The arrival of a new baby, whether it is the first or fifth, marks an enormous transition in the family unit, but also in each individual’s life. Mom has gone through a major physical event and baby is learning about a whole new reality! The best advice is for everyone to keep in mind how enormous this transition really is and go easy on themselves and each other in the early weeks.
Making things easy is good theme to keep in mind when preparing for the birth. Mom should have nothing to worry about but her new baby and her own recovery – this is very important in establishing a healthy breastfeeding relationship and everything else should remain secondary. See this as a very brief period in a life-long investment for good health. Investing in a comfortable baby carrier will let Mom have her hands-free while baby remains secure – helping to offset the sometimes overwhelming constant needs of a newborn.
To help the rest of the family cope, frozen meals and take-out are a good start. A “casserole” shower before baby is born is a great idea.
Ensuring that older siblings feel included in the new arrival is very important to minimizing the inevitable resentment. Toy slings make a wonderful gift, making older siblings feel included while modeling the importance of baby’s closeness to Mom.
Outside help, whether in the form of relatives or paid help, can be a boon or a curse. Anyone coming to help needs to remember that they are there for Mom and Dad – not to swoon over the new arrival (hard as that is!). Mom may be feeling insecure and overwhelmed – too many suggestions about baby care may feel undermining. Even more dangerously, offering to feed baby just a bottle of formula while she sleeps sounds helpful, but in the long-run, it may damage her ability to breast-feed. Do laundry, cook meals, tidy up and play with kids, but leave the mothering of baby to Mom.
If hiring outside help such a doula, be sure to get references and interview well ahead of baby’s arrival, so that expectations are perfectly clear. Doulas can be found through their professional association, www.dona.org.