One of the blessings that come with becoming a senior citizen is the joy of being a grandparent. There are very few things that compare to that feeling of holding the child of your offspring in your arms. However, as joyous and beautiful as the birth of your grandchild is, it can be tainted by some ugliness if matters are not properly handled. 

Chief among these matters is the issue of postpartum care, also called “Omugwo” in some parts of Nigeria, during which mothers or mothers-in-law (as the case may be) play a vital role. In Nigeria, postpartum care typically involves a woman going to her daughter-in-law’s house to care for the latter when a new baby is born. 

We have discussed how a mother-in-law can nurture a great relationship with her daughter-in-law in a previous post. So today’s article will focus on caring for a daughter-in-law postpartum. 

The arrival of a new baby usually causes a measure of disruption in the family dynamics. Birthing a child is no small feat, and it takes its toll on the new mum physically, mentally, and emotionally, in addition to the already present obligation of meeting the family’s needs. Hence, caring for the new mum will require taking all of these needs into consideration, which can be challenging.

However, we will walk you through what to do and how to do it so that when those happy times come, you will help your daughter-in-law feel loved and cared for.

Things to do

  • Offer emotional support. Be there for her emotionally. She has just done the most amazing thing ever by giving you a grandchild. So she is bound to feel a bit drained with the hard work she did birthing the child and the new adjustments to having a tiny and fragile human totally dependent on her. The attendant sleep deprivation alone is enough to push a woman off the edge. Recognise these frailties and give her all the support you can. Listen to her, offer advice if she wants it, and just be there for her.
  • Help out with household chores and childcare. Give the new mother some much-needed time to recover and adjust to motherhood. Sometimes, this may be as simple as supervising others to ensure that things get done, or helping out with meal plans. 
  • Respect her wishes and boundaries. As much as you will love to help out, remember it’s her home, not yours. So it is vital that you do not overstep your bounds. 
  • Be progressive in your postpartum knowledge. There are innovative ways to care for your daughter-in-law which may be different from the way you were cared for. Research the latest information on postpartum care and ways to support a new mum. You do not want to be that grandma who uses a hot towel to massage a caesarean wound. Or do you?
  • Be kind and understanding. Anticipate the needs of the new mum since this is a journey you’re familiar with. If she’s not able to do some of the things she normally would, be patient with her.

What not to do

  • Don’t be a dictatorial mother-in-law who insists on her methods alone. Carry your daughter-in-law along and ensure that you do what she’s comfortable with, even if it seems odd to you. 
  • Don’t compare her experience to your own or anyone else’s. Each woman’s experience is unique and should be respected as such. 
  • Do not put undue pressure on her. This is not the time to make demands or try to exert your authority as a mother-in-law. Be considerate and treat her as you would your own daughter, because she is your daughter.
  • Don’t be overbearing or intrusive. It’s important to talk with your daughter-in-law about how she wants to be assisted postpartum. Things like what her needs are, and how much support you will be providing should be settled as quickly as possible. This way, the chances of misunderstanding each other will be minimal. 

It’s not uncommon for mothers-in-law to struggle to find the balance between helping out as much as possible, and staying within the bounds of propriety. Thus, it helps to bear in mind that the best thing you can do is offer your support and love during this time and treat your daughter-in-law the way she would like to be treated.