Why the best gift for a new mum is effective support and help around the house


  • Family
  • Wednesday, 12 Jun 2024

A baby's birth is a joyous occasion, but it is also a time when a new mother faces many challenges, making social and family support vital. — 123rf

EMBARKING on the journey of motherhood is a big transition, one that profoundly alters every aspect of a woman’s life.

It brings a unique set of challenges, from sleepless nights and physical recovery to navigating breastfeeding and managing the emotional rollercoaster of postpartum life.

And despite the joy and fulfilment a new baby brings, new mothers often find themselves in dire need of support, understanding and practical assistance to ease them into their new life and role.

“It is one of the biggest shifts in a woman’s life. It changes almost everything – her inner self, her physiology and her surroundings,” says lactation consultant and Bondahaven founder Dr Tengku Nur ‘Atiqah Tengku Mahmood.

“From the outside, things might look cheerful, but from a new mother’s perspective, things can be difficult, confusing and overwhelming,” she adds.

Gloria Michael, whose baby is one, agrees. “The little bundle of joy in your arms means the world to you, but you will also discover so many other things; the whole experience is daunting.”

Michael, who had caesarean section, says not only did she have to adjust to her new role as a mother, she also had to deal with postpartum blues, mentally and physically.

“I couldn’t do simple things without help, which added to the mild postpartum depression that I faced. I had this overwhelming urge to cry for no reason,” says the teacher from Kuala Lumpur.

Siti Nurathirah and husband Mohd Ridzwan with their daughter Sara Medina. — SITI NURATHIRAH MOHD YUSOFSiti Nurathirah and husband Mohd Ridzwan with their daughter Sara Medina. — SITI NURATHIRAH MOHD YUSOF

New routine

Stay-at-home mum Siti Nurathirah Mohd Yusof, 27, finds adjusting to her new routine challenging, something that no book or consultation could prepare her for.

“Everything had to align with the baby’s schedule; not to mention learning new things, especially about breastfeeding which at times, was very stressful,” says the mother to a one-year-old baby.

Dr Tengku Nur ‘Atiqah says navigating postpartum changes while trying to figure out how to breastfeed can easily stress and overwhelm a mother. She says that the most common challenge new mothers face is to successfully breastfeed their infants.

“I couldn’t breastfeed for long as my milk production was low, which is why I’ve made a mental note to sign up for a prenatal lactation class to help me with this in future,” says Michael.

Indar Nordin, a certified postnatal carer with the Ministry of Health’s Traditional and Complementary Medicine Practitioners Division says the postnatal period is the most important phase for new mothers to carry their new role and identity positively.

“It is vital for new mothers to heal properly and for this, they need all the support and guidance they can get,” she says.

Clinical psychologist Dr Pamilia Lourdunathan emphasises that new mothers need to put themselves first. “It’s like the in-flight instruction; you need to put on your own oxygen mask first before assisting others. Mothers need to give themselves 100% to be able to give their best to their baby,” she adds.

Dr Tengku Nur ‘Atiqah says people often get carried away with the excitement of seeing a baby that they forget all about the mother. — DR. TENGKU NUR ‘ATIQAH TENGKU MAHMOODDr Tengku Nur ‘Atiqah says people often get carried away with the excitement of seeing a baby that they forget all about the mother. — DR. TENGKU NUR ‘ATIQAH TENGKU MAHMOOD

Support system

The best way to cope with these changes, Dr Tengku Nur ‘Atiqah says, is to prepare and learn before welcoming a baby and getting as much support as possible, be it from your spouse, family, friends or paid and professional help.

“Identify people who could be a positive support early on and get them on board to help you when the time comes,” she adds.

Dr Tengku Nur ‘Atiqah says a husband’s support is the most crucial by far. “Get him involved from the beginning and make him learn necessary topics, especially about breastfeeding, to help him ease himself into the new role.”

“Of course, professional help from a certified confinement lady and a certified lactation counsellor can be incredibly helpful as well,” she adds.

Both Michael and Siti Nurathirah say that support from their families – especially their husbands – helped them go through the early, most difficult phase of motherhood.

“It is the best support system a new mother should get,” Siti Nurathirah says.

Michael adds: “A solid support system will help a new mum navigate the challenges of motherhood.”

Indar says the postnatal period is the most important time for new mothers to heal. — INDAR NORDINIndar says the postnatal period is the most important time for new mothers to heal. — INDAR NORDIN

Indar says a husband plays a significant role to comfort his wife by being empathetic to her discomfort and struggles. “Treat her gently and compassionately. This will help stabilise her emotions and ease her pain,” she adds.

Pamilia says social support from family and friends provides a sense of belonging and comfort, ensuring a new mother that she is not alone.

“It also provides a space for new mothers to share their innermost fears or concerns,” says the assistant professor at the Department of Psychology, International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM).

On top of social and professional support, Pamilia recommends new parents to join peer support groups through social media platforms and attend workshops and classes designed for them.

Michael says the beginning of motherhood is daunting. — GLORIA MICHAELMichael says the beginning of motherhood is daunting. — GLORIA MICHAEL

What new mothers want

“Give us space and time to vent and to rest,” Michael and Siti Nurathirah unanimously reply when asked about how others can support new mothers better.

Dr Tengku Nur ‘Atiqah says often, people get carried away with the excitement of seeing a baby that they forget all about the mother.

“Ask the mother how she is. She will have a lot of questions, and it is important for her support system to help answer all these for her,” she says.

While listening and empathising with their grievances are important, Pamilia says those around them also have to look out for any red flags of baby blues.

“If these symptoms prolong for an extended period, they can signal the possible onset of postpartum depression,” she adds.

Postpartum depression, she says, can be mitigated by helping new mothers return to their old routine and social circle, such as hanging out with friends.

“They crave normalcy, and by visiting them, you allow them to care for their babies without missing out on the fun they used to have,” Pamilia says.

Indar, who has been a therapist and confinement lady for over 10 years, says the first two weeks after birth is a crucial period and three core areas that are essential for new mothers are physical rehabilitation, emotional support and baby care.

“To ensure that these are well taken care of, new mothers need enough rest, a balanced and nutritious diet and good time management,” she says.

Besides strong support system from their loved ones and peer support groups, Indar recommends new mothers to consider utilising confinement food delivery services.

“Confinement meal delivery service is very helpful. It allows new mothers and their caretakers to focus on taking care of the mother and her baby,” she says.

Pamilia says: “Attention from their families in the form of massage sessions, nice hearty meals, help with babysitting and doing chores are extremely helpful to new mothers.”

“Many new mums feel neglected and perceive themselves as less than who they used to be. They need to be pampered, loved, reassured and understood,” Pamilia concludes.

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