Ways to Help New Moms
Friends and family are always eager to find some way to help new parents. This is a great thing because new parents - new mamas especially - need a lot of help! No matter if this is the first or third baby, every baby is different and your friend or family member becomes a different mother with each birth. Her first baby may have slept often and in anyone’s arms. Her third baby may have the cry of a banshee and only want to be held by mama. You just never know and she doesn’t either! So here are my best tips on how to be helpful to a new mom.
Before visiting call and ask if she/the baby/the family needs anything. Has she run out of shampoo? Do they need milk or eggs? No? Insist that you bring over lunch or dinner. Unless the new mom says that the fridge is full of food/leftovers, bring them something to eat. Every time someone asked to visit us, I just asked them to grab food on the way over - Chipotle, MooYah, Five Guys, etc. - something tasty and edible. I always offered to send money on Venmo or Cash App but no one took me up on it. If they don’t need food, bring diapers! Always ask for the size/brand before you buy. Ask when the best time to visit is, set up a time within the specified hours, and then visit at that time. Respect that the entire family is trying to get into a new rhythm.
During your visit you should:
Get her a water. She needs it.
Offer to hold the baby so she can: shower, pee, or eat without a child in her arms.
Entertain her older child (if she has one).
Ask the dad about the birth of the baby - they always have something interesting/unexpected to contribute.
Tell her she’s doing a great job and that she and the baby look great.
During your visit you shouldn’t:
Take the baby from either parent without asking.
Wake up the baby so you can “see” them; as a newborn the baby can’t make out your face.
Overstay your welcome. If the baby slept your entire visit, good for the baby!
Bring extra visitors/invite unexpected guests.
Hold the baby while she entertains her older child (unless she asks!!).
Ask if she has a “good baby”… it’s her baby, of course it’s good.
Of course as time goes on and the mom and baby get out of the newborn phase, these lists won’t always apply. Be courteous and thoughtful when visiting any mama!
Ask the mom if she has errands you can run together, if she feels up to getting out of the house. She may feel anxious about her first trip to Target with the baby. Having a friend along may help ease that stress. Ask her if you can run her errands for her. Need to pick up the laundry? Some food for the dog? Need to take the dog for a walk? Extra diapers? The smallest things can take a huge stress off of the family. We keep an open notebook and a pencil on our kitchen counter for things we need. That way if one of us is running out, we can tear it off and grab the items. I suggest it to all new parents because you 1) you will forget things you need and 2) if someone is coming over and asks if you need anything, you’ll have that handy list to reference.
My thought is, if you see something that needs to be done around the house, just do it. Don’t ask if you can wash the dishes, or fold the laundry. If she’s anything like me, she’ll say no or that she’ll take care of it later. If you bring food and notice the trash is full, take it out. If you notice the floor needs sweeping, grab the broom and sweep. Your friend will say that you don’t have to that you not do it but you’re already doing it!
Your schedule may not match up to see the baby for a month or two. That doesn’t mean your friend doesn’t want to see you or won’t be thrilled to hear from you. Text or call your new mom friend to see how she’s doing! Check in on her and don’t expect an immediate response. There are some friends I haven’t seen in forever. Life is busy!! I didn’t realize how much my schedule would change when I became a parent. Rolling out of bed at 10AM and arranging couples’ brunch? Haha, yeah right! Last minute get-togethers with the girls? Not anymore! None of this means you have to be totally disconnected. Video chat your friend and her little one, if you’re too busy or sick and can’t make it for a visit. Don’t make your friend solely responsible for making your relationship work. There are so many ways to stay in touch and just say “I’m thinking of you”.
Only give advice when asked. The last thing a tired and sore new mama wants is advice when they didn’t ask for it. She may just want to talk about how her breastfeeding journey is going. She doesn’t expect you to come with a book of information unless you’re her doula or lactation consultant. Let her vent without judgement and without (likely bad) advice from your sister’s cousin about breastfeeding or co-sleeping or bottle-feeding or sleeping through the night. Multiple people suggested we put rice cereal in Luke’s bottle so he’d sleep longer. Oddly enough, his pediatrician had the exact opposite advice. Do you know who’s advice we followed? The medical professional. And really when was the last time you went to bed at 8PM and stayed asleep until 7AM? Why do we expect kids to do that regularly? Don’t stress her about something she can’t control.
Be available to listen, help, and lend a hand (or two) when you can. Encourage her to keep being the great mom she is but let her know that you’re there when she needs a reminder. It takes a village to support a new mama as she supports her family.