baby. In other words, they will see to it that Mom isn't solely focused on the baby but also taking herself into consideration, i.e. making time to eat, drink, shower maybe even rest, while also providing her with the practical support to make it all happen, i.e. helping with the household duties, some basic food prep, and caring for the baby when Mom needs some shut-eye.
However, rather than hiring a post-partum doula, many mothers hire a baby nurse who is solely focused on the needs of the baby- diapering, changing, feeding, consoling- but once again the mother's needs are not taken into consideration. Additionally, in my experience, I often see mothers being pressured to do things the nurses way rather than the nurse supporting the mother's decisions on how to best care for her baby.
So for those who are fortunate to have a mother who is able to help after the baby is born- reserve her now! You will develop a new level of appreciation for your mother- I know I did! For those for whom this is not feasible for whatever reason, find yourself a post-partum doula. The initial weeks are the foundation for what’s to come- and all beginnings are difficult- no matter how well prepared you are. So find yourself a loving, compassionate support person who will keep your spirits high (and your belly full) when you need it most!