The first few weeks of a baby’s life is such a beautiful, special time. It is also difficult, weird and even painful – often requiring various forms of help from family or friends of the new parents. Here, I am sharing six ways you can help new moms and dads based on my own recent experience.
When I was pregnant, I actually thought that I wasn’t going to need help when I had the baby. I am stubborn and independent to a fault (#tauruswomen), so the thought that I would need to rely on others for mundane tasks freaked me out. Thankfully, my mom and MIL showed up and were total lifesavers! They literally helped me shower, use the bathroom and learn how to nurse – not mention shopped, cooked and cleaned. Of course, my husband did all that and more, but he was almost as sleep deprived and exhausted as I was – and was also adjusting to life as a new dad. So, if you are in a position to do so, offer to help AFTER the baby comes. Nothing like pushing out a 8 lb 7 oz baby to give a girl some humility.
But know when to back off.
My mom and MIL both came to save my ass after I had my baby. While all the help was wonderful, having both of them stay with us was a lot. Any extra energy (even positive) can have an exhausting effect. So, if you’re visiting new parents, please don’t stay all day, arrive late in the evening or discuss upsetting issues. New moms are in a very sensitive physical and mental state. Be mindful of the energy you’re bringing into her home (#goodvibesonly) and don’t overstay your welcome.
In my case, my mom decided that it would be best to spread out the help. When we got home from the hospital, she left for a week so that my MIL (who lives farther away) could assist us and bond with the baby. My MIL stayed, was incredibly helpful and left after a week – at which point my mom came back and stayed with us another week. Two weeks of help was a great time frame – it allowed us to recover and get our bearings about us, without intruding too much into my husband’s Paid Family Leave (thank you NYS!) A huge added bonus? My mom took my two dogs back to her home and took care of them for the week. This brings me to my next point:
Help with the pets!
It is nerve wracking to bring a brand new baby home from the hospital to animals. We have two dogs, and our anticipation of their reaction to the baby was an anxiety provoking unknown during pregnancy. We actually listened to YouTube videos of babies crying while lying in bed with them to try to get them used to the sound. LOL. Thankfully, everything worked out fine. But, animals need to be walked, fed, paid attention to and generally taken care of- which is
a little extremely difficult when you have a newborn. So please – offer to help with the pets! Even if you can’t take them for an extended time, I am sure the offer of an hour of pet sitting or dog walking would be greatly appreciated.
Support whatever way she wants to feed her baby.
Nursing my baby was a big priority for me, and I was lucky enough to have a super strong support system in doing so. My mother and MIL are both huge advocates of nursing. They encouraged me to continue even when I was deliriously exhausted, anxious and felt pressure from the doctors to give formula. I truly believe that having a strong support system is probably the biggest indicator of successful breastfeeding outcomes, and I am so grateful to my family for their support.
On the flip side, some women are unable to or do not wish to breastfeed. When a new mom makes this known, please respect her choice. No parent wants to hear that “breast is best” when her baby is formula fed with no plan to go to the breast. And ultimately, a happy and stable mom is what is best for baby.
Whether it is breast or bottle, help mom reach her goals for feeding baby. That might be visiting with her or bringing her a cup of coffee while she nurses (yes, it is fine) or preparing and washing bottles. Either way, do not shame her for her choices, whatever they are. If you are privileged enough to be around in the precious first days of a baby’s life, that means that mom needs your support in meeting her goals – not the other way around.
Bring allllllllll the food.
I have never eaten as well as I did the first few weeks after my son was born. Starting from hours after the birth, my Dad and husband took multiple trips to Wegmans per day, and I got everything my heart desired – (sushi and turkey sub, anyone?). Both my mom and MIL are excellent cooks and made delicious meals each day and night they were here. I am still dreaming of my MIL’s linguine with clam sauce, turkey chili and Asian lettuce wraps; and my Mom’s cucumber blueberry salad, goat cheese bruschetta and watermelon juice. Yes, the woman actually juiced a watermelon for me. I might have another baby again just to eat like this after. (JK).
Speaking of food, now is not the time to comment on a new mom’s body, weight gain, weight loss, or nutrition habits. Unless it is to tell her how fabulous she looks. Even though she probably doesn’t. 🙂
6. Give hand-me-downs.
Between spit ups, milk spills and poop explosions, newborns change outfits about a million times a day, meaning they basically cannot have too many clothes. We were lucky enough to have super generous friends, family and coworkers who gave us tons of hand-me-downs for the baby. Many of these pieces were worn over and over; and ended up being our favorites! Each time I dressed my baby in a hand-me-down, I thought about how grateful I was for the generosity of the giver- and I still do! You can #KonMari AND help out a new family. Double win!
So, these were the six best ways I was helped as a new parent! What do you think, mamas? Any other suggestions? I would love to hear from you! Leave a comment below and let me know the best ways you were helped as a new mom!