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Happy Tuesday! This one is near and dear to my heart. Evelyn will be one next month but I think I can still call myself a “new mom.” She’s my first baby and everything was a learning curve when she arrived. I absolutely love sharing with people the things that my husband and I found most helpful with Evelyn because I never want leave someone to figure something out on their own if they don’t have to.
Something that I’d like to share that I’m pretty certain most people are not aware of is how to truly help a new mom. I realize this could be different for every mom, but surely someone will find the same things helpful that we did. If you know someone expecting and you’d like to be a blessing to them in those first crucial weeks and months, please read on.
So many people offer their help to a new mom in the form of, “I can watch the baby while you…” I know these people mean so well, and some mothers may think that’s a Godsend, but for me, I didn’t just carry my baby for over nine months and labor for over 30 hours so that someone else could come take her away from me. I wanted to hold her. I wanted to get to know her. I wanted to soak up every second with her and so did my husband. I also needed to rest my body. So no, I didn’t want someone else to hold my baby while I cleaned my house. I wanted them to clean my house while I held my baby! Plus, if the mom is breastfeeding, she can’t be away from the baby for too long anyway.
If you’ve ever offered to watch someone’s brand new baby, you didn’t do something wrong. There are just other things that a mom is a little more likely to appreciate and take advantage of if you truly want to be a help to her.
Funny thing is, this was the first thing we were given once Evelyn was born. I had gone at least 12 hours without eating (if memory serves me right) and I still didn’t feel hungry but I knew I needed to eat. By the time I got settled in my postpartum room the hospital cafeteria was closed so Aaron (my husband) would have had to go out to get us food otherwise. If you get the privilege to meet a newborn baby in the hospital, at least offer to bring food for the family. It’s the least you can do when you’re being included during such an intimate time. Family came to the rescue and brought us Chick-Fil-A! This was the first of many meals that we were so thankful to not have to cook or purchase. Did we eat it while it was hot? Absolutely not. The hospital forbids that. In fact they don’t want you to eat at all (or sleep), so just take all the cold meals you can get.
Once we got home, our church’s in reach ministry provided several dinners for us. They were all delicious and even better, we didn’t have to do dishes (paper plates for the win). This was such a huge help to us as we were still in a sleep deprivation induced survival mode (which continued for months). Read How I Got My Strong-Willed Baby to Sleep Through the Nigh
t to learn how we overcame one of the most difficult challenges for new parents.
Our family and friends also provided meals for us in the weeks following Evelyn’s birth once we were home. I don’t think I can stress enough how helpful it is to not need to grocery shop, cook, or clean up. Aaron and I often forgot to eat right after Evelyn was born, so when we remembered it was great to only have to warm the meal up!
Maybe this is only a first time mom thing (or maybe it’s just me), but I didn’t want to take Evelyn out of the house more than I had to during her first few weeks of life. A lot of people aren’t exactly mindful of the fact that a newborn shouldn’t be touched or woken up so the least amount of exposure possible, the better. We took her to her appointments and to church, but we didn’t want to have to take her around town every time we thought of something we needed- which seemed like every day. We weren’t in the state of mind to effectively create a list of items we needed, so it was nice to have family members that were willing to run by the store and drop something off to us from time to time.
I learned the hard way to allow others to help us with this. We ran out of toothpaste, laundry detergent, and moisturizer amongst other things, and it just wasn’t an option for me to leave the house to go get them right away. I had a very rough recovery and even walking around the house had me pretty exhausted. At one point, only days after Evelyn’s birth, we went to Walmart and I was drained before we made it inside. We were so thankful for the times people brought us those odds and ends that we couldn’t live without.
If you’re on your way over to a new mom’s home, see if she needs anything that you can grab on your way in. You’re not obligated to pay for everything. If the new parents are even remotely classy they’ll offer to pay you back. And it really is such a huge help. If you haven’t received an invite to come by, don’t use errands as your in to get to come over. Some moms want to be left to their babies for a while without their home feeling like Grand Central Station. If anything, offer to drop something at the door. That really shows your heart for the mom.
This one was actually a lot harder for me to accept that I needed some help with. Our situation was unique in that Evelyn could not breastfeed so I was pumping regularly and Aaron would often give her the bottles. This kept us both so busy that our house took a back seat. I finally asked my mom to come over and crank out some laundry and clean up a few things. She was only over one evening but it made all the difference.
If you get to visit the home of a newborn, try to leave it better than you found it. Offer to grab their mail, do any dishes lying in the sink, or even vacuum if mom approves. Just be mindful to not overstay your welcome (even though you’re helping) because mom and dad need to rest while the baby sleeps and they may not feel comfortable doing that while you’re there cleaning. If mom doesn’t ask for help (and you’re confident you know her well enough to bypass her invite), just do something anyway. Odds are, she will greatly appreciate it!
Now this time I’m confident I’ll get some disagreement with this one. I know some women want their mom, mother-in-law, sister, cousin, and neighbor with them in the delivery room and on their way home and at home once they arrive, but this just wasn’t me. I’m not one to invite everyone into everything, so I appreciated a little distance from everyone after I had Evelyn. I know our family would have loved to see her every day, but that would have been so much stress on me to have people over so often in my embarrassment of a home. I couldn’t even keep up with texting everyone back who sent me a congratulation.
So be patient with new parents. They’ve got a lot to work through in those first few weeks and they don’t need the added stress of feeling like they’re letting people down. If mom doesn’t text you back don’t send the passive aggressive triple question mark text. She will probably text you back after she’s remembered she has a phone and not just a camera (once you have a baby its only used to take pictures anyway).
These are the main things I know helped my husband and I most in those first couple of months. It allowed us to get the hang of having a baby and get our feet back on the ground. I was able to recover without being concerned with feeding my family and Aaron was able to focus a little more on Evelyn and I while others took care of what he would have had to otherwise.
In any case, don’t be afraid to ask the mom what she needs. If she tries to tell you she doesn’t need or want anything, you really can’t go wrong with dropping some snacks and diapers off on the front porch. I find nothing more lovely than when someone gives me diapers and food these days. It’s the way to a mother’s heart.
I hope this has reached some well-meaning folks who can actually do well now. Thanks for reading and happy helping!