After having three babies and living through some postpartum moments that were embarrassing, awkward, and infuriating, I now have some basic rules for people who want to visit and "help" me during childbirth recovery. For starters, ask first, get vaccinated, bring food, expect to clean, and don't expect to hold the baby while I make you lunch, because I just grew a human and pushed it out of my vagina. I need help, not people to entertain. Sadly, there are so many things well-meaning people do for postpartum moms that aren't actually helpful. Like, at all.
In my honest opinion, we totally minimize the postpartum recovery needs of new moms in our culture. Their number one priority ought to be healing from childbirth. Instead, their priority ends up being living up to other people's unrealistic expectations. Yeah, that's not OK, especially when it starts way before they're home from the hospital or have had their first postpartum shower. Please, for the love of all that is good, don't visit a new mom in the hospital, unless you have her express permission to do so. In fact, even then, check in before you come to make sure she's not sleeping, topless, or just not in the mood for visitors. The same goes for after her hospital say, when she is finally in the comfort of her home.
Once you're in the presence of a postpartum mom, please don't offer to hold the baby. That's not helpful. Also, while I love it when people cook or clean for me, please don't rearrange my kitchen cabinets or refrigerator in the process. (Mom, I'm talking to you. I love you, but the last thing a sleep-deprived new mom needs is to not be able to find the peanut butter or coffee filters). The next time a friend or family member has a baby, please consider what they really need.
Visit Them In The Hospital Without Their Permission
When my first two babies were born, we let anyone who wanted to visit come see us in the hospital. It was so stressful. I didn't feel or look my best, I was trying to figure out breastfeeding, and I couldn't get any sleep. The last thing I needed was for people to expect me to entertain them. This last time, my husband and I cherished the first night alone with our new baby. After that, I only wanted my parents and older children around.
Come To Their House Uninvited
Not everyone wants or needs company right away (or at all) when they're recovering from childbirth.
I, personally, need adult contact to feed my extrovert personality. Having said that, you better let me know you are coming first, unless you want to see me topless or not wearing pants. In fact, you better bring food, because if I am putting pants on there had better be pie.
Buy Them A Spa Gift Certificate
When my first baby was born, my lovely co-workers bought be a gift certificate for a spa day. I was so touched. Plus, every new mom can use a spa day, right? Except, I literally couldn't.
I didn't have a chance to use it until almost a year after my daughter was born, and then I only used it because it was about to expire and I felt guilty. I had to seriously re-arrange my schedule to make it happen. Self care shouldn't cause stress, right?
Hold The Baby While They Clean Up
I get it, baby snuggles are the best. Still, and especially during their fourth trimester, new moms probably don't really need or want other people to hold their baby. When people would come over and immediately ask to hold my baby, or worse, expect to hold the baby while I cooked or cleaned, it made me feel like they didn't care about me. It also made me feel like they were coming over solely to get a baby snuggle fix. Understandable, but not that helpful.
Give Them Breastfeeding Advice
When I was struggling to figure out breastfeeding, the last thing I wanted was unsolicited advice about things to try (which I likely had already tried) or dirty looks when I got out a bottle to supplement. It's none of your business how someone is feeding their baby, and really not your place to comment or offer unsolicited advice. Just stop.
Give Them Tips For Losing The Baby Weight
No new mom wants to think about losing weight right after she's had a baby. No matter how you frame this advice, she will likely hear, "I think you look bad," and, that's not kind or helpful at all. Stop. For your own safety.
Re-organize Their Kitchen
I love it when people clean or cook for me, but please don't move my stuff. I like that way. Seriously. Even if it's better your way.
Offer To Breastfeed Their Baby
This is something that some breastfeeding moms think is helpful (because they think breastfeeding is awesome). However, unless someone asks, offering to breastfeed their baby or to give them your extra breast milk is not helpful in any way. In fact, it may put them in a really uncomfortable position.
When my friend asked me, I looked at her like she'd grown horns and I had no idea what to say. You see, even if someone is struggling with undersupply, they might not want to use someone else's breast milk to feed their baby, and they may not know how to politely decline your offer. For me, personally, offering to breastfeed my baby seriously crosses a line. It also implies that you think breast is best, which is the last thing a new mom needs to hear if she's suffering from undersupply.
Suggest A Product To Get Their Body Back
Take Their Picture
Ask me before you take my picture, and FFS, don't post it on social media, or tag me, without my permission. Same goes for pictures of my baby and/or birth announcements. No. Stop. It's so not helpful.