Supporting Families In the Fourth Trimester
In many cultures, the first 40 days after birth are a time of rest and healing. You might even call them sacred. Imagine a postpartum time where you are EXPECTED to rest, heal, and bond with your baby. You are taken care of completely. All meals are prepared for you. Your house and other family is taken care of. You get to rest with your baby and have helpers to teach you infant care, breastfeeding and your other children and family are supported as well.
In the US, the postpartum parent gives birth, spends 1-4 days in the hospital and is sent home. Home, where we are expected to keep up our house, make meals, do all things baby related, nurse (pump and/or bottle feed), take care of our other children, our pets… The list goes on and on. Often, we are treated as if we didn’t just have a major life event that effected the physical and mental. The icing on the cake is when we are expected to be completely healed, refreshed and back to work in just a few weeks!
As postpartum doulas we have worked with many families in their postpartum time. Many families don’t have any sort of system to truly be supported in the postpartum time. There are some fortunate families, but it is definitely not the norm. How could they? We live in a culture where parents/friends/sibling generally don’t live next door. And if they do live close, they have their own jobs, kids and a busy life. Time is limited, but there are ways to help the postpartum family even with limited time and budgets.
So how can we, as family and friends, help a new family?
Bringing a meal to a postpartum family is extremely helpful. To take it a step further, organizing a meal train is a way to ensure the family will have meals for days and takes a huge pressure off the family.
Offering to run errands for the family. Whether its a run to the grocery store, drug store, or dry cleaners, it is a life saver to a new parent to not have to bundle up baby, possibly older siblings and go out.
We all love to visit a new baby. If you are like me, I could hold a baby all day (and sometimes I do!). Offering to spend time with baby and allowing the parent(s) to take a nap, shower, eat a hot meal or spend time with older siblings can be a great way to support the family.
Offering to Take Older Sibling
Depending on the family, they may really appreciate an offer to take older sibling for a few hours for an outing. Most parents struggle to find balance between their new baby and their older children. Bringing a baby home is an adjustment for the whole family and parents can feel guilt over not having the same amount of time to spend with their older children that they used too. Offering to take the older siblings is a great way to do something fun with the siblings and will also allow the new parents some time to focus solely on the baby for a few hours and/or get some rest. Not to mention is is great for the sibling to get out and have fun!
We all like to spend time with the new parents and baby. While visiting, a way to support the family is to do some simple chores for them such as: take out the trash, warm up a meal, vacuum, wash & fold a load of laundry, stock the baby station with diapers, a simple kitchen/bathroom wipe down or dishes. Any and all of those chores would be extremely helpful to the family.
These are just a few suggestion to help out the postpartum family. HERE is a printable list of ways others can help. Most families are too shy or just don’t know what they need to be helpful. This list is an easy way to get the family some help without even having to ask. Be a friend, print the list and leave it on the fridge!
Helping a family even with a task to two is so helpful and helps to recreate that “It takes a village.” mentality to help support families after baby arrives!
Nurtured Foundation is dedicated to providing pregnancy and postpartum services to the Cleveland and Akron areas. More information on our services can be found here.
Lisa Falkenstein is a certified postpartum doula, breastfeeding educator and infant massage instructor. She has proudly serviced the postpartum community in Cleveland for 8+ years. In addition to owning Nurtured Foundation Doula Services, she serves as a Baby’s First Massage Instructor at The Fairview Wellness Center and a Board Member of Babies Need Boxes. Her passion is educating and empowering families with non-judgmental support. For additional information, please contact Lisa directly at 216-409-5403 or firstname.lastname@example.org.