Somehow my baby is 10 weeks old, and I’m already reflecting on the earliest days as a scary yet sacred memory. In thinking about those first moments, I have to say that I’m blown away by the support our little foursome received from our friends, neighbors and family. Our peeps simply stunned us with their creativity and practicality in lending their aid.
Since it’s fresh in my mind and new mommies everywhere are constantly in need of assistance, I thought I would share the wealth. Here are some great ways to help out your new favorite baby mama:
1. Set up a meal train. One of my best friends did this for me after both of my births. What a loving gesture and lifesaver! Foodtidings.com and Mealtrain.com are two awesome websites that make food calendars easy, for free. We had people bringing us meals for three whole weeks.
2. Bring dinner (or breakfast or lunch). Whether or not there’s a meal train in place, taking your friend a substantial meal for her whole family is a surefire way to fulfill a need. People brought us everything from our favorite take-out to homemade casseroles. Leftovers are a major plus. And if dinner doesn’t work for you, step outside the box and offer breakfast or lunch. Families need food all day (let me tell you).
3. Offer a Target or Costco run. The day I went into labor, nine days early, I had HUGE shopping lists ready for Target and Costco. Thankfully, upon getting home from the hospital, I had two different friends randomly ask if there was anything they could bring me from these staple spots. Yes and amen! Don’t ask unless you’re ready for a list, though. I didn’t hold back because they were really close friends, and they definitely brought me some goods.
4. Bring a surprise grocery delivery. In those first few weeks, sometimes accessing the part of your brain that tells you simple things like, oh, what your family needs to survive, just feels like TOO MUCH. Unexpected grocery loads were the best. Some ideas: Case of water bottles (especially if she’s nursing), older-kid snacks, fresh fruits and veggies, ready-made salads, a rotisserie chicken, nutrition bars, trail mix, even a frozen pizza. Think hearty snacks, ready-to-go goodies and super fast meals.
5. Come pick up their older kid(s) for a few hours. Oh, my. What a blessing! In the second week, my same friend who made the meal train (EVERYONE needs a friend like her!) came and picked up our 2-year-old for an entire morning so she could play with some other kids while I enjoyed some quality time with my baby. I couldn’t believe how serene and pristine my house felt without a wild toddler! It felt like vacation. Almost. (Kids tend to lower your standards.)
6. Take mom, dad and the newborn out for a great dinner. I never would’ve thought to offer this, but a few weeks in, my friend asked, “Hey, instead of bringing you a meal, would you want to get a sitter for the toddler and we can take you guys and the baby out for dinner?” Especially with my second baby, I was SO into this. I hadn’t left the house in six days (gross) and couldn’t wait to talk to adults. We had such a fun night! And super-new babies are a piece of CAKE to take on the town when you’re used to toddlers. (Again, lower standards.)
7. Clean their house or pay to have it cleaned. My mom was over pretty much every day for the first few weeks after the birth. To my benefit, she can’t stand a mess, so whenever she wasn’t holding my baby or wrangling the tot, she chipped away at bringing a semblance of order to my newly crazed household of four. She cleaned out our pantry, fridge, excess of toys, even MY JUNK DRAWERS. Yeah, plural. If cleaning’s not your thing or your friend would be annoyed by your rummaging – be sure to ask first! – consider hiring a service as an outside-the-box baby welcome gift. What mom wouldn’t love that?
8. Hold the baby while mom naps or showers. This one’s easy. “Hi! I’m coming over to watch your baby so you can finally wash that frightening mane of yours or attempt to get some rest between nonstop nursing sessions.” Even 30 minutes of freedom feels luxurious to a postpartum mom. Standards, please come back someday?
9. Go get their car washed. Speaking from ultra-fresh firsthand experience, it’s going to be a very long time before it’s easy for your friend to get her vehicle washed again. Take it for a cleaning, your treat, to restore the car’s tolerability and a piece of your friend’s dignity.
10. Bring a gift (for the older kids, too). Gifts are always welcome. Diapers, clothes, toys – anything, really, as long as it’s crazy practical or crazy cute. Major bonus points if you pick up a gift for the new baby’s older sibling(s). This is likely a huge time of upheaval for everyone, and any gesture to make the big kids feel loved is greatly appreciated.
11. Don’t overstay your welcome. My friends, thankfully, are awesome at this. I’ve honestly never had a God-help-me lingerer. But in that vulnerable time of mom nursing, baby fussing and hormones raging, it’s best to not overstay your welcome. Don’t count on meeting your friend’s new baby as your Saturday night’s main event. Stop by, share some love (and maybe some cookies), move on.
12. Be sensitive about bringing your kids over. Every new mom is different; some care and some don’t care whether or not you bring your own kids when you pay them a visit. I know my pediatrician explicitly said to avoid having other children in the house for the first two weeks, so in the earliest days, I was cautious. After that, I couldn’t have cared less. In general, just communicate with your friend. If you do bring your tykes, just keep them from putting their hands all over the infant or running wild. Moms of newborns have enough insanity flying around without your offspring increasing the crazy.
13. Wash your hands. Before holding the baby, just go ahead and reach for the hand sanitizer likely lying about in plain view or scrub your hands with some soapy water. This will save your friend from having to feel like a nagging matron. She’s already not exactly feeling sexy or fun.
14. Affirm and encourage your friend. Pour out the sincere words of encouragement. Tell your friend she’s doing a great job, she looks amazing, her baby is beautiful, and if she’s really struggling, that this too shall pass and it’s more than normal to be feeling a little desperate. You might be the only other soul she sees that day besides her own tiny humans, so make your visit uplifting, meaningful, good.
15. DON’T ask: “What can I do?” Chances are strong that if you ask your friend what you can do to help, she will reply, “Nothing, I’m fine, thanks!” So, see the above suggestions and ask about specifics from there. Many women won’t take the leap to ask you outright for food or a good house cleaning.
I sincerely hope these are useful! And now I have to go because the help has stopped and small people need food again and my standards are officially gone forever but of course I’ve never been happier.