Take it from me: we mothers find it very difficult to ask for help! When my son was born, I found myself entertaining guests even though I had a grueling delivery, suffered from undiagnosed post-partum depression and could barely walk (I’ll spare you the gory details of why). The fact that I could not articulate my needs or felt uncomfortable assigning specific tasks to my friends just worsened my already fragile state of mind. Being in my late 30s and having enjoyed a successful career, I was used to being in control of my life, so the more my house became unkempt, and the less I was able to accomplish, the more I spiraled into a dark place. Many moms today are living apart from their families and are extremely independent and self-sufficient, so bringing home baby and adjusting to the new realities as a family, including relying on others for help, can extra be challenging. Not preparing properly (expecting? see our ultimate checklist) or not knowing how to ask for help is a big “Booby Trap!”
But there is a better way. If you have read The Red Tent, or had the chance to live in or observe cultures that protect the mother-baby dyad, you will already know that taking care of the mother is the best way to take care of the baby. Julie Hamilton, Mrs. Nashville 2010, a mother of 3 including exclusively breastfed twins (read how she did it) and a blogger at memoirsofabreastfeeder.wordpress.com knows just how important it is to ask for help, and worked with us to create a tool that can go a long way in making sure that a mother of a new baby is being cared for. The best gift you can give any new mother is to nurture the nurterer! So yes, pick out that cute outfit for the new baby, but also make sure you sign up to deliver some TLC in the form of a meal, some grocery shopping, laundry folding or other errand. Many moms need more help with tasks; having a clean & organized house makes it easier to relax, turn off the brain, and sleep when the baby sleeps. Especially for breastfeeding moms, who need to master the learning curve of breastfeeding during the first few weeks, getting help can make or break her success. If you are an experienced mom, then you already know just how welcome your efforts are. If you are not a mom, then consider it part of the “what goes around comes around” cycle that will be paid back to you some day, in some form or another! If you are expecting your first, it is the best internship you could have to learn the ropes.
Here are the new tools Julie developed with us. Please let us know if you have suggestions to make them more useful to ALL moms who just had a baby. As a non-profit our goal we rely on volunteers and feedback so we can provide more free resources to moms!
BfB Help Sheet: A fill-in sheet to help new mothers or a mother of a new baby (baby #2, or #3, or #4 . . . ) enlist friends and family members to take care of errands and everyday household chores. There is space to add other things you need help with. Don’t be shy! The point is to ensure your success as a new mother so these first few weeks can be as enjoyable and rewarding as possible. If you are sunk in a pit of laundry, grocery shopping and cleaning up, you are no good to anyone. Here’s how to use it: Fill out one sheet for each friend. Record who is doing what accordingly on the master sheet, and give the help sheet to the person assigned to the task(s). If you have a home print/scan/copy machine, you can also make a copy of the help sheet to keep for yourself, if that makes it easier for you to keep track.
BfB Help Sheet–Master: This is a chart to help you keep track of who is doing what. It is to be filled out by the mom, her partner or a friend or family member who is helping the mom every week. Write the person’s name & phone number if necessary in the appropriate square, for example, “Amy S.: 212-999-9999” in Dinner row, Tuesday column. If you have a really super organized friend who wants to coordinate this, even better! You may want to keep phone numbers of friends and relatives on a separate sheet that you can refer to, or that your partner, a relative or your best friend can use to contact anyone if there is a change in plans. Put it on the fridge, by the phone or by your bedside where you know you will see it.
We’re also compiling a list of helpful information and best resources on the ‘net on this topic. Any suggestions? Let us know, and we’ll add it to this list! All we ask is that the information be mom-friendly: non-judgmental, evidence-based, positive and encouraging, and not undermining of breastfeeding moms.
Tips for New Moms from About.com by Robin Elise Weiss
10 Tips to Help You Cope with New Mom Exhaustion from ivillage.com
How to Help a New Mom from Ehow.com
Just Had a Baby? A Six-Week Survival Guide from Fit Pregnancy
What did we miss? How did you ask for help when you had a new baby?