Labor and delivery are some of the most intense experiences of your life, and those first few days of motherhood are both physically grueling and emotionally draining. Naturally, moms and mothers-in-law want to swoop in and offer their support and help, and of course, enjoy their new grandbaby. But too many times, those good intentions can lead to too much help, or not the right kind of help!
The Goal: for new moms to get the support they need…
Our real moms are here to share what’s actually helpful, and what’s really not. I hope their advice can help new moms express their wants, needs, and boundaries graciously so that they can revel in their new role as “mom.”
…and for grandmothers’ good intentions to result in good outcomes!
And if you’re about to become a new grandmother, read on for helpful do’s and don’ts in helping your daughter (or daughter-in-law) as she begins her journey into motherhood! My hope is that you can offer support that is received in the same spirit it is intended: with love and joy.
Let’s start with what’s most helpful to new moms:
I turned to Instagram to find out what meant the most to new moms in the first few days. Read on for their responses–grandmothers, take note!
Here’s what I learned from the responses to the question above:
Moms Need Practical Help Around the House
“Before I gave birth, my mom stocked all the household essentials: toilet paper, paper towels, etc, and cooked freezer meals to have on hand.”
“My mom helped me organize and baby proof my house!”
“Cleaned, laundry, cooking, and keeping my other kids alive!”
“Preparing meals before, bringing food, and helping around the house.”
“My mom picked up around the house while I was nursing.”
“My mom brought over dinner, cleaned my house, ran errands…everything!!”
Cooking, cleaning, and running errands aren’t glamorous, but your daughter and daughter-in-law will be so grateful (I guarantee it). And if domestic duty isn’t for you, you could always organize a meal delivery service, order groceries, or hire a cleaning service.
New moms love feeling pampered, too.
“Food! A bouquet of peonies at home didn’t hurt either!”
“My mom bought me a new robe and comfy pajamas, and had them waiting on my bed when we got home from the hospital.”
Small touches–flowers, new cozy clothes for the long days (and nights) ahead–go a long way to making a new mom feel loved.
Sometimes, new moms just need their moms!
“Just show up! In the midst of feeling overwhelmed, it was super helpful to have a calm, knowledgeable person to help me and my husband.”
“After labor, it was so helpful having my mom there to help me shower and clean up.”
“The best thing my mom did was set me up with a lactation consultant. I was too emotional, stressed, and prideful to do it.”
Assuming that your presence is truly calming and reassuring to your daughter, there is nothing like a mother’s love and wisdom in those first few days of new motherhood.
While I know most moms and mothers-in-law have pure motives to help, I also know that their best intentions can backfire. I hope that these responses are helpful to grandmothers-to-be! Here’s what I learned:
New moms don’t want endless advice or anecdotes.
“Gave too much advice on breastfeeding!”
“My mother-in-law bragged about having all of her kids without an epidural!”
I know, grandmothers: you have a lifetime of wisdom you are eager to impart to your daughter and daughter-in-law! And SO much has changed since you were a new mom: it can be hard to keep your opinions on birth, breastfeeding, formula, pacifiers, sleep training, and swaddles to yourself.
Chances are that your daughter has carefully researched every product and method she has chosen for her little one, and if she wants your advice, she will ask! And when it comes to sharing your own successes or horror stories in the areas of labor, breastfeeding, bottle feeding, sleep training, or whatever it may be, remember: the mind of a new mom is already cluttered with comparisons. Holding her to your standards just isn’t helpful.
New moms don’t always want their moms in the delivery room.
As you can see from the results above, the vast majority of couples choose to welcome their babies into the world without their moms. Even if you’ve had your heart set on being there, respect your child’s choice. Sharing the intense birth experience with your partner is incredibly bonding, and in my experience, encourages your spouse to step in to offer all of the emotional support.
Not all moms want overnight help.
Results are evenly split on this one, which tells me that new grandmothers should ask what their daughters would prefer!
On one hand, new moms tell me that overnight help can be incredibly helpful:
“My mother-in-law took the night shift the first few nights which was a life saver!”
“My mom slept over one night when I was at my weakest, and it saved me.”
But others shared that round-the-clock help added up to a little too much time together! In my experience, having my mom or mother-in-law come over in the morning well-rested and ready to help allowed me to rest during the day.
New moms want a say in scheduling travel plans
Results for the above quiz were pretty evenly distributed, with 37% of new moms choosing “A,” 44% choosing “B,” and 19% choosing “C.” Those varying answers tell me communication is key: ask your daughter/daughter-in-law before you book any tickets, and don’t assume that she would like you there for the birth and first few days of the baby’s life. While some new moms love help right away, others prefer to settle into life at home before welcoming extended family (and parental leave for partners makes a huge difference in what kind of help moms need right away!)
New moms’ hearts and minds are focused on the baby–not anyone else!
I received quite a few comments about new moms’ frustrations with their moms taking offense, feeling hurt, or complaining about lack of time with the baby. New moms are maxed out emotionally, and trying to reassure their own moms and mothers-in-law is just draining. Grandmothers, prioritize your daughter’s emotional well-being, and if you do feel slighted, recognize that she is most likely doing her very best.
“Have a solid plan communicated before you go into labor, before emotions are high and everyone is more easily hurt.”
This plan might include who is and isn’t in the delivery room, who is watching your older children, and when you’d like to receive visitors.
If you find yourself having to set a boundary regarding the delivery room, I love this script from a real mom: “This is a special moment for our new family that we’d like to experience privately.” Then, share your wishes with your nurses and hospital staff.
“Establish boundaries beforehand.”
Other boundaries might include things like if and when you’ll receive visitors, who will stay with you overnight, or who will be babysitting. Vaccines, masks, and staying home when sick also fall into this category. Establish these boundaries together with your spouse, and present a united front. Once those boundaries are set, communicate them in a gracious way!
“Be direct and clear on what is helpful for you and what isn’t. I let my mom know what I wanted help with that day, whether it was making certain recipes, or watching the baby at certain times so I could nap or run errands. I had to learn that she is very caring and nurturing, but not a mind reader and also cautious not to overstep, so being direct and clear at any given time was huge!”
“Be grateful no matter what help is offered.”
Now that you’re a mom yourself, you know the overwhelming love of a mother. No matter what help your mother gives, accept it with gratitude and remember that her intentions are to help you, not hinder you!
To summarize: clear communication and a heart of understanding are essential!
Here’s a quick roundup of all the advice above, summarized as a list of “do’s” and “don’ts” for grandmothers and mothers-to-be.
DO help around the house (cooking, cleaning, organizing, errands)
DO find ways to pamper your daughter or daughter-in-law (fresh flowers, new pajamas, favorite foods, etc.)
DO offer your calm, maternal presence for the moments she is exhausted and drained.
DO ask your daughter/daughter-in-law when she would like you to plan your visit.
DO text or call before stopping by
DO NOT offer unsolicited advice
DO NOT assume you will be in the delivery room
DO NOT assume you will be staying overnight with your daughter or daughter in law
DO set boundaries and expectations together with your partner
DO express your needs in a clear and loving way
DO express gratitude for all help that is offered
Even as I posed these questions on Instagram, I received a few messages from grandmothers-to-be expressing their feelings of, “I can’t do anything right!” I hope hearing from real moms shows you that your help is needed and appreciated, and offers you ideas for how to best show love to your daughter during this transition to motherhood.
New moms, I hope you feel encouraged to speak up and ask for the help you need–and that you now have a good idea of what to ask your mom or mother-in-law to do in your first days and weeks and as a mom!