After giving birth and coming home from the hospital, you may find yourself bombarded with a steady stream of visitors, anxious to see the new baby and visit with you. While their intentions may be well-meaning, too many guests—and not enough help—can make it challenging to focus on what is best for you: take care of your own physical and emotional needs.
Experts agree that taking a cue from other societies and engaging in an extended period of rest and quiet time is not only good for your baby, but for you, too. Consider their take on how to help you get what you need.
Benefits of Bonding
Known as the “lying-in” period, this age-old practice focuses on mothers spending undisturbed time with their newborn. “The purpose is to promote healing, encourage mother/baby bonding, aid in breastfeeding and promote overall recuperation and postnatal health,” says Rachel Wolf, a registered nurse and agency director for Let Mommy Sleep of PA. and South FL (www.letmommysleep.com).
While lying-in has not been formally adopted in the United States, several Asian and European cultures adhere to this philosophy for anywhere from two to eight weeks. Benefits to mom and baby are tremendous, notes Wolf: better sleep and higher immune systems for moms and decreased exposure to germs and illnesses for infants.
But perhaps one of the more noteworthy positives for lying-in is the impact on moms’ mental health. “Evidence-based studies show us that moms having help after a baby is born is very important to lessen the chances for postpartum depression and anxiety,” says Ann Smith, a nurse midwife and president of Postpartum Support International (www.postpartum.net). “So few people have role models to show them how to handle kids. The more isolated you are, the more afraid you may feel and can become anxious.”
Wolf agrees with the significance of having a support network in place. “The most important thing we can do is ensure that every mom has the help and support she needs, should she end up struggling with postpartum depression or baby blues,” she says. “Sometimes, that means having someone there to tell her she is not alone and that is it 100-percent treatable if she gets help early.”
Setting up Support
While many expectant moms create a birth plan, they should also make advance arrangements for postpartum care. Be selective and be sure to explain your needs, so close friends and family are aware of how they can best assist you. “If your house is full of well-intentioned guests who only want to hold the new baby, it will not help you recover in the way that lying-in is meant to help you,” notes Wolf. If you don’t have nearby family that can give you a hand and you can afford some temporary help, consider some short-term services for house cleaning or meal deliveries.
For helping care for your newborn, look into hiring a postpartum doula. “A trained postpartum doula can do wonders, even for a few hours,” says Smith. “Not only can they assist with breastfeeding support, they can act as a partner with mom. This helps moms gain self-confidence to be able to care for their baby.”
Baby nurses can be a great resource for new moms, especially during the first week after childbirth. Experts note this is a critical time for assessing a mom’s mental health and getting her acclimated to her new role. “I truly believe that mothers would not be readmitted to the hospital at the numbers they are, if someone was there in the family home early enough to identify those mothers who are either physical or psychological risk for postpartum complications,” notes Wolf.