Support at Home
Just when you think you might be getting a grip on what it’s like to have a new baby, it’s time to fly without the support of your midwife.
If this is your first baby, you will probably get more home visits than you would if it was a subsequent baby. This schedule is because many services assume that women who have had a baby before need less guidance. Sometimes this is the case. Sometimes it isn’t. Every baby is different, and every woman’s experience is different. If you or your baby have needs that require more frequent visits, please speak to your provider about the best way to have yours and your baby’s health care needs met.
Continuity of care from a known midwife will ensure you get all the professional support at home you need. In addition to this, the culture you come from will dictate what kind of help you can reasonably expect from family and friends. For instance, Chinese culture dictates the mother ‘lay in’ for about a month after birth. She is cared for in many ways by her female family members during this time.
Families are a great source of support in the early days after your baby’s birth. If you have a partner, include them wherever you can to help with caring for your baby. This situation is new to them too, and they will quite often feel lost and not know how to help you. Delegating them tasks can give them a known in a world of new unknowns.
They may not know how to help, but they know when all else fails, they can bath the baby. If you are going it alone, enlist the help of family and friends before your baby arrives so that you have a support system in place when you go home. Families also want to visit at home, but you need to lay some ground rules.
If they want to help and understand that you need to rest and not play hostess, then accept as much help as you need. Aunties and grandparents are great for helping with washing, cooking and general housework. If you have close friends that want to help, then they can take up that role.
A constant flow of visitors who leave their coffee cups for you to take care of is not helpful. At this point, your priorities need to be getting as much rest as you can, feeding yourself and the baby and bonding with him or her, and creating and maintaining your immediate family relationships. If people want to come around, tell them how you like your cuppa and let them help themselves as well as you. Let your friends and family know to call first and not just drop in. If you are tired, take a raincheck. If you don’t feel up to talking on the phone, let it go to voicemail.
A new baby has a significant influence on the nature of our relationships with others. Getting out and making social connections with people who are in a similar situation is a great way to create a support network. These friendships can last a lifetime and are a great forum in which to discuss any issues you might be having or just to have someone listen to you when you are having a bad day. However strong you feel your friendships are, friends who don’t have children will struggle to understand how your life has changed. Further, the trials and tribulations of your child-free friends may now seem quite trivial given your new role.
Most areas will have parent groups of some sort. You may also find support in online communities, drop-in centres or baby and toddler clubs. The hardest thing about these face to face groups is finding where they are and the first time you go, particularly if you are the shy type. If this is the case, try and go with a friend until you feel comfortable. Ask your midwife, GP or child health nurse for advice and the contact details of your local groups.
A word of advice…
Advice is something there is no shortage of when you are pregnant or have had a baby. The problem with this is the advice you get seems to be different every time somebody offers it. Opinions even differ from midwife to midwife. The best advice we can offer is this – Listen to what everyone is telling you. Say thank you; I’ll try that next time (because now you have ten different ways to do it) – then figure out what works best for you. At the very least you will have another approach up your sleeve if the one you are using now stops working.
Dr Janelle McAlpine (PhD), Clinical Midwife
Photo by Monkey Business Images, used under license from Shutterstock.com