Having a baby is a very exciting time in your life, but with it comes a lot of struggles for new parents. The lack of sleep alone is a big challenge, and if there are other children in your house it makes it even more difficult. All of your focus is centered on this new tiny being as you learn their personality and answer all their cries. Do they need a diaper change? Hungry? Gassy? Over stimulated? It can definitely be a guessing game and can be so draining.
While I know you can't take much time for yourself, try to get at least some time. Do not be afraid to ask for specific things that may help make your days a little easier. Most friends and family are glad to help, they just don't always know what would be most helpful to you. I'll never forget my mom coming over when my baby was brand new. She didn't come over to hold the baby, although she loved doing that. No, she came over and did my dishes. She also grabbed a bag of laundry to take to her house and get washed, dried, and folded for me. Although it doesn't seem like much, those small gestures of kindness helped my mental state more than anyone can imagine.
I understand that not everyone has the same type of support system. But there are programs out there that can help. Also, know the signs of post partum depression and talk to your doctor immediately if you feel you have any of the symptoms.
If you know someone that has recently had a baby, here are some things you can do to help out.
1. Drop off food. New parents are way too busy (and exhausted) to ponder what they’re going to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Help them out by dropping a meal on the doorstep, text that the grub is there (don’t ring the doorbell), and be prepared to go along with your day. If you get to see the baby or parents, bonus! Don’t worry, your normal hangout sessions will continue after a few months.
2. Organize others to drop off food.
Mealtrain.com is a fantastic and easy way for a bunch of friends to pitch in and make sure the new parents are being fed during those hectic early days and months. The leader of the mealtrain can provide participants with a list of favorite foods, restaurants to order from (and specific orders), and grocery store staples. Look to get the new mama and papa a combination of healthy meals (including homemade options), one-hand snacks (who has two hands these days?!), and a few indulgent choices in there, too. (Sure, she might be on an eventual quest to loose those baby pounds, but no one doesn’t want freshly baked chocolate-chip cookies.)
3. Offer to run some errands for her. Does she need unglamorous stuff like nursing pads and diapers? Offer to grab it for her. Is her car low on gas? Fill it up for her. Also, if you find yourself near her neighborhood, a quick text to see if she needs anything is always appreciated.
4. Offer to run some errands with her. That’s right, some moms would rather pour over all of the nipple cream possibilities instead of having a friend take their best guess. In these cases, offer to scoop the mom and baby up, and tend to the kid while your friend tries on nursing bras at Target or finds whatever else she might need.
5. Mind the conversation. While your new mom friend is still essentially the same person, she’s had a bit of a priority shift. Just be mindful that she might be more interested in discussing breastfeeding, diaper rash, sleep training, and other baby minutia for the first few months than your personal issues. Although, perhaps talking about the happenings in your life might feel like a welcome escape for her, just feel it out. And try not to take offense if it’s the former scenario.
6. Ask what you can do to be helpful. If the mom can’t come up with anything, look around the house and suggest some stuff. Can you fold some laundry? Wipe down the bathroom counter? Empty and refill the dishwasher? (Just please don’t ask her where every dish goes. Try to figure it out yourself.) If you’re not into cleaning and are feeling especially generous, offer to pay a housecleaner for an hour.
7. Pamper her. Trust, her body is all kinds of effed-up after having a baby (and now carrying it around all day long). Either offer to babysit so that mom can get a massage, haircut, or mani/pedi. Or, if she’d rather keep the baby close, offer to take her to the venue and watch the baby while she’s getting primped or rubbed down.
8. Don’t stay too long. (Unless you’re watching the baby while mom sleeps…then stay forever!) But, seriously, keeping a long, coherent conversation and having a high-quality hang sesh with a new mom is probably not happening these days. Don’t take it personally. It’s just temporary. She still loves you, she just doesn’t have the bandwidth to socialize like she used to.
9. Take the big kids off her hands. If your new mom friend already has another kid, offer to entertain the oldest one(s) and let mom and dad spend some solo time with the newest addition.
10. Don’t just focus on the baby. With the attention of everyone so squarely on the baby, sometimes the amazingness of the new mom gets lost in the shuffle. Gifting her with a great pair of button-down PJ’s, a bouquet of flowers, or throwing her a low-key potluck with her best girlfriends can all help her feel appreciated and special.