Before our little guy showed up, a number of friends told me that they would happily come over and hold my baby while I showered! Still pregnant, I thought, wow, people are really obsessed with babies!! And I wondered if that would really be what we needed. Having now survived those first weeks and months and talked to others, namely my sister who’s little guy showed up eight weeks after ours, I have a better handle on how to help new parents! This also includes a number of things not to do as this is SUCH an intense time.
How to Help New Parents
First, I’ll tell you the few things friends and family did that I remember most. Then I’ll give you a little rundown on the do’s and don’ts!
The first weekend we were home, my husband’s mother stayed with us. Besides helping us feed, change, and hold our baby, she also made sure that every meal was taken care of. For her that was delivery since she didn’t want to cook. We aren’t usually delivery people, but it didn’t matter, we needed to eat!
Something that completely caught me off guard was how difficult it was to eat enough. Not that I wasn’t hungry, but you’re exhausted. And every time you plan to eat, it’s like the baby gods laugh at you; your baby will inevitably need something. Having someone make sure we a) had food and b) held our little guy while we ate was amazing.
That same weekend, my sister brought over everything we needed to make tacos. I think she brought enough for an army! And you know what, after my husband’s mom went home, we made our way through all that food too!
The following week, a dear friend came over with her 5 month old, a huge smile on her face, and a big batch of chili in two big containers. The first was thawed and ready to heat in the microwave. The second was already frozen. So for the next two weeks, we pulled from that.
And finally, I asked a blogger friend of mine to come over and help one day. Dorothy (of Shockingly Delicious) showed up that morning and helped with holding our little guy, washing our bed sheets (and making the bed), and acting as my sounding board as I was dealing with my low milk supply. As it turned out, she was there the day I decided to stop nursing.
Besides getting in and helping with everything I needed that day, she also went to Trader Joe’s for me. I gave her a list of about 5 things I knew we needed for dinner. She asked me a few questions about allergies and preferences and off she went as we settled in for a nap. She returned 45 minutes later with three huge totes of food.
Not only had she picked up everything on my list, she got a bunch of snack items, a few pre-made wraps and salads, some lemonades, and I can’t even remember what else. Truthfully all that food kept me alive for the next week. With newborns, meals are hard to come by, so at least the snacks were calories. And when you’re breastfeeding you need even more calories going in. Of all the things she picked up, the pre-made wraps and salads were the most helpful. I would never buy those for myself, but I’ve also never been in a scenario when eating was a seemingly impossible task.
And finally, at week four I went to the mountains for a week with my mom. I truly wouldn’t recommend traveling with a newborn, but I needed some sanity and this annual trip to the Mountains is such a peaceful, joyous time that it seemed like a good idea. To top it off all my nurses and doctors said it was fine (and good for me)!
My husband couldn’t come with us, so this was the first time I was “on my own,” except that I wasn’t. Not only was my mom patient with my insane pumping schedule at that point, she also helped feed our little guy (at ANY time of day), helped with a bath, sang to him, helped soothe him, and kept me fed! I want to reiterate that one point about any time of day. Every time our little guy woke up in the middle of the night, I changed him, warmed the bottle, and woke her up to feed him while I pumped. It saved me from being awake (ALONE) for over an hour each time!
So obviously food – in the shape of meals, snacks, drinks (to help stay hydrated), and desserts – is super helpful. Anything that can be eaten as is or easily reheated is best! But what else?
Babies are really cute, but those first weeks of their life is nothing short of a sh*tshow. Showing up to see and hold a cute baby really isn’t what most moms need. What they need is help and support.
Since my sister and I had our first babies so close together, we’ve been talking a lot. One day she mentioned that they really weren’t having guests over who weren’t ready to be “in the trenches” of newborn life. And she’s absolutely right…
The Most Important Thing…
Not only should guests be ready to help however necessary (however gross, dirty, or mundane the task may be), they also need to be judgement free and mindful of what new parents are trying to do with their new little one.
If there’s a new baby in your world, think about how well you know the family before asking/offering to come over. And if they say yes, ask how you will be helping them…
Bring food or coffee! And once you’re there, offer to help. If you aren’t willing to change diapers, feed, or cleanup the baby, then help run an errand or clean the house. After two or three weeks, chores and errands are usually falling behind. How can YOU HELP THEM?
Be mindful of how long you’re there!! With newborns, life is a series of 2-4 hour increments. In each of those increments, all babies (and parents for the first two) need to eat, sleep, and have a diaper change. If you’re there longer than 20-30 minutes, plan to be aiding in at least one of these things.
One More Thing…
If mom is breastfeeding, be mindful of if they’re comfortable with you watching and if you’re comfortable watching. I, and my sister too, would nurse in our bedrooms when we had guests those first few weeks. If no one was there, it was on the couch amongst our delicately placed pillow stacks. New parents and babies shouldn’t be doing a single thing to accommodate you as a houseguest. If they start to walk into another room to feed, let them know they can stay where they’re comfortable. And if you’d rather not be around, run an errand or help out in another part of the house!
While everyone’s heart is in the right place with helping out new parents, it’s not uncommon for them to actually be a stress. If you aren’t willing or able to help, text or call to catch up and try to visit after that 4-6 week mark!