Six Things Every New Mother Needs

Borrowed wisdom from cultures where new moms and babies thrive.

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres. We publish pieces written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team, and though they are reviewed for adherence to our guidelines, they are submitted in their final form to our open platform. Learn more or join us as a community member!
The sweetness of continual contact.

I was chatting with my friend Ashley about her best friend’s wedding. There were parties to organize, dresses to buy, rehearsals to attend, registries to fill, and Ashley was feeling guilty that, due to her busy schedule, she wasn’t able to be more helpful to the bride.

I couldn’t help but contrast the level of support moderns brides expect with the support most new mothers receive: a lot versus none. Why should this be? Don’t get me wrong. I love a wedding, but it’s a party. New motherhood, on the other hand, is one of the biggest transitions a woman can experience.

The evidence is that American and British women are not doing very well with this transition, either. It estimated that 20% of new mothers suffer from postpartum depression, and only 36% of mothers breastfeed successfully in the U.S. In the U.K. that number is even lower.

According to Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, Ph.D., IBCLC, in her book Depression in New Mothers, cultures in which breastfeeding success is nearly universal and postpartum depression is rare share some common traits. They acknowledge postpartum as a unique time, deserving of special recognition and support, and they provide it with abundant practical and emotional assistance to the new mother.

In a previous post I wrote that culture, not biology, is what makes postpartum so hard for new mothers. Cultural values and expectations of independence and control prevent many moms from embracing continual contact with their infants, which is the physiological basis for the thriving of both mother and baby. The good news is we can change our culture into one that is at least as supportive of new mothers and babies as it is of brides-to-be.

Following Dr. Kendall-Tackett’s summary of the traits of healthy postpartum cultures, here are six suggestions.

Postpartum Is a Unique Time, Deserving of Special Recognition

1. Drop the idea that the woman is “having a baby,” as if she were simply adding something to her life. Embrace the idea that she is becoming a mother: she and her life are changing fundamentally. Mothers are not women with children anymore than butterflies are caterpillars with wings.

2. Drop the imperative to “bounce back” or to get “back to normal,” and embrace postpartum as a time of transition. Plan for the dissolution of the old life and the disorientation and confusion that come with transitions by organizing support before the baby is born.

Provide with Abundant Practical and Emotional Support.

For the first six-to-twelve weeks postpartum:

3. Feed Her. Organize a person or a group of people to deliver hot, healthy, home-cooked meals to the new family. Being fed is fundamental, fulfilling not just a physical need but an existential one. She will be spending most of her waking hours feeding the baby. It creates a beautiful economy when her community nurtures her in turn.

4. Run Her House. Allow a person or a group to be responsible for the normal activities of daily living, such as tidying, laundry, and help with older children. Household mess can feel like an indictment: It’s too much. I can’t keep up. Well, darling, you were never meant to. Only in the last few hundred years have mothers been expected to take care of themselves, their homes, and their new babies all by themselves. With others responsible for running – not just “helping” to run – the house, mother can focus on baby and rest.

5. Run Her Errands. Infants greatly hamper her freedom of movement. New babies are unpredictable and long, unbroken expanses of time will be very hard to find, which makes planning difficult. New babies are also easy to over-stimulate and may appear to sleep through errands, only to be fussy or cry the rest of the evening. It’s kind to mother and baby to let others to do the running around for them for a while.

6. Sit with Her. Every day, in person, on the phone, or video chat, she needs someone to talk to. It’s common for a new mother to feel isolated, disoriented, unsure of herself, somewhat displaced, and slightly embarrassed: What’s happened to me, she wonders. I used to be so together. Other mothers who have recently been where she is now can reassure better than anyone that everything is normal and she and baby are okay.

With a bit of preparation and help – less than it takes to plan a wedding! – new mothers and babies can get the support they need to thrive. They deserve it.

If you’ve already had your baby, what support was most helpful to you? What would you do differently next time around?

Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...


Slow Down To Do More: “Why Stepped-Up Flexibility Policies Cut Turnover” With Ashley Graber and Rita Kakati Shah.

by Ashley Graber M.A., LMFT
Courtesy of Prostock-studio/Shutterstock

How to Plan Your Wedding Day When Your Mom Has Passed Away

by Rebecca B. Skolnick, Ph.D.

How My Own Miscarriage Showed Me That We Treat Women Who Miscarry All Wrong

by Thrive Global

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.


We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.