How to Help a New Mom

25 comments

Oh him? He's probably a cakewalk to care for! Pshhh!
Oh him? Totally a piece of cake, right? Pshhh!

When I had my first child four and a half years ago, I was the first of my close friends to become a mother. I’d incorrectly assumed caring for a newborn would be really easy and intuitive. I’d started babysitting when I was 11, I had a degree in education, and I was a teacher. I could handle BIG kids who actually DID stuff…how difficult could a tiny lump of a person be? I figured when the baby was born, life would pretty much carry on as usual, except I’d be toting around a cute little lovable newborn over whom everyone could “oooooo!” and “ahhhhh!”

My husband, holding our son for the first time, also, coincidently, the first time he'd held a newborn ever. Poor guy looks calm because he figured I knew how to take care of this kiddo. HA.
My husband, holding our son for the first time. This was also, coincidently, the first time he’d held a newborn…ever. Poor guy looks calm because he figured I knew how to take care of this kiddo. HA.

Then I found myself pacing the floor at 3 am, my husband rocking our screaming, colicky, 4 day old son, and me sobbing over a breast pump trying to figure out nursing, swaddling, sleep, diapers, and how I’d ever be able to leave my house again.

I suddenly realized…I NEEDED HELP. Fast. But it’s tough to know what you need help with as a new mom. What I didn’t need was someone to swoop in and tell me what to do. There are a million ways to care for a baby, and new parents need to figure it out for themselves. Plus, I felt like if I kept handing off my son to others, I’d never learn how to be a mom myself. I also didn’t need single and/or childless friends to invite me to “get out of the house and do something fun for a change!”, at least not this early on (I did, however, need that later on!). I needed help, but I didn’t know what to ask for.

Here is the sort of help I needed when I became a new mom. Perhaps you’re pregnant and not sure what to do with offers of help, or perhaps a friend is expecting and you want to know what you can do for her. Here’s what I really would have loved, and often got from close friends and family, that was actually very helpful.

How to Help a New Mom

1. Keep her company. Being home with a newborn is isolating. Having people come over and just sit on the couch to keep me company– not coming over expecting to be entertained and fed– was really helpful.

2. Help with the laundry. My firstborn was colicky partly due to some reflux, i.e., he spit up every single time he ate. I was constantly doing laundry and never managed to fold it all. There were always clothes everywhere. Having help organizing the clean clothes made me feel less overwhelmed.

3. Bring a pizza over if you want to grab dinner with her. I was extremely anxious about leaving my newborn home with anyone, plus I was nursing on-demand in the early days, so it was really, really hard to leave my son home at all. A dinner in with a friend was nice.

4. Don’t ask “do you need anything?” because the answer will probably be “no…I’m just fine!” even though I’m not. I had a hard time saying things like “I really need milk and eggs and I’m terrified to leave my house!!!!!” even though that’s what I was probably thinking. “I’m stopping at the store for you. What do you want me to grab?” was a huge help. Don’t worry- your new mom friend will gladly pay you back!

5. When I complain about how the baby isn’t sleeping/pooping/eating/whatever, just listen.  Unless your new mom friend specifically asks for advice about something, just listen when she needs to vent about how tired or stressed she is. You don’t need to problem solve for her.

6. If you DO actually know what you’re doing with newborns, AND if your new mom friend specifically asks “How can I get him to sleep/latch properly/bathe him?” make sure you don’t give “my-way-or-the-highway” advice. There are a million ways to raise kids. What worked like a charm for you might not work for another family. It’s great to offer your experiences if asked, but remember that just because your newborn calmed down when swaddled tightly doesn’t mean hers will, and it doesn’t mean she’s doing something “wrong”, just that she needs to try something else.

7. Give her an “I won’t be offended” grace period. After birth, I was stressed, sleep deprived, and coming down off a huge hormone crash. I wasn’t always nice. I snapped when I shouldn’t have. I know this now. Try to keep this in mind if your new mom friend isn’t as perky and understanding as she usually is, and let it go for the first few weeks. Instead of getting offended, take it as a sign that she really needs your friendship right now, and help her out!

"Oh boy. She's crying over the coffee pot. Send help! Fast!"
“Oh boy. She’s crying over the coffee pot. Send help! Fast!”

25 comments on “How to Help a New Mom”

  1. Great list! I second the food advice- it was really nice to know there was stuff int he freezer to just reheat, and I try to do this for the new mommas I visit. Also, you may not do this with everyone, but bring over some nail polish and hand cream and pamper the new mom with a mani and/or pedi. Chances are it will be some time until she gets to go to the salon for either, and who couldn’t use a good foot or hand massage?

  2. 6 week old at home And we are in a third floor walk up apartment. The biggest help is… Taking out the trash, recycling and diaper pail. It’s hard to grab garbage and newborn. Plus trying to eat healthy makes the trash pile up fast. It’s nice having a smell free kitchen!

    1. Oh wow- yes! I can imagine that is really hard!! Wow. I once lived in a 3rd floor walk up but it was before kids (only “kid” then was a dog). I remember bringing up the groceries and bringing down the trash being rough then- can’t imagine it with a 6 week old! I hope you have some helpful friends and family to lend a hand! Best wishes! 🙂

  3. Food. New parents will never refuse food. Although, the worst thing would be to cook it at their house! Drop it off and if there is an invitation to stay and visit take it. Also, as much as company is welcome, don’t be offended when a new mom asks you to leave. Long visits were so exhausting for me in the beginning and a lot of people overstayed their welcome but I was too nervous to say anything.

    1. Yes- I can imagine that would be stressful (having guests that never leave)! I had the opposite problem. It was like people were scared that I was now a mom and didn’t want to intrude, but I really needed the company. And I never…ever…ever refused food. Best new mom gift there is!

  4. So true – I love this post, thank you. Many of my non-mom friends were afraid of bothering me too much, but I loved just having them come over and lounge on the couch with me (while I attempted to nurse without leaking all over everything!) I really craved the company.

    1. Yes! Almost all of my friends were non-mom friends, and I think people always think new moms want to just be left alone. I didn’t want to have to entertain, but I certainly did want company. It’s really hard to go from working and being out all the time to being home 24/7 with someone who just screams at you!! 🙂

    2. Yes – I agree completely. I really didn’t ever ask for help, and felt a little isolated because people didn’t call or stop by — we’ve all heard the “well I didn’t know if it was a good time to call & I didn’t want to bother you or wake up the baby!” line…. Um, I won’t answer if I can’t! The company was always welcome, even if I was totally disheveled & unshowered!

  5. Great advice! And, as a grandmother I would like add for grandparents, times really DO change. In the seventies and eighties, babies were NEVER supposed to sleep on their backs, now they are SUPPOSED to sleep on their backs. Many of our methods of baby care are way out of date, and telling your new parents what we did with them only causes more stress. Life will move forward and in one short year babyhood will be a memory!

    1. I know! And no bumpers in the crib any more. Apparently they reach out and grab little babies. Not to mention the cribs with non-moving sides. I really feel like a dinosaur.

  6. This is so true! I had no idea what to ask for because I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I am so thankful for my neighbors, many who had BTDT, who did exactly as you have suggested! I can’t tell you how grateful I am to them, even today, for making those first few weeks easier for a new mom.

    1. Same here! I felt like everyone wanted to just hold the baby, and I often said no thanks to help offers because I felt like I should be the one doing that. Once I realized people were fine with giving me the baby and helping in other ways, it was easier.

    1. YES. I 100% agree on this. It’s impossible to know what will work for an individual family and baby, and it can really shake your confidence to hear “You’re doing this ALL WRONG!”

    1. Haha, thanks!! 🙂 I know- it’s hard not to miss those days when you see babies!! But…I have to say, I do love how much I can get done with a 2 year old and 4 year old now! I just need some nieces and nephews, I think 😉

  7. And to add one for friends out of town, I try to find either an in-home chef to come and cook a few meals for them to put in the freezer or order gift cards to.favorite take out / delivery restaurants. I love to cook, but cooking with a newborn was darn near impossible!

    1. Wow- that’s a great idea, Patti! You are so right. I thought that it’d be a snap to cook with a baby- all they do is sleep, right? NO. Having take out or cooked meals is wonderful. My mother in law came and cooked for us right after each boy and it was really nice!

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