To support a new mom is to support her need to care and provide for her baby. The next most important person to a baby is the father. Everyone else’s role should be to support the new family. In this post, I will outline some practical ways to help a new family while promoting bonding between the baby and parents.
In my undergraduate, I studied the Family, therefore, I hold the view that attachment bonds are very important to cultivate in early childhood.
What is Attachment Theory and why does it matter?
Before I begin, a little about attachment theory. Two names associated with attachment theory are John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth. Bowlby pioneered attachment theory and Ainsworth designed the strange situation which was used to observe early emotional attachment between an infant and its caregiver.
First, an attachment figure is a secure base from which a child can explore the world.
Security theory explains that babies and young children need to develop a secure dependence on parents prior to going out into unfamiliar experiences.
“Just as children are absolutely dependent on their parents for sustenance, so in all but the most primitive communities, are parents, especially their mothers, dependent on a greater society for economic provision. If a community values its children it must cherish their parents.” John Bowlby, 1951
Separation anxiety as noted by Bowlby can sometimes be very low or not present giving an incorrect presentation of maturity. This erroneous impression of maturity is attributed to the child’s defensive processes.
Whereas a well-loved child is generally more likely to object being separated from their parents. As the child gets older they will naturally develop more self-reliance.
Infant Attachment Patterns
Mary Ainsworth who took the study of infant attachment further conducted a study in Ganda where 26 families with unweaned babies (ages 1-24 months) were recruited. Ainsworth observed the families for 2 hours every two weeks over a period of 9 months.
One purpose of Ainsworth research was to determine how infants when in the presence of the mother-infants signalled the mother’s attention
She noted that when mothers had been responsive to an infant crying in the early months, later on, these babies tended to cry less. Instead, they relied on facial expressions, gestures and vocalizations to solicit the mother’s attention.
On the same note babies whose mothers had given tender holding during the first quarter months often sought out less contact during the fourth quarter. However, when the baby sought out contact the researchers rated it as more satisfying and affectionate. The reason for this behaviour is explained by Ainsworth as the babies expectations lined up to the previous behaviour of the mother. If the mother was attentive and the interaction was previously satisfying the infant trusted the mother to provide the same experience.
It is also important to note that babies at first seek out all caregivers nearby with signals to gain their attention. As the baby gets older they direct this behaviour more often towards the caregiver that is responsive to their crying and who engage socially with the infant.
After an infant is attached and able to move independently the caregiver who is the attachment figure is used as a secure base for the infant to explore its surroundings.
The most important thing an attachment figure can do is respond sensitively to the infant’s cues.
Three infant attachment patterns
Ainsworth is also credited with classifying three types of infant attachment patterns.
Securely attached: infants seemed content to explore near the mother and cried little
Insecurely attached: infants explored little and cried frequently even when held by mother
Not yet attached: infants behaviour did not differ in the presence of the mother
Furthermore, a mothers sensitivity to her child’s behaviour was significantly correlated to whether the infant showed secure or insecure attachment. Breastfeeding enjoyment by the mother also correlated to infant security.
The above information was cited from this article
For more information on attachment theory watch the video below:
1. Call ahead before visiting
Don’t surprise the new family with an unexpected drop in. Some families don’t want visitors at the hospital or for the first few weeks. Even if you feel offended respect the new parent’s wishes. It’s important to realize these first few moments as a family are fleeting and you have the rest of the child’s life to spend time with them. Furthermore, if the mother is breastfeeding it’s going to be a continual buffet of boobies out for the baby so unless you’re comfortable seeing that keep your visit short.
The mom is also healing. Personally, I had an episiotomy so my healing was very painful and I could hardly walk without being in pain. I wasn’t up to having people over for extended periods of time.
Plus my husband only had about a week unpaid off work. We really wanted to make the most of his time off and allow him to rest as well.
My advice is to keep your visit sweet and short. Bring food, offer to clean up or do laundry and let mom, dad and baby bond.
Also, show up when you say you are going to. Most new moms are trying to get the baby fed or napped before you come over to maximize your visit. When you show up late it can cause frustration for the new mom who is still figuring everything out.
2. Bring over a meal
You can never go wrong by bringing a new family a filling, comforting meal. This is not the time to worry about being healthy. A new mom needs the extra calories especially if breastfeeding and to sustain her through all the long nights of caring for a newborn.
A few of my favourite meal/snack ideas are:
- Chicken Pot Pie from Sally’s Baking Addiction
- Sour Cream Enchiladas from Magnolia Table Cookbook
- My Go To Easy Week Night Meals
- Double any of the above meals and make one a freezer meal
- Trail mix for mom to snack on
Gift Ideas that are easy, quick and cheap that support a new mom:
- Grocery or takeout gift card
- Amazon or Walmart gift card
- Board book (this one is a best seller)
3. Send a supportive text
One of the best ways to support a new mom is to have other moms reach out to her. Whether it was to offer breastfeeding support or to make sure I was just doing okay emotionally, I appreciated knowing others were thinking about me.
I knew if I ever needed to I had people I could reach out to. A new mom can get all consumed with caring for her baby that she forgets to take care of herself. Don’t be afraid to reach out and offer tangible offers of help. Whether it’s going for a walk together or just coming over to hold the baby so mom can shower the offer is appreciated.
4. Ask if you can bring anything before visiting
Another thing I really appreciated was visitors stopping by the store to pick up some items I needed. For example, a thermometer, pain relief, extra diapers or even grabbing a coffee can all help to support a new mom.
5. Each and every mother is different so respect her cues
Some new moms loving having visitors and others prefer privacy. If you’re not sure of something ask the mother.
If she’s saying the baby is tired it might be a good time to leave or if the baby needs to fed, especially for moms who are breastfeeding.
The same applies to holding a baby, some mothers are comfortable passing the baby around while others prefer to keep their little one close. Each family has different preferences and is doing their best.