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Stop Telling Moms to “Ask for help!” Do This Instead

Updated: Feb 28, 2023

Photo of Shelley Rahim, founder of New Mother Caregiving
Shelley Rahim, founder of New Mother Caregiving

Shelley Rahim is wildly passionate about changing the culture of postpartum care in America. She believes families and friends want to do more than just drop off meals and help with chores–they want to offer loving care. She understands families may be unsure how to do that but they are willing to learn new traditions and techniques to support the new mother in a meaningful way.

Shelley is on a mission to ensure that the 4,000,000 babies born each year in the United States join peaceful families where mothers are nourished and supported for the first 40 days postpartum.

Bonsie Skin to Skin Babywear is excited to share Shelley’s knowledge and skills with your family so you can cherish your fourth trimester.

Because you, and every mother, deserves exquisite care from your family, friends and community.

“It’s common knowledge that postpartum mothers in the United States are overwhelmed and need a lot of support during the first 40 days after birth. When we find out that a loved one is struggling with postpartum depression or anxiety, a common bit of advice is to tell her to “Ask for help!” But, telling a postpartum mother to “Ask for help” doesn’t work. Asking for help is a very vulnerable thing to do, and postpartum mothers are already experiencing so much vulnerability in their lives as it is. I wanted to have a better understanding of why it’s so hard for postpartum mothers to ask for help, so I reached out to my instagram followers and asked them directly.

Here is what they said,

  • “Asking for help feels like I’m being lazy or failing at motherhood.”

  • “I feel guilty asking for help.”

  • “My needs feel foreign. I really don’t know what I need.”

  • “People only want to hold the baby, not clean and cook, which is what I desperately need.”

  • “The ‘helpers’ don’t know how to help, and explaining it to them causes more stress.”

  • “I feel like I’m burdening people.”

  • “I need emotional support but assume no one will understand.”

  • “I feel like I should be able to do it all.”

In westernized nations, we have been programmed from an early age to believe that independence is a sign of strength and asking for help is weak and lazy. This conditioning runs deep and doesn’t turn off when becoming a mother.

When we tell a postpartum mother to “Ask for help” we are putting the responsibility back on her, expecting her to be the director of the care she needs. This is asking a lot from a mother who is already depleted and overly-exhausted. The antidote to telling a postpartum mother to “Ask for help!” is to understand what her greatest needs are, and meet those needs, without her having to ask for it.

As a postpartum caregiver and chef, I’ve spent the past 15 years working with postpartum mothers, trying to understand exactly what their needs are. I, myself, am part of this culture and not immune to the deeply instilled value of toxic independence. I’ve had to do a lot of cultural deprogramming to be able to understand the needs of my clients. After thousands of hours caring for and feeding postpartum mothers, and studying how other cultures nourish and care for postpartum mothers, I finally feel like I truly understand how to meet their needs, without them having to ask.

Here are 8 things you can do to support a postpartum mother, without her having to ask!

Photo of home nurse making a bed

1. Make Her Bed

It’s the easiest thing to do, with the greatest ROI (return on investment). The clients I care for tell me it’s one of their favorite things about having a postpartum doula. Here’s why…

Postpartum mothers will spend 90% of their time in their bed, feeding and caring for the baby. This causes the sheets to get wrinkled and messy, the pillows and blankets disheveled and the bedside table a mess! So, when my clients get into the shower, I immediately make her bed and tidy up her bed and bedside table. You should see her face when she comes out of the shower and sees a crisply-made bed, pillows fluffed and put in the exact configuration she likes for feeding, her bedside table cleaned and her snacks and hydration restocked! The level of joy she experiences is a real oxytocin booster!

Here’s how to do it without her asking:

This is a task that will need to be done by someone staying in the home with the family. Be ready and waiting to do this for her the moment she gets into the shower. Act fast! Finish up before she’s done showering! There’s nothing better than to see her face when she comes out of the shower to a clean bed!

Young man smiling while cutting vegetables in preparation for a meal

2. Cook Her Meals

Taking care of a newborn baby and resting is a full-time job, to say the least. There is no time to cook nourishing meals for herself or her family. Just the thought of it is stress-inducing. Take this load off her back. Cook meals for her and the family, as much as you can, for as long as you possibly can. This is the number one thing you can do to support a postpartum mother. This will look different for each person depending on your relationship with the mother. It can range anywhere from preparing, cooking and serving three meals a day (like I do with my clients) for the first three to six weeks after birth…to…delivering a home-cooked meal every Sunday for the first 6 weeks.

Here’s how to do it without her asking:

During her pregnancy, tell her you will be cooking her meals for her for xx amount of days. Ask her for a menu of all the meals/recipes she would like you to cook for her and the family. Be sure to have her include foods to avoid. Put it on your schedule to grocery shop, prepare, cook and serve those meals to her after she arrives home from the hospital. Another great way to provide her with nourishment is to make her a large batch of homemade bone broth and stock her freezer with it! Bone broth is the world’s greatest healing elixir for postpartum mothers. It will be easy for her to defrost and sip on it daily.

Man vacuuming a livingroom

3. Clean Her House

Everyone has different standards for cleanliness, but even those of us who are ok with a little bit of mess, really appreciate a clean home during the postpartum phase of life! Here’s why it matters…

The postpartum mother’s brain is undergoing a massive reconstruction. Old ways of thinking and being are crumbling, yet, the new neuropathways that are shaping who she is becoming have not yet taken hold. There’s a natural state of chaos inside the mother’s mind that takes place during the first 40 days after birth. It’s just part of the transformation process. During this time of psychological deconstruction, it’s helpful to have order and cleanliness in her external environment.

Here’s how to do it without her asking:

Clean the main-use areas on a daily basis. Her bathroom and bedroom need tidying up at least once per day. Keep her kitchen clean for her. Here’s my client’s favorite…when she leaves the house for the baby’s first pediatrician visit (on or around day three), clean her home from top-to-bottom! Coming home to a spotless house is one of the greatest gifts you can give a mother with a 3-day old baby!

Husband and wife drinking tea in bed while sharing a laugh

4. Warm Her Up!

After the baby has vacated the womb, mothers report a feeling that is hard to describe. They say it feels cold and empty. The remedy for this feeling is warmth. Keeping a postpartum mother’s body warm, inside and out, is a commonly practiced postpartum in non-westernized societies all over the world. This is because warmth facilitates healing by soothing the nervous system and relaxing the mother’s body. I keep all my clients warm, at all times, and they recover from birth beautifully!

Here’s how to do it without her asking:

Buy her a heating pad and tell her to put it in her birth bag. After the baby is born, instruct her partner or doula to put it on her womb. Tell her to keep it on her womb as much as possible while at the hospital. It will take the chill off and help her feel warm and grounded. This is especially necessary if the mother and baby must be separated. Mother’s will feel an emptiness on their chest and in their womb. Applying the heating pad will provide comfort until she is reunited with her baby. Encourage her to continue to use the heating pad on her womb when she arrives home from the hospital.

Another way to provide warmth is to purchase a 32oz Tea Thermos and tell her you will make her a pot of tea every day and put it on her bedside table. Each morning, make a large 64 ounce batch of CCF Tea or Mother’s Milk Tea and fill her thermos for daytime sipping. Refill it at night before she goes to bed. A warm cup of tea during night feedings will make her feel so loved and nourished!

Father holding baby in early morning light

5. Take The Baby At 5AM

After being up all night feeding the baby, having someone there to take the baby during the early morning feeding is a godsend! Take the baby and keep her/him happy for 2-3 hours so the mother can get a good nap. Those 2-3 hour stretches of deep sleep is when the mother’s body does its deepest healing work. I’ve found that most babies will sleep for longer stretches during the early morning hours, especially with a designated baby holder!

How to do it without her asking:

Talk about this during pregnancy. Tell her that you want to do everything possible to encourage her to rest and will be happy to take a morning shift so she can sleep in. After the baby is born and the mother is home from the hospital, make the plans. Before going to bed at night, tell her that you are expecting to be woken up at 5AM to take the baby so she can sleep. Keep this routine going, or something similar, until the mother and baby have settled and recovered from the birth.

Happy couple standing in window holding a baby

6. Listen To Her Birth Story

Giving birth, whether it’s a vaginal birth, cesarean or some combination of both, is a massive life event filled with challenging moments and beautiful moments. Emotional processing of the birth experience is an important part of becoming a mother. When a postpartum mother tells her birth story to a quiet and compassionate listener, she may discover something new and powerful about herself.

How to do it without her asking:

Take a moment each day to ask her how she’s doing. Ask her if there is a moment from her birth she would like to share. She may or may not feel like sharing, and that’s ok. Honor where she’s at. Just asking her how she’s doing shows that someone cares about her mental and emotional journey. When she does share her story with you, or a moment from her birth story, do your best to just listen. Here are some Do’s and Don’ts for how to listen to a birth story: 1) Don’t interrupt 2) Don’t judge 3) Don’t share your birth story 4) Do validate her (“Wow! You were so strong!) 5) Do ask her what her favorite moment was 6) Do ask her what giving birth has taught her about herself.

Blueberry muffins being pulled out of oven after baking

7. Make Lactation Muffins

My clients absolutely LOVE my homemade lactation muffins! There’s a deep level of comfort felt from a muffin made with love. Breastfeeding mothers are hungry…all the time! So, keeping her snacking plate stocked with delicious, healthy, homemade muffins is one of the highest expressions of love you can give to a postpartum mother.

How to do it without her asking:

During the final weeks of her pregnancy, tell her that you will be in charge of her “snacking plan” and will be making her lactation muffins for the first three weeks after birth. Go to my postpartum recipe blog and save all the lactation muffin recipes. The day she arrives home from the hospital is when you will deliver her first batch of lactation muffins. Plan to make and deliver three batches per week for as many weeks as you possibly can. Make sure the family knows these are for HER only!

Pregnant woman getting massage from a doula

8. Massage Her Achy Body

Research has shown that giving birth to a baby is metabolically equivalent to completing high-level endurance athletic activities, such as marathons and triathlons. In fact, one study showed that birthing a baby is as high of an energy expenditure as completing the ironman triathlon. Mothers deserve a massage! Massage helps to soothe her nervous system, reducing anxiety. It also helps regulate her hormones and reduces swelling in her body. Most importantly, massage fosters a feeling of pleasure and love.

Here’s how to do it without her asking:

During the final weeks of her pregnancy, tell her that you would like to start massaging her feet and legs and/or her back, 2-3 times per week. Ask her when would be a good time to come over to do it. Be very clear that this is not a visit or social time. It’s ONLY about the massage. No chatting and staying longer, it's an intentional time for her to practice receiving. Explain that to her. Then, if she seems to really enjoy her prenatal massages with you, tell her that you will do this for her XX amount of times per week during the first XX weeks after the birth. Keep the massage sessions short intentional. You might have to coordinate a time that works well with the baby’s nap schedule. If you time it right, the mother can fall asleep while you are massaging her and then you can quietly slip out.

This list offers a variety of ways to help a postpartum mother so you can choose the activity that excites you the most. Even if you only do one small thing from this list (without her having to ask), it will have a huge impact on her postpartum experience. The best part about doing these small acts of service is that it will strengthen your relationship and deepen your bond with each other. These acts of kindness will remain in her heart forever and she will pay it forward to someone else someday. This is how we build a culture of care in America.”

For more great advice from Shelley follow her on Instagram: @newmothercaregiving or go to her website:

Shelley’s passion for postpartum care is going to change the world for new moms and their babies. Thank you, Shelley!

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1 Comment

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