10 Ways to Help a New Mom

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This weekend, my friend gave birth to a baby girl (named Georgie, how cute is that?!). I am eager to support her, so I thought back to my own postpartum experiences and read through reader comments for ideas. Here are 10 ways to help a new parent…

1. Bring FRESH food. “We got a lot of freezer meals when our second was born (much appreciated! don’t get me wrong!) and then someone showed up with trays of cut vegetables and fruit, and it was pretty much the BEST, omg,” says Ros. A reader named Molly agrees: “We ate so many heavy casseroles (gleefully, because postpartum hunger is not picky), but an awesome gift is cut-up fruit and veggies.” You could also make a Big Salad, says Devorah: “A pre-made salad with dressing on the side. I really wanted salads, but the thought of standing at the counter chopping veggies was exhausting. This can be homemade or picked up from a salad place, that’s fine, too!”

2. You could also stock the fridge. “When we came home with our first baby, our neighbors had stocked our fridge, and 11 years later, I STILL think about how wonderful it was,” says Amanda. “Juice, deli meat, cheese, bread, fresh fruit, potato salad, chicken salad, soup — to make quick meals anytime of day. Plus, a chocolate cake, which might have been the best part.” Side note: If you’re far away, you can also send bagels. “The BEST gift I got was a gift pack from Russ & Daughters, which included coffee, bagels, cream cheese, smoked salmon and chocolate babka,” writes Jamie. “I savored it!!!”

3. Choose food you know they’ll like. “People are well-meaning when they ask what you’d like to eat, but I was so tired of making decisions,” remembers Joanna. A reader named Naomi agrees: “The day we came home from the hospital, my husband and mother-in-law kept asking me what I wanted for lunch. I was like, make me anything! I cannot make this decision!”

4. Bring soft pajamas and/or a robe. “My mother-in-law gave me cotton pajamas and the softest, lightest robe,” says K.. “I LIVED in that robe and secretly loved that it was just for me because in the beginning, it’s all about the baby.” Bonus: Consider washing them first. Says Megan: “My mom brought me comfy new pajamas that she already washed in baby-safe detergent! Taking that extra step was so amazing because as a first-time mom I was very paranoid about my baby’s sensitive skin.”

5. Or consider a set of fresh new underwear. “That’s all I wanted,” writes Joetta. “During pregnancy, I stretched all mine out. Pretty undies made me feel like myself again.”

6. Offer to stay OR leave. New parents may want to be alone or crave company, so follow their lead. “My coworker was on maternity leave, and one day I was in her neighborhood,” remembers Cynthia. “I stopped by a deli, bought two sandwiches and drinks, and texted her that I would drop by in five minutes and could stay for a few minutes or go. When she opened the door, she burst into tears. The spontaneous lunch and half hour of work gossip was the best thing that had happened to her all week.” Also, consider the timing. “If you can duck out of work early, time your visit for a weeknight, an hour or two before your friend’s partner gets home from work (i.e., the hardest two hours of the day during maternity leave!),” says Maggie. Replies Joy: “Oh, this is so brilliant. I was such a clockwatcher by 4 p.m. when I was home on leave.”

7. Roll up your sleeves and tackle any chores you can see. When Toby was a newborn, my friend Abbey came over and, unprompted, did all our dishes, and I remember weeping from the kindness. “Take out the trash. Walk the dog. Don’t ask to hold the baby unless she offers. Listen to her,” says Jordan. Throw in a load of laundry, or fold tiny onesies. “Best thing anyone did was walk into my house and put a fresh set of sheets on my bed. Heaven,” writes Whitney. And take something away when you leave: “Empty the diaper genie, take out the trash, clear out old newspapers, anything,” says Chelsea. And consider outdoor household tasks, if there are any. “We had a preemie in the NICU for 10 weeks,” says Heidi. “Our neighbor had her lawn service to do our lawn, as well. It was so nice to know there was one less household thing to have to worry about.”

8. Listen to her birth story. “Give her time to share her story in her own way,” says Sarah. “Don’t compare your story to hers. Don’t give her platitudes. Just be there. Help her process the magnitude of what just happened.”

9. Play with the older child, if there is one. “When my daughter was born, the kindest thing that our friends did was take our energetic three-year-old to the playground,” says Aly. “Getting to be alone with the baby felt downright relaxing! And if you don’t know the older kid well, entertaining them with toys for an hour in their room is good as gold.”

10. Finally, continue to check in for the first few months (or year). “Our friends and family were so generous in the early days, but as I sit here tired, bleary eyed, and unshowered, with an almost-two-month-old and a three-and-a-half-year-old, I am wishing for help in these slightly later days,” says Cassie. “Could someone bring us dinner tomorrow? Or come hold the baby while I clean my bedroom? Or take our toddler to the park? This is not to say that help in the early days is not appreciated, but rather to note that sometimes it’s nice to be remembered when it ‘seems’ like you should have have adjusted and don’t need the unexpected meal or visit.”

What would you add? If you have a child, what helped during those early days? Congratulations to any new parents or parents-to-be, and also a heartfelt note and acknowledgement of those who are trying, wishing and waiting. xoxo

P.S. Five gifts for new moms, and “why formula feeding was best for us.”

(Photo of a mother holding her newborn baby by Tatiana Timofeeva/Stocksy.)

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