3 tips to support your partner during the postpartum period
Written by Midwife Aliza Carr of Bumpnbub
Whether you are a dad, mum, grandparent, aunt, or friend, supporting a mother through the postpartum period is an important task. You are a great support outlet for a new mother and can make a huge difference to their postpartum experience. Sometimes you may feel helpless with what you can do to help. This blog will discuss ways you can prepare for and how to support your partner through the postpartum period and beyond with some practical tips.
1. EDUCATION AND PREPARATION
Antenatal education regarding pregnancy, labour and birth is always encouraged for both mum and partner, but don’t forget to learn information regarding the postpartum period. Different options include educational classes, reading books or undertaking research through reliable health and government websites. For you as a partner or support person, learning about what occurs postnatally for mum and bub and how you can best support them is the best way to prepare. Below are ideas on what to learn and research prior to the postnatal period.
- A woman’s body goes through after birth and being understanding and empathetic of afterbirth pains. Understanding ongoing bleeding, the need to rest and recover and knowing lots of help will be needed after a C-section is great preparation.
- If a woman chooses to breastfeed, learning the process of how and when her milk comes in and ways you can support her with breastfeeding will be a benefit to all.
- Being aware of mental health in the postpartum period; what is normal and what is not normal regarding how a new mother is feeling. Also, acknowledge that being at home alone every day can feel isolating and to check in on her regularly.
Sexual Connection Changes
- When it is okay to return to sexual intercourse post-birth? It’s important not to put pressure on your partner if she is feeling sore, uncomfortable, or not ready yet. It’s a mental and physical process that can take some time.
Knowing how you can support and help her physically and emotionally throughout this journey; allowing her to express emotions and giving her a moment alone to recharge will be the greatest benefit during this time.
2. MENTAL HEALTH POSTPARTUM
Partners and support people know the new mum well, therefore they are the best people to understand and notice if her mood or mental health has changed. Many new mothers experience mental health illnesses in the postnatal period, they are not alone but it is important to get help.
After having a baby, the body goes through a lot of physical changes but also hormonal changes that will affect a woman’s mental health. Hormones alter after birth and shift from day 3 when breastmilk starts to come in. Around this time, 50-80% of women experience a depressed mood due to a hormonal adjustment reaction, known as the baby blues. The baby blues is a short-term feeling, lasting around 48 hours on day 3-5 after birth. New mums may experience symptoms such as crying, irritability and mood swings, with the low mood easing after the first week. It is proven that outcomes are more positive when mums have access to support networks, realistic expectations of motherhood and practical help with the baby. During this time, give the new mum lots of love, reassurance, and support so she can rest, remind her that this is normal and encourage her to talk about how she is feeling.
If your partner is experiencing an ongoing low mood that lasts weeks or months, she might be suffering from postpartum depression. Postpartum depression affects 1 in 6 mothers in the first year of their baby’s life and develops due to a combination of factors. If not diagnosed, postnatal depression can get worse and interfere with parenting and her bond with bub. If you identify any signs, including changes in emotions, thinking or behaviour, encourage your partner to seek early professional help, which means a quicker recovery. She can get professional help through; a midwife, child health nurse, GP, psychologist, social worker, Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia (PANDA) hotline (1300 726 306) or your local hospital. As well as talking to a health professional, other branches for information and support including; The Gidget Foundation, Mind the Bump, Beyond Blue and Lifeline.
Supporting a new mothers mental health
- Plan together in the antenatal period about what you can do as a team to support each other postnatally, and express freely how you are both feeling
- Check-in regularly to see how she is feeling and coping
- Know that it is normal for her to feel down, tired & emotional in that first week
- Allow her to let her emotions out without trying to fix anything, just support her
- Sleep is very important - work out a system between you both, that encourages you to each rest, while the other is with baby
- Encourage her to socialize with friends or other mums when she is ready - isolation can contribute to postnatal depression
- Practical support to assist her recovery and remind your partner that she’s doing a great job!
3. HOW TO HELP A NEW MUM POSTPARTUM
One of the best ways you can support your partner in the postpartum period is to take time off work if possible. Normally paternity leave is only 2 weeks, but if you can get more time off that will be best to support each other and give you precious bonding time with your newborn baby. In the early days when mum will be sleep deprived and trying to recover from birth, do as much as you can so she can rest and fill up her cup. Remember if your partner has had a C-section, she will not be able to drive or lift anything heavy for up to 6 weeks, so she will need lots of help around the house and with tasks. After you go back to work, you should work out a plan of action with your partner for when you return home from the day. This could include looking after children, tidying and general support but having a plan allows both parents to flourish in this newfound role.
Practical ways to support each other as new parents:
- Prepare healthy meals or snacks throughout the day, or cook dinner as much as you can
- Bring your partner a glass of water and some nipple balm whenever she is feeding the baby, breastfeeding is thirsty work! Lovekins Nipple Balmis the perfect soothing and healing way to nourish the areola area. It is 100% natural, and endorsed by the Australian College of Midwives, meaning it is safe for mum and baby.
- Clean the house or hire a cleaner, but remind each other that it is okay to have a messier house with a newborn
- Do a load of washing and hang it out or catch up on folding (it piles up quick with a newborn!)
- Take over more of the roles that the new mother would normally do, these might be admin jobs such as paying household bills or the groceries
- Discuss seeing postpartum physicians such as a physiotherapist to help with body care and strength as carrying around and feeding a baby can create sore back and shoulders.
Duties to help with a newborn:
- Burping baby in between feeds or at the end of a feed
- Nappy changes are a great way to help
- Bath time is often your bonding time, especially if you’re back at work, it is lovely to have that one-on-one time with your newborn
- Wash and sterilise bottles if these are being used
- Look after your newborn as much as you can so your partner can have some time to herself; encourage her to have a shower or bath, read a book or go for a walk
- If your baby is upset and crying, pick them up and try to settle them yourself - you are a team now looking after this little baby
- If your little one is taking a bottle of formula or expressed breastmilk, you can do a bottle feed late at night (around 10 pm) so mum can sleep, or alternatively do the first feed of the morning and let her sleep in
The postpartum period can be challenging for you both, and it’s important you remember you are a team. It’s a great idea to ask for help and support from family, friends and health professionals if you or your partner feel you need extra support.
Blog is written by midwife Aliza from Bumpnbub.