How to Help a New Mom: 9 Rules to Follow
I recently read an article on Scary Mommy about how to really help a new mom. The premise of the article was that she doesn’t need more muffins and onesies. Instead, clean her house, blow dry her hair, and basically do everything that she hasn’t been able to get to since baby came home.
In theory, that sounds great. But in reality, I would be horrified if anybody other than my husband or my Mom was unloading my dishwasher, cleaning up the balled up diapers on the floor, and folding my laundry. The comments on the article were polarizing – some people would relish that kind of help, while others would hate it.
No two postpartum experiences are the same. Many people would love if somebody came in their house and took over those basic household tasks, while others shudder at the thought. Some people have a family member move in to help out for weeks or months at a time. Others have a strict no-overnight-visitors policy, so that they can savour the time with their new little family. There is no right or wrong way to do it, there is only what’s right or wrong for YOU.
This can make it tricky when you’re trying to support a friend who’s newly postpartum. You want to make her life easier, but everyone’s preferences are so different that it can be hard to know the best way to do it. Here are 9 basic rules that I stick to when supporting a newly postpartum friend:
1. Don’t visit if you’re sick
This one’s a no-brainer. It is not worth the risk and the stress you will cause to the new mom. Even a minor cold can be much more serious for a newborn. If for some reason you have to be around the new baby when you’re sick, keep your distance (or, as I tell my kids everyday – look with your eyes, not with your hands!)
2. Show up on time
Those early days of motherhood are an endless cycle of feeding, diapering, and sleeping. If your friend is breastfeeding, there’s a good chance that she’s still trying to figure it out, and is trying to time it so that she doesn’t have to feed the baby while you’re there. Or, she may have skipped an opportunity to take a nap or a shower in anticipation of your visit. Show up when you say you will, and if you’re running late, let her know.
3. Wash your hands
As soon as you get in the house, wash your hands. This will be so appreciated – both because she’ll know you’re trying to keep germs at bay, and because she didn’t have to ask.
4. Don’t bring your toddler
Toddlers are germ vectors, with poor understanding of personal space (I say that with affection, I’ve had three!). Leave your toddler at home when you go to visit the new baby.
There are a few exceptions to this. If your friend has an older child herself, your child may provide welcome entertainment. I’d still plan on visiting alone, unless she specifically asks that you bring your older child.
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5. See if she wants or needs anything
Text her before you leave, tell her you’re stopping at the coffee shop/grocery store/Target on the way, and ask if she wants anything. (You may or may not be planning to stop, but she doesn’t need to know that! She’s more likely to take you up on the offer if she thinks you are.) Ask her if you can bring her a coffee, or fresh fruit, or painkillers, or whatever it is that might make her life easier.
6. Bring food
Ironically, given the article I mentioned above, my one request of my Mom in those early postpartum days was for some of her homemade muffins. This may be an area where we all differ, but I was SO grateful to the friends that brought over muffins, baked goods, and dinners. Especially with baby #2 and #3, when I had older children at home needing to be fed.
Bring food that can be eaten one-handed, or ready-made dinners that just need to be heated up. Use disposable containers so she doesn’t need to remember to return your dish. If she’s anything like I was, she will be so thankful.
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7. Don’t stay too long
Everyone’s definition of “too long” will vary. You know your friend – make sure you don’t overstay your welcome. The last thing you want to do is deprive her of her one chance to sleep or shower for the day!
8. Show up for the second (& third, etc.) baby
It doesn’t matter if it’s your first baby or your fourth, your world is always turned upside down when you bring a new baby home. With older children at home that still need to be fed and cared for, she will have very little time to relish the newborn experience. Offer her the same support you did when she brought home her first – she will be incredibly grateful.
9. Follow her cues
Above all else, follow her cues. Some people love visitors, others don’t. Some are eager to hand off the baby, and others might be more hesitant. New moms can easily get overlooked when there’s a new baby that’s capturing everyone’s love and attention. Pay attention to what she needs to help make her life easier.
What would you add to this list? Is there any support that you were especially grateful for when you were newly postpartum?