Taking Care of Your Newborn and Yourself without Family Nearby

In years past when people had babies, they’d be surrounded by family and friends to support them. Even longer ago, many communities supported new parents and raised babies in a communal way. These days, though, many people live far from family, maybe because of a job or other life circumstance. If you’re in that boat, try not to worry! It may be tricky, but you can definitely take care of your newborn and yourself without family close by. Read on for ideas of how to make it work.

Leverage Your Local Network

Whether you’ve lived in your current location for years or are new to the area, there are ways to find help and support locally. The key here is to just ask. First, check in with friends. Are there people who could make a meal for you postpartum or maybe another friend who wouldn’t mind running errands? Perhaps a friendly neighbor who wouldn’t mind taking your dog for a walk while they walk their own pup. Or maybe you’re in a prenatal yoga class with other pregnant people who would like to form a support group.

Another way to get support is to look to groups of people. Are you a member of a church, synagogue, or mosque? Do you (or your partner) work at a large company with plenty of coworkers? Are you part of a fitness community at a gym or yoga studio? Do you have other children and could ask for help from their school or childcare communities? Get creative about where you look for support and the type of support you look for. Maybe no one is going to cook for you, but they’re happy to donate money so that you can get takeout.

Overall, try to tap into these networks before the baby comes. If people don’t seem willing to help, then ask someone else. Many people are VERY willing to help and just want to be told what to do.

Lean On Your Partner

If you have a partner, have discussions early in your pregnancy and often as you approach baby’s birth about what things may look like after birth. There are no guarantees, but you can at least talk generally and strategize about different specifics that might arise. (Check out this post from The Pulse about making a post-birth plan.) If your partner has a parental leave option at work, they need to figure out how to take it in order to support you, especially in the first few weeks after birth.

Bring Family In From Afar

Many grandparents are eager to come help after baby is born, even if they live very far away. If it’s an option in your family, talk with the grandparents-to-be before baby arrives about specifics. Grandparents can be wonderful caregivers, but it can also be stressful having them in your space, so just really think it through before you commit to something. Another family option might be a younger cousin or sibling who is exciting about caring for you and baby after birth. You could pay this person (like an au pair) or not, but just make sure everyone is on the same page before they come.

Hire a Doula

This last option carries a financial aspect that many of the suggestions above do not, but it might be right for you. A doula is a trained helper that you can hire. Birth doulas are generally with you during birth, while postpartum doulas specialize in the time after baby is born. They can offer baby care suggestions, cook, clean, and take care of the person who’s just given birth.

Most postpartum doulas work on a contract where you pay for a certain number of hours of support (say 30) and then they divide that time up and come for three or four hours three days a week for several weeks. It can be really great to have someone around who has a lot of baby and postpartum knowledge and experience, but isn’t judgmental about your choices—sometimes even better than family. You can find a postpartum doula and interview them before your baby is born by doing a simple internet search or asking other parents or your care provider for local recommendations.

Abby Olena
Dr. Abby Olena has a PhD in Biological Sciences from Vanderbilt University. She lives with her husband and children in North Carolina, where she writes about science and parenting, produces a conversational podcast, and teaches prenatal yoga.

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