Having a baby is the most wonderful time in a young woman’s life, a time of joy, and love and new beginnings. That’s what every young girl is told anyway; the constant tiredness, the aches and pains and the endless poo are not mentioned at all!
Anyone dealing with a new mums can do a lot to help them at this stressful and magical time.
At first it must be accepted that there is a big change in the home dynamic; a couple has become a family and this can cause ripples throughout the infrastructure of the home. Even the most timid and reticent of us may well become vociferous defending our child’s well-being. Couples-time falls away in favour of the many activities that go into keeping a baby happy, healthy and well-fed, and this can cause a strain on even the strongest partnership if it is allowed to. For at least the first six weeks, and possibly longer, a partner should not even hint at the resumption of a sex life – apart from the extreme tiredness and stress of being responsible for a brand new life, physically intercourse will be too uncomfortable to contemplate for a while for most new mums, but many supportive hugs will be gratefully received. Partners should also be prepared for changes when play does resume – babies do leave their mark on the –ahem – exit! To help with this the new mum should be encouraged to resume gentle exercise as soon as she feels able. Pelvic floor exercises can help everything ease back into place smoothly, and taking up a gentle routine will encourage the flow of endorphins which will counteract mood swings, as well as providing the obvious health benefits of an exercise regime.
New mums should always be treated with respect. Even if there are mood swings, tears and slammed doors never blame it on her hormones, or treat her as though she is dim-witted. Mothers-in-law and older sisters or even friends who already have babies just love to give advice. While absolutely fine in its place (it can occasionally be very useful, indeed) sometimes the flow of information washing over a young mother can overload her; especially if it conflicts with thoughts and customs that she holds dear. Circumcision, baptism, even something as trivial as the correct way to wrap baby for a feed, all of these can become points of contention if so permitted. All third parties must realise that decisions to be made about the babies health, future and upbringing will be made by the baby’s parents and no-one else. In-laws especially must take a step back, and allow their children to make the best decisions for the grandchildren without interference.
All mums will become acquainted with ‘baby brain’ – the slowness of thought, almost dull-wittedness common to all new mums. While completely normal this can knock a woman’s confidence quite badly and she may need plenty of reassurance that she is still beautiful and attractive, even though her libido has gone on holiday for the duration.
Worrying about her appearance is not something a new mum should be doing. Very few women can look after a brand new baby and maintain perfectly made-up faces and well-styled outfits. Mums should be encouraged to not worry about looking perfect, or even about regaining their pre-baby figure too quickly. Assuming that life will snap back into its pre-baby order too quickly is a perfect recipe for depression. Maternity leave, at least six months, should be spent getting to know the baby, not catching up on chores and renovations. Mums should sleep when baby sleeps – she may not get 8 hours in a convenient block, but as long as she naps when the little one does she is likely to clock up a decent number of sleep hours over 24 hours, which will come in handy for getting up for those 3:00am feeds.
New mums need to remember that the bad times (sleepless nights, alarming , smelly nappies, and endless tiredness etc) all pass and that Mum and child will come through it all, knowing each other and ready to enjoy the rest of their lives together. The most important way to support and help a new mum, bearing, as she does, the brunt of this new relationship, is to give her plenty of praise for what she does for the new baby and to stand-by ready to help when she needs it.
About this article: This article has been written by Mary Murphy, the communications manager for Irish based website eumom.ie – Ireland’s largest online community website for mothers with over 100,000 members. The website publishes regular pregnancy advice and guides for mums. Feel free to visit the website and join our happy community!