How can family members be extra helpful to a Mom recovering from a Cesarean section?

Updated Oct 12 2015
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twins We just welcomed twins into our family! I'm thrilled to have a new niece and nephew, but my sister-in-law had a Cesarean section and no one else in our family has ever experienced one.

I've always helped and done what I can to help our family's new moms with housework, pre-made meals, and doing whatever little things they need to have done if welcome — but I'm not sure if there's something extra I could be doing in this case.

Is there anything I need to know or that would be helpful to a new Mom who is recovering from surgery on top of looking after two newborns? — Kate

  1. After my c-section, I was alone because my Honey deployed, but the most helpful thing would of been having someone to do some carrying. With those muscles healing it is excruciating to even carry the baby sometimes, let alone full laundry baskets or groceries.

    But that was my experience, she may have totally different needs, so just ask.

  2. After I had my c-section, the most helpful thing to me was just having stuff (and baby) brought to me because it's so hard to get up when you can't use your ab muscles. I think setting up a little basket with all of her needs so that she can keep it next to her on the couch or bed, would be really great. Fill it with things like snacks, a water bottle (that should always be filled for her,) nursing supplies if she's breastfeeding or bottles and formula if she's not, books/magazines, TV remote (I spent those first few weeks basically glued to the couch nursing the baby, so I watched a lot of streaming Netflix,) burp clothes, etc. Of course, fixing the meals and cleaning and stuff, is always good ­čÖé

  3. I've had 2 C-Sections, the first for my oldest boy, and the second for my twin girls.

    From what you say, you already offer to help with housework and making meals – I wish someone had offered to help me that way! The only thing I can think to add would be shopping, and depending on how she's decided to feed the twins, perhaps helping with feeding them – I breastfed, and regularly wished I had someone else to take over, just for 1 night! Everyone can help with nappy changing too, and changing the babies – in our house it was a never ending challenge! Washing clothes certainly helps too…

    Perhaps you could even offer your Taxi services?

    Hope that helps!
    Cat

  4. After mine, I felt that bonding with my daughter was extra important since we'd both experienced the physical trauma of a c-section. This included establishing a good breastfeeding relationship. I can only imagine this being even more important with two babies! The worst thing for me was when visitors acted like they had a right to hold my baby even when she was hungry or just needed me for comfort.

    Therefore, make it clear that you are there to support her. If that involves helping with or holding the babies, do that. If it involves running to the store, making meals, or cleaning the catbox, do that. I would say the most important thing to do is ask what she needs, don't make any assumptions, and make it clear that you're willing to do the most boring and menial of tasks to help the family out.

  5. I felt physically helpless the first few days after my c-section. I couldn't even sit up without help. So having someone there to help do little things that were otherwise painful and difficult for me was important (i.e helping me get in a comfortable position to breastfeed; handing me things that were out of my reach; helping me change my clothes; helping me walk to the bathroom) After I got my first shower in the hospital, I couldn't reach high enough to brush my own hair. My sister was there and she brushed and braided it for me. It was so loving and really meant a lot to me.

  6. I think the first posts have it covered…and what a good friend/family member you are!

    Any visits to new moms should be limited because of fatigue, but if you can arrange a list of folks (friends etc) to make meals for the first six weeks (freezable ideally so it's easy to use as needed)-that will be a huge help for any new mom. For a a C-section movement is limited by necessity so even setting up a schedule with you and or other family to both deliver meals but also come in and help wash and fold and put away laundry, do the dishes, sweep the floor, that kind of thing will be a huge help (we are expecting another baby now, likely also by C-section, and since my mother in law isn't able to do this she is offering to help hire someone which is another great solution). Grocery shopping will be a HUGE help for any mom but especially after a C-section since she wont be able to carry much.

    Another idea is make a short list of things to help with (like the above) and have it out for anyone who visits: ie please limit your visit to 20 minutes and help with one of these things…so that others know how to be helpful too!

    She's a lucky lady to have you thinking of her this way!

  7. I'm 7 weeks from my c-section. My partner and I were lucky that we could both take 6 weeks off together. I needed a lot of help with just standing up, sitting down, getting out of bed, and general moving around. For the first two weeks, I couldn't even stand long enough to change a diaper.

    I commissioned my partner for a lot of "mini-walks": first, around the house, and then later…up and down the block. I couldn't go by myself and I couldn't go very far.

    Having a sort of spotter was very helpful and good for recovery in general.

  8. I think mostly being aware that she has just come out of a major abdominal surgery is key — she really shouldn't be lifting many things but with a new baby & all that entails, not lifting things is nearly impossible!! Be upfront: tell her that you are there to help with anything she needs, but that you aren't there to get into the way of her bonding time with her new child unless she needs a break, or just needs help with lifting/changing diapers/whatever other little baby task that involves painful lifting. Doing grocery shopping is SO helpful, especially if her partner isn't able to help with that task either. Another thing that is great is bringing over home-prepared freezer meals. Even if her partner is an awesome cook, having all the prep-work already done for a meal & just needing to put it in the oven, or heat it up in a pot can be such a relief!

    One really cool thing that a family friend organized for my cousin was a meal-delivery system. Family members & close friends would commit to 1 or 2 days a month & bring over a meal that could be warmed up quickly in the oven (or was still warm, if they lived real close). Even though my cousin's partner is an amazing cook, this helped them in a huge way. No prep time for meals! Hardly ever having to spend time worrying about what to make for dinner! That gave them so much more time to spend on their kids & getting everything else around the house taken care of.

  9. I totally agree with the folk who mentioned carrying. I ended up with an unplanned c section and I was unprepared for the amount of help I needed the first week or so. I couldn't sit up in bed without help. My daughter was in an arms reach cosleeper next to my bed when not on my arms. My mom or husband had to lift her up to me. That little 6 inch drop in height between me and the cosleeper was too much to navigate. It was unbelievable. I'm sure she will appreciate you just making yourself available for even small things like handing her a baby!

  10. *Driving for errands, such as doctor visits, picking up prescriptions, any lactation consultant appointments.
    *Babysitting during doctor visits (especially for twins, I would imagine!). She will have to go to doc a few times for staple removal and other checks.
    *Bring food she can eat with one hand, preferably fresh and healthy.
    *Run interference with nosy/unhelpful visitors and keep it peaceful.
    *Exercise support is definitely nice around the 2-week point when she will probably get permission to go for walks. I felt vulnerable being outside alone.
    *And don't stick around more than an hour or two! I wish someone had told my in-laws that.
    It's nice to help out! Congrats on the two new family members!

  11. Lifting, doing any type of physical housework, or sometimes just walking around the house was completely exhausting to me for the first few weeks after my c-section. Standing long enough to even cook something would have been exhausting and painful. Sandwiches were my best friend.

    I made a basket full of things that I needed, snacks, remotes, water bottles, nipple cream (bottles and formula can go here, too), burp cloths, pain meds and kept that near me. Anything to prevent getting up when you're not ready to get up would be helpful after a c-section.

  12. After my csection and those first weeks with newborn twins after help with keeping the house completely functioning (good food, clean house, trash, laundry) I was most desperate for a nap and a little adult conversation, but especially for people to watch my babies so I could nap.

  13. My c-section was unplanned. Physically I healed really well. I was up and about much sooner than I thought. Emotionally, it was a lot tougher. Just being able to talk about my birth experience helped. Just do the normal helping-a-new-mom stuff and let her know you're there for her if she wants to talk about her birth experience. And encourage her to seek out support elsewhere if she feels she needs it.

  14. Don't offer, Do. Clean. Cook. Diaper. Hold baby so she can sleep. Drive. All great suggestions.

    Offer to check her scar if you & she would be comfortable with that. She'll need to be checking it daily and you may have a better view of it.

    Suggest she avoid stairs & go up&down them for her if needed items are in the wrong story of the house (if applicable).

    Suggest she stay a nightgown to remind herself & visitors that she's just had major surgery.

    • "Don't offer, do!" is one of those things to be a touch careful about, I think. It's true that it can be very helpful not to force someone who is already overwhelmed to come up with tasks for you to do (the problematic "anything I can do to help?" offer), but some new moms will also want a bit of "veto" power over stuff they might be embarrassed about or have a special process for. I think there's a compromise – you can say "Is it ok if I….." or "Hey, I'm going to clean/cook/do……., ok?" That way she can usually just say "that would be great," but if she has a particular objection or request she gets the chance to voice it.

  15. I too am a c-section mum and I was flattened by the experience. I think most things have been covered by eveyone else but I'd like to add that someone should help keep tabs on her pain medication. When you're in pain and exhausted it can hard to keep track of these things and you certainly don't want to take too much or let pain have a chance to get in in these circumstances. I found hot wheat packs helped with discomfort around the wound as well.

    • I TOTALLY agree about being on top of her pain medication. I just had a c-section 3 weeks ago and the nurses in the hospital were really bad about making sure I was taking my pain medication and let it lapse while I was sleeping a few times, making getting up to go to the bathroom an EXCRUCIATING experience first thing in the morning.

      After about 5 days I was basically totally fine with some pain medication. After about a week and a half I didn't even need ibuprofen anymore.

      Encourage her to get up and walk around, even if it takes extra pain meds to do it. As long as the medication level is safe, I think it is better to get up and move around (which will help recovery) than to lie in bed in pain to avoid the medication, which is what I did for the first couple of days.

  16. I had my 2nd c-section 5 weeks ago, compared to my 1st, I felt great, I was mobile and mostly pain free. But I felt so good that I pushed myself and became exhausted and just crashed, emotionally and physically. My tip is if she is feeling good and strong, be supportive of that but just gently remind her she's had surgery and still needs to rest and that it's ok to accept help even of you are feeling well.

  17. I had two c-sections and I thought both were the worst pain I've ever felt. I'm allergic to most pain meds so was on regular old Tylenol. With the first one, I had lots of help but with the second one I had almost none. I REALLY wish someone had been there to let me rest, to help me out with cleaning, help me care for my older child, etc. So even if you could offer to sit with the babies so she can have a nap or straighten up a little, I'm sure she'd really appreciate it.

  18. What I wish people had done for me a few months back (note, this is all after-thought; had I thought if it then, I would've asked!)
    *take her for a drive/get her out for fresh air & sunlight.
    *take the kids outside for supervised play (and so mom has quiet)
    *visit her & just sit there without offering to help (sometimes i just wanted company! sometimes "no thanks, no help needed" means just that!)
    *go for a walk with her/push her to go for a walk with you
    *rub her feet (man was my circulation terrible for weeks afterwards)
    *take out the bathroom trash (gross, yes; helpful beyond words, yes)
    *make dinner there for the kids; heating up in microwave is easy for mom, but kids (and mom!) love the process of dinner being made, the sounds, smells & companionship
    *call first, just don't show up (help & company is great but so is privacy)
    YOU ARE A GREAT FRIEND TO HER!!!!
    *

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