It’s difficult to know how to help a new mum, particularly if she is reluctant to take any that is offered to her.
After having a baby, life gets all kinds of crazy. The first few weeks after giving birth are a total sleep deprived blur, even for a first, second or third time parent.
Even though there are a thousand people waving their arms out to you offering help, you still feel utterly lost in a sea of anxiety. Here are the do’s and don’t of how to actually help a new mum:
Do Allow Some Time Before Your First Visit
Life is a whirlwind the first week or so after arriving home from the hospital. Everyone will want a piece of the new baby action, and it is exhausting. Wait for the new parents to settle in to their new life a little before you you start blowing up their phone with ‘When can i meet baby?!’
Do Give Plenty of Notice
Ask what would be a suitable time to come over at least the day before. Turning up at her door unannounced will not go down well, as she will most likely be a hot mess with a baby attached to her boob and won’t appreciate the drop in.
Do Visit in the Afternoon
The blur between night and day means that sleep is a linear concept, and will be taken whenever the parents can grab it. A night of feeds and crying will mean they will likely sleep until late so offer an afternoon visit so there is no pressure for them to wake early.
Do Bring Food
As a new Mum you barely have time to eat, let alone cook a meal. Bring home cooked meals that can be stocked up in the freezer, something healthy for a breastfeeding Mama who needs her vitamins.
Snacks are also great, because most of the time you need to grab what you can when you’re starving with a sleeping newborn in your arms. Healthy snacks like raw bars or granola cookies offer a boost of energy and nutrients.
Fresh produce is also another winner. Fruits and Vegetables are the first things to dwindle when you’re too exhausted to cook or leave the house to shop.
Do Bring a Gift
This isn’t an essential and I always felt like I didn’t want visitors to feel pressured into bringing a gift when I had my children.
If you are going to bring a gift however, make it about Mum. Make a newborn survival pack with some chocolates, light reading for those long night feeds (they can get pretty boring), non-alcoholic wine, bath and skin care products to make her feel more human.
If you can’t resist the cute baby stores, wait and ask Mum what exactly she may need. She may have already been gifted thirty outfits for baby all in the same size, but may not have much for the next size up.
The gift of time might be worth more than anything to her right now. Just offering to watch the baby for a few hours whilst she has a nap could be the best gift you could give.
Do Offer to Clean
Empty the dishwasher. Do the laundry. Wipe down the counters. Run the hoover around the living room. These little things are so difficult to do around the home when a newborn is demanding all of our attention. Your friend will really appreciate these small tokens of help.
Do Offer to Run Errands
Small errands that may feel like an ordeal to a new parent. You could help by offering to:
- Collect groceries
- Do the school run for older siblings
- Take / Collect parcels from the Post Office
- Collect dry-cleaning
- Walk their dog
It might take you 10-15 minutes to do one of these things. For Mama it might take 2 hours with a newborn to consider. She’ll be so grateful!
Do Take Photos
I barely have any photographs of my children and I when they were newborns. I probably resisted any evidence of me looking so zombified at the time, but in hindsight some family pictures would have been a nice thing for someone to offer us.
Do offer to watch older siblings
Don’t forget any older siblings when you visit. Their world has just been rocked by their new sibling coming screaming into their space and taking their parents energy away with it. Greet them before the baby when you visit, and maybe bring them a small token gift.
Offer to take them out of the house to do something fun. This will benefit Mama as she is probably feeling exhausted and a little guilty for not spending as much time with her older children. It will also be great for the kids who might feel like they have a slight case of cabin fever those first few weeks. (It’s tough to leave the house with a newborn!)
Do offer a shoulder to cry on
The baby blues can be tough. Hormone fluctuation mixed with huge lifestyle change and sleep deprivation are not good combinations.
As a new Mum, I just wanted someone I could ring at 11pm and ball my eyes out to (my poor Mum had the brunt of my new baby outbursts)
Not everyone has that, so if you can offer a non-judgmental ear whenever she needs it, do it! Having someone listen when you just want to shout ‘This is so hard and I’m so fucking tired’ might be all you need to get you through the rest of the day as a new parent.
Do wash your hands before holding baby
It’s important to practice good hygiene when around newborn babies. Their immune systems have not developed and new parents would appreciate you taking the initiative to keep their baby healthy.
Take heed of the don’ts in the list and follow newborn etiquette.
Don’t outstay your welcome
New Moms are tired, so don’t outstay your welcome. Whilst you’re sitting there on your third cup of coffee cooing over their sleeping baby they will be thinking ‘please leave!’
So don’t stay too long. Pick up on hints and cues when it’s your time to leave. Don’t be offended and know that it is only temporary. They don’t mean to be rude. They just really want to sleep!
Don’t give any advice
The last thing new mums want to hear is any unwelcome advice. They are just trying to figure this out for themselves. Don’t invalidate them as a Mum by telling them that their way isn’t right. You might think you are being helpful, but they have already heard fifteen ways of how to hold their baby when breastfeeding. Let them do what feels right for them and their baby and allow her to learn things at her own pace.
Don’t talk about yourself
In the nicest way possible, your friend will not give a shit about what happened to you in the office on Thursday.
Her life has changed so drastically in the last week or so that she can’t focus on anything other than the small human that until very recently was still inside her body. She needs time to figure this out.
Don’t make everything about you, be selfless. Drop the ego, and talk to your friend. Really ask her how she’s feeling, and if there is anything you can do. There will be time for you later.
Don’t take the baby until offered
Of course it will be mutually understood you would like a little cuddle from baby at some point in your visit. Who doesn’t want to snuggle a squishy newborn?
But only accept to hold the baby when offered. Accept that you might not get to hold them this time.
Respect your friends maternal instincts, which are still very new to her. It’s on no reflection of you. She is still building bonds with her baby and figuring that relationship out. Help her by not expecting anything.
Don’t kiss the baby
Resist the urge to be overly affectionate with baby as the risk of infection increases dramatically when this occurs. Newborns are at risk due to their low immune system and illnesses such as neonatal herpes (if you have a cold sore) can be transmitted unknowingly if you kiss them.
It also might cross boundaries, depending on your relationship with the family. It’s best to just not do that at all.
Don’t visit if you are ill
As above, the risk for newborn babies to fall ill is massive. Help your new mum friend by cancelling your visit if you are ill in anyway and eliminating that worry from her mind.
Don’t overreact to baby
If you aren’t an experienced parent, don’t freak out the moment the baby starts crying. They do that, you know.
You can be helpful by trying to soothe baby first yourself, instead of immediately hand them back to Mama. She has that job 24/7 and needs a break!
Don’t expect anything
Finally, just don’t expect anything. The house won’t be clean. You won’t be offered a cup of tea (do it yourself!)
A huge baby bomb has just exploded into her life and she’s a little shell shocked, physically and mentally. Your friend as you know them won’t be the same, not at first anyway. Being open and understanding can be the most helpful thing of all.
What is the best way to help a new Mama? I’d love to hear your tips.