How to be helpful to a new mom

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It’s that call you’ve been anxiously waiting for. Your friend’s baby is finally here. You tell her that you want to come over to see the baby as soon as possible and ask what you can do to help. Maybe bring over a frozen meal, maybe watch the baby while she takes a nap, maybe do a little light cleaning or laundry, or maybe hang around and be on duty for a few diaper changes and feedings.

Before you head over with your can-do attitude, bear in mind that sometimes trying to be helpful can actually bring a little stress onto a new mom.

Firstly, brand new parents are eager to spend as much time with their little babies as possible to learn their cues, bond, and get practice at this whole parenting thing.

Secondly, moms and dads of newborns often don’t have the energy to make any decisions … even miniscule ones, so don’t ask your friend to come up with tasks for you. The best thing to do is to follow the new mom’s lead: does she seem to want you to hang around for the whole day or does her energy say otherwise; is she insisting on cooking up a meal for your visit or did she ask you to pick something up; is she asking you for your advice or does she want to handle things on her own; does she look antsy when you hold her baby for a little too long, or does she seem relieved?

Always try to be mindful of what she is trying to tell you both with her words and without, and don’t take offence if she’s not exactly diplomatic in expressing what she wants. She’s tired.

Here are a few rules to follow when visiting a brand new mom that may actually be helpful to her. By the way, rules may change after a month or two as parents will have a flow for their new life as a mom and dad. And again, every mom is different, these are just guidelines to consider, not rigid rules … follow the mom’s lead and listen to what she really wants from you.

  1. Bring snacks for your visit

Firstly, you don’t want your friend stressing over hosting you. The best thing you can do to be helpful is bringing over a meal or snacks for your visit. And let her know that you’ll be bringing something so that she doesn’t end up cooking anyway. The food you bring shouldn’t require excessive prep, cooking, clean-up, or having to return dishes to you.

Don’t ask her what she would like, as your friend is probably too exhausted to think about it. Decision fatigue is real. Aim for something healthy and hearty if you can, as a new mom needs good nutrition to have the strength and energy for her new role, although there’s nothing wrong with indulging in some bad-for-you snacks here and there as well.

  1. Mind the time

Come exactly when the parents ask you to. Newborns sometimes have rigid feeding and sleep schedules, and showing up at the wrong time could be a little annoying or stressful for the new parents. Also, bear in mind that for a few weeks after the birth, your friend will likely still be recovering from the delivery. She might not have the stamina to hang out for more than an hour or so.

Don’t ask her give you the heads-up when to leave, that might make her feel rude. After about an hour, see if your friend’s energy is winding down, if it is … take your cue. Of course, if you’re really close and she’s comfortable being vulnerable around you, then by all means you can take that as a cue to stick around. Use your common sense.

  1. Consider coming with a mutual friend

If you’re part of a circle of friends, then see if the mom is receptive to you coming with someone else. Coming with a friend may make it easier for the mom to play hostess. If she needs to hide away for a few minutes to feed the baby or even to lie down, she won’t have to worry about keeping you entertained.

Of course everyone understands that a new mom has to take care of her baby’s needs first and keeping her visitors company shouldn’t exactly be on her list of priorities, but sometimes women still get a little anxious about making their guests happy. It might help.

  1. Easy on the unsolicited advice

Nobody likes a know-it-all when it comes to their child (or at all, let’s face it). It’s always well-meaning. Those of us who have babies or have experience with them want to be helpful by passing their knowledge on. “She looks cold”, “start sleep training soon”, “someone looks like they need to eat or to nap”. You have to remind yourself that her baby isn’t the same as your baby.

New parents want to learn their baby’s cues and mannerisms on their own, and trying to do that for them is just annoying. It can also come off as patronizing or might even look like you think that you know more about the baby than the mother. Trust that she has probably already done a ton of research, and she’ll figure out what’s best for her and her baby. Of course if she asks for your advice, then go ahead and share … she’ll actually appreciate it when it’s not unsolicited.

  1. Don’t hog the baby

This one is hard for brand new moms – they rarely want to be separated from their tiny babies. Sure, she’ll probably want you to hold him a little to share her joy and to show him off, but take too long and you’ll see an antsy mommy missing her little one.

Yes, sometimes a mom genuinely needs a break, but do pay attention to her cues, and don’t make her ask you twice when she wants her baby back. And careful if the little one starts crying. While it’s possible that your friend might welcome someone else dealing with the screaming baby, it’s also possible that she doesn’t want to give up her chance to practice comforting him. It’s incredibly hard for a mom to hear her newborn cry.

So again, pay attention to her cues. If a little shushing and rocking doesn’t do the trick, the best thing to do is ask your friend “Can I keep holding him, or do you want him back”. Or just say “You must miss your mommy.”

With all of that in mind, don’t be afraid to visit your new-mom girlfriend. She wants to see how happy her friends are, and know that they will keep being there for her. She wants to share her joy with you and her loved ones. And, she wants her loved ones to be considerate of her needs as well.


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