When you have a baby, you will most likely be asked the question, “How can I help you?” Maybe this is a question you are currently asking a close friend that is about to give birth to their sweet bundle of joy. Even if you’ve had a baby before, sometimes it’s hard to know how we can best support our friends or family members as they welcome a new member into their family. If you’re wondering how you can help (or if you’re about to have a baby and don’t know how to allow help), you’re not alone.
Having a baby is such an exciting time! But it also comes with a lot of stress and struggles. These struggles start during pregnancy for many of us (especially in those last few weeks before the baby arrives). In my experience, I had prodromal labor for several weeks leading up to my delivery. After my daughter arrived, I suffered from feelings of postpartum depression and challenges with breastfeeding. Becoming a mother is hard. Because of this, it’s important to reach out and help when you can. Here are some commonly asked questions and suggestions on how you can offer support in one of the most beautiful yet challenging times for new parents.
How can I offer support before the baby arrives?
After dealing with intense pain in the final weeks of my own pregnancy, I’ve learned that sometimes soon-to-be mommas need just as much support as new moms. Those final weeks of pregnancy come with a lot of sleepless nights and aches and pains. This can make it challenging to complete simple tasks or even make dinner. If your friend is about to have a new baby, reach out and offer to help with anything she wants done before the baby arrives! In my experience, the help given to me in the final weeks of my pregnancy and tiny gestures to show I was cared about were more appreciated than I can express. Here are some great suggestions:
- Help her clean and organize her home so that she can feel peace once she comes home from the hospital.
- Make freezer meals that she can cook easily in a crockpot either before she delivers or after. Here is an awesome list to help you get started!
- Go shopping for her to pick up any last minute baby items she still needs.
- Pick up mom self-care items she can use now to help her relax and prepare for the delivery.
- Bring her favorite dinner or treat to let her know you are thinking of her.
- Help her organize or finish up the nursery.
How can I offer support after delivery?
- Take a home cooked meal: When my son was born, a neighbor brought us over a delicious home-cooked meal of mashed potatoes, fresh baked rolls and chicken. It was easily the best tasting dinner I had had in months.
- Set up a meal train: Once you’ve taken a meal, offer to set up a week's worth of meals for the family. That first week comes with a lot of adjustment for new moms and dads, so not having to worry about dinners is one of the most helpful services you can provide.
- Offer to take newborn or family photos: Those first few weeks are so special. If you have a camera or any experience with photography at all, one of the kindest services you could offer is to take a few photos for them. (Even if you’re not a professional).
- Bring her some self care items: Depression is so common in the weeks and months after birth. When I had my daughter I felt so alone and felt like I had lost all sense of identity. It’s important to make new moms feel like they are still valued. Sending a care package can help them be reminded of this. Here are some fun items you could include:
- Bath salts or bath bomb
- Her favorite candy or snacks
- A book
- A journal
- Soft blanket
- Fresh flowers
- Book of EASY slow cooker recipes
- Nice water bottle (Mom’s need lots of water to stay hydrated, especially if they’re breastfeeding.)
- Run errands for them: New moms may have a hard time making it to the grocery store or getting out to pick up baby items they need. Offer to go shopping for her to get what she needs.
- Offer to clean: This may be difficult because most mom’s will be hesitant and may just need space. Be respectful of the mom’s new boundaries, but if she will allow it, offer to come in and do some basic cleaning. My house was definitely neglected after having my babies. My mom came over and cleaned for me which was a huge blessing. Try to do simple things like clean bathrooms, take out garbage, do dishes, and vacuum floors. These things help so much.
- Help with their pets: Taking care of a newborn is a full time job! Caring for our pets on top of that can make things unbearable. If they have pets, offer to come over and feed them, take them on a walk, and show them some love.
- Check in: Sending short and sweet messages to show you’re there to help means so much to new moms. It is so common to feel alone in motherhood, so offering support is essential. You could send a sweet card with flowers, or even a simple text message. Letting her know you care will remind her that she has the support if she needs it.
- Offer to babysit: Babysitting just for a while so the new parents can go on a date, nap, or even just get out of the house for a bit can be one of the most helpful things you can do. Many first time moms will be hesitant, but extending the offer will always be appreciated. This is especially helpful if they have other children! If this is the case, offer to take their other kids out to lunch or to the park.
How can I offer help if I live far away?
- Doordash food to your friends home: If you don’t live close, it’s not really possible to take a home cooked meal. Instead, tell her you are ordering her dinner and have it delivered to her house! If she has dinners taken care of, Doordash a yummy dessert instead. My sister-in-law had donuts delivered to us a few days before my due date and I will never forget how thoughtful she was for doing that.
- Send a gift card to her favorite restaurant or store: The first few weeks are full of stress for new moms. When I had my first baby, I found that in those first few weeks I was constantly needing to go out and grab things I needed that I didn’t have. We were always running to the store to pick up diapers, wipes, baby cream, diaper cream, a thermometer, etc. There were just a lot of things we had forgotten to purchase before our daughter was born. Sending a gift card will allow them to get last minute things they need without the financial stress.
- Have flowers delivered: Flowers are one of my favorite gifts of all time. Flowers are a great way to show you care and are so excited for the new baby. When I had my daughter, my aunt sent us a beautiful bouquet of roses and a sweet stuffed teddy bear for the baby. I felt so loved from this simple gift.
- Send her a collection of your favorite CD’s, books, or movies: In those first few weeks, moms will spend a lot of time at home. Sending her some great ways to pass the time while she figures out breastfeeding and caring for a new baby will be a lifesaver for her.
- Be the person she can vent to: Let her know that you are there to talk about anything. Reminding her that she is not alone and that you will help however you can (even from a distance) will help her get through the difficult moments.
What if I offer to help but the new mom tells me no?
Always be respectful of boundaries that new moms set. Never try to force your help, even if you know they could use it. If the new parent is hesitant to allow help, help in small ways like having food delivered, sending flowers, or sending a nice note of encouragement and love.
How do I offer help without being overbearing?
This is dependent on how close you are with the new mom. If you are close, you will be able to offer more help. Try to check in on mom often, but give her space if she is acting like she needs it. Reaching out to show you care demonstrates that you are someone she can depend on. More often than not, you will be the first she will reach out to when she truly does need something.
If I feel like I can help with a problem she is experiencing, should I offer advice?
If the new parent is directly asking for your parenting advice, definitely offer it. Moms that have had kids before obviously have more experience and can often give great advice. However, offering unsolicited advice can make new parents feel like you don’t trust that they can be a good parent. This can make new moms feel like they are failing or aren’t good enough. So try to withhold advice unless they are desperately asking for help.
For moms about to have a baby:
I have a hard time letting people help me. I know I could use the help, but how do I do that?
Letting people help you is so hard. This is my number one challenge. You have to let go of the idea that you are being a burden. Life is all about loving and helping one another, so allow others to help you. Remind yourself that you would do the same thing for others if they needed you, so give yourself that same love and respect.
I don’t really have a support group but I really need help. What can I do?
Unfortunately, not all moms have the support they need. If this is the case for you, try finding a Facebook or Instagram community you can join. I have found some great Facebook groups that are incredibly supportive and uplifting. Just be aware that at any point if it becomes a negative space that you will need to seek support elsewhere.
I’m really struggling! Is it normal?
Most new moms struggle in one way or another. Postpartum healing is rough. Our hormones take time to regulate. This can cause us to have drastic changes in mood from moment to moment. After birthing my daughter, I found myself crying constantly even though I didn’t feel sad. The doctor reassured me the hormonal imbalance was causing shifts in mood. This is normal. However, if this lasts for a long period of time or comes with suicidal feelings, you need to seek professional help as this can be a sign of postpartum depression. Always watch for signs of postpartum depression in yourself. Have your spouse or friends watch as well. They will often notice the signs quicker than you will. If you don’t know what to watch out for, read up on it before or after your delivery.
Breastfeeding can also be a challenge. You might face engorged breasts, clogged ducts, low supply, cracked or bleeding nipples, mastitis, or a poor latch. If this is the case for you, seek help from the countless breastfeeding resources. They may be able to assist you. If you had a rough time breastfeeding your first baby, this does NOT mean you will have the same experience the second time. Every baby and every experience is different. But if breastfeeding doesn’t work for you, don’t give yourself guilt. You are an incredible mom whether you breastfeed or bottle feed.
If you are experiencing difficulties, try to remind yourself that a lot of new moms struggle with postpartum depression, breastfeeding, or even adjusting to their new life. If this is the case for you, always reach out for help. There are so many resources that you can take advantage of.
Motherhood is tough. We all struggle sometimes. Seeking out the help you need doesn’t make you a bad mom. Quite the opposite! Getting help shows that you are doing all you can to care for yourself and your little one. And that shows that you really are rocking this new mom thing!
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My advice would be to try not to tell new moms everything they are doing is wrong. Offer quick advice but do not dwell on things too much. Allow them to learn and grow on their own. Sharon