Postpartum Care for Mom: Tips to Make a Difference
Emily Silver, FNP, IBCLC / August 2022
Emily Silver, FNP, IBCLC
Emily Silver is a Family Nurse Practitioner and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. She is passionate about providing trustworthy education, support, and coaching in an honest, judgment-free way, through her learning platform NAPS™. Emily's honest, real-life parenting advice is based on her own experience as a nurse and as a mother to three young girls.
The Importance of Authentic Postpartum Care for Mom
There are some simple things that can really make a majorly positive impact on breastfeeding mothers, especially during their first appointments after their baby is born:
- The first thing you can do is put yourself in the new mother’s shoes. Most likely, she can barely keep her eyes open. Her nipples are raw and sore, she’s bleeding through industrial-strength pads, afraid to poop, and perhaps feeling exhausted because she was in labor for days and hasn’t caught up on sleep since.
If she had a vaginal delivery, she might have spent just a couple nights in the hospital before she came home. If she had a C-section, she might still be sore and recovering from surgery. Her baby is feeding every 2 hours all day and wide awake all night. Suffice to say, a newborn mom is in a very vulnerable place!
So, ask her how she’s doing. Listen when she tells you how it’s going. Ask follow-up questions. Make sure she’s safe at home, that she has food and shelter, and that she feels like she can handle things. If she doesn’t feel emotionally or mentally well, be sure to offer plenty of options and support.
- Another thing you can do is take the mother’s concerns seriously. That loud breathing noise-slash-sigh the baby just made? That mom is anxiously wondering if their sweet new baby is having trouble breathing or maybe catching their first cold. Don’t discount it or dismiss their concerns in a condescending manner; instead, listen to the baby’s chest and show her that you’re on their side and you take her questions seriously. Speaking of questions, give her more than one chance to ask questions. A new mother may have lists of questions in her head, but may forget everything when they arrive at the office because they are tired, overwhelmed, and hanging on every word you say.
- If the new mother is breastfeeding, be sure to remind her that breastfeeding can be hard at first. There’s a learning curve for almost every new mom, even if her mother-in-law told her it was the easiest thing in the world for her to do. In fact, I would recommend saying very clearly that breastfeeding is hard and that you want to be there for her, as part of her personal support team.
- Refer EVERYONE to a lactation consultant, even the ones who are off to a “good start” or aren’t facing any breastfeeding challenges at the moment. Challenges can come up later, and you want them to know they can reach out to a professional and where to go to do so.
Providing Personalized Care to Every New Parent
Providers should also remember that when a new mother walks through the door with that tiny baby in her arms, she’s worried. She’s scared she’s not doing enough for her baby or she’s nervous that they’re not eating or sleeping enough. Your opinions and words will stay with her for a long time. Keep in mind that, throughout the appointment, she will repeat anything you say in her head for days, weeks, and months after. You want to keep the interactions as positive as possible!
Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t tell the truth. It’s critically important to convey careful and clear instructions on infant care, particularly if and when serious concerns arise. Instead, what I’m saying is that you should imagine that your words have a lot of weight behind them.
Here’s an example: A new mother comes in for a standard check-up with her baby. The baby has lost a few ounces since leaving the hospital. Now, we as healthcare professionals know this is perfectly normal – But the mother doesn’t. So, don’t just read the number out loud and write it down. Definitely don’t shake your head or make a face, even if it’s the fourth, fifth, or sixth time you’ve heard a similar concern from a new mom while on that shift. Instead, make sure you prepare her. Remind her again that it’s normal for a baby to lose weight in his or her first few days at home. Walk her through what happens next, and how common it is to come in for weigh-ins. Reiterate that she’s doing a good job.
All in all, providers like you and I have a major impact on the happiness and health of new mothers. Establishing a trust-based rapport and open communication early on is an important key to the first year of parenthood.