The first few weeks (and months) of parenthood are tough. No matter how much support you think you’ll have from friends and family, finding real help in caring for your new baby can be difficult. Oftentimes, visitors just want to come over and hold the newborn, but this doesn’t help new parents much at all. Read on to find out different ways you can help new parents adjust to life with a baby that they will actually appreciate.
8 ways to help a new parent (that doesn’t involve holding the baby):
Visit with the goal of helping, not hindering.
Overzealous guests often forget the needs of the parents as their tunnel vision leads them straight to the sweet, cuddly, and usually-sleeping newborn. The best thing visitors can do is come over with the goal of helping, not getting in the way.
Firstly, don’t waltz through the door, breeze past the new parents, and swoop up the newborn when they’re peacefully sleeping in a bassinet or swing. Do not, under any circumstances, wake a sleeping baby, no matter how excited you are to meet them for the first time.
Do not expect the red carpet treatment.
Also, don’t expect the parents to entertain you. Do not expect food, coffee, drinks, snacks, or anything of that nature. If they try to start preparing something for you, reassure them that you’re just there to support them in whatever they need, not to intrude. Even better? Bring them food, offer to make a pot of coffee, or help them tidy up the kitchen.
Helping new parents does not mean holding a peaceful, snoozing baby. True help means doing their dishes, sanitizing bottles, doing a load of laundry, vacuuming the floors, or tidying up.
Ask the new parents what their specific, immediate needs are.
After the baby shower is over and the gift registry is out of everyone’s minds, people often forget that new parents have continuously-changing needs long after their baby arrives. Support new parents by asking them what specific things they need to make it through the next several weeks or months. Ask what would help them feel taken care of and supported.
Immediate needs vary from family to family.
For some, this can mean just picking up a few boxes of diapers or cans of formula at the store so the family doesn’t have to load up the stroller, the car seat, the diaper bag, and the baby to go shopping. For others, this might mean you keeping watch over the baby while they take a nap. For other parents, this might mean bringing a few dinners over each week so that’s one less thing they have to worry about. For others, this might mean taking over some household chores for an afternoon (vacuuming, mopping, putting away dishes, folding laundry, washing bottles, etc). It’s important to ask the family what they need, because this varies from person to person.
Acknowledge the parents’ need for sleep.
Everyone knows that sleep is usually not part of the equation when you bring a newborn home from the hospital. Babies often have their days and nights mixed up, they need to eat frequently throughout the day and night, and often have a hard time adjusting to life outside the womb. Without extra help, new parents spend the entirety of their time figuring out what their baby needs, tending to the needs, and trying to fit in as much time for self-care as possible. The best way to support new parents is to figure out a way to help them get more rest.
Note that not every family is comfortable letting someone else watch their new baby. Don’t feel insulted if they turn down your offer to hold the baby while they take a nap. Pressuring new parents to let you babysit can only make their anxiety, guilt, and exhaustion worse. Instead, offer to help in other ways that would enable them to rest more. Help with the daily household chores, prepare meals for them, offer to do their grocery shopping, give a meal delivery service gift card, or help pay for a postpartum doula or night nurse.
Offer advice to help the new mom and dad get better sleep.
Without being too overbearing, let the parents know some tips and tricks that worked for you when it comes to newborn sleep. Maybe it was a specific sound machine, or a certain swaddle, or using blackout curtains, or a white noise app, or a special relaxing nighttime routine that helped your baby sleep more soundly as a newborn. Don’t get frustrated if the parents don’t take your advice. What works for one infant doesn’t always work for another. And oftentimes, parents want to go through the trial-and-error themselves. Even so, there’s nothing wrong with offering a few suggestions!
Offer help before they ask for it.
One of the best things you can do for a new parent is offer help before they have to reach out and ask for it. Sometimes, parents become so consumed in childcare duties and the day-to-day stressors that they just assume they’re meant to do everything on their own, which can be very isolating and exhausting. Take the guesswork out of the equation, and offer (specific) ways to help before they even ask!
Be proactive in thinking about the parent’s and baby’s needs.
Do more than send a quick text that says “Give me a call if you need anything!” While that can be a genuine, well-intentioned comment, new parents often feel worried about burdening those around them. Instead, offer specific ways you already know that you can help. Offer to drop off dinner one or two nights a week. Offer to go out and buy the diapers and wipes that they prefer to use. Offer to pick up their groceries. Offer to drop off their dry cleaning. Offer to come over and help fold laundry. Offer to take the baby on a walk while they catch up on household chores or work. Give them a gift basket of your favorite baby products, give them a meal delivery service gift card, or set up a meal train for them.
Do your best to honor the postpartum period.
The postpartum period can be stressful for mothers as they figure out how to bond with and care for their newborn. Along with that comes lack of sleep, fluctuating hormones, and postpartum mood disorders. This can be a really tough time for moms!
Many cultures honor the postpartum period and strive to promote healing and strength over all else. New mothers should be taken care of and honored for their strength, resilience, and selflessness.
Visitors can help honor this special period of life by delivering the mother’s favorite comfort foods, giving her a gift basket of self-care items, giving her a gift certificate for a massage or manicure, bringing over her favorite coffee drink, or coming over just to hang out and catch up on life outside of parenthood.
Try to resist giving unwarranted advice.
Visitors are often excited to shower new parents with tips and advice. However, this advice, although well-meaning, is often uncalled for and can be taken as an insult. Try to withhold giving your opinion unless you are asked, especially when it comes to big issues such as breastfeeding, circumcision, baby led weaning, infant sleep training, and other controversial topics.
The best support you can give a new parent is exactly that: support. You can support someone without giving overbearing advice and pretending that you’re an expert. After all, every baby is different, and what works for your kids might not necessarily work for their baby.
If the new parents do ask for advice, refer them to a lactation consultant, postpartum doula, or pediatrician. These experts can help give evidence-based, expert advice tailored specifically for them and their little one. If the parents ask for advice on minor issues such as what type of bottles you prefer or what brand of pacifier is the best, of course share openly about what worked for you! However, all medical questions should only be answered by that family’s chosen pediatrician and medical team.
Become genuinely interested in their lives as new parents.
Part of being a good friend is being present, physically and emotionally. One of the greatest forms of support for new parents is to find a “village” that is truly interested in supporting them through their parenting journey, in the good times and bad. Instead of sending a quick text every now and then that says “Need anything?” consider offering to take the mother out for coffee, or to run errands together, or to just sit and watch one of your favorite shows together.
One of the most difficult parts about adjusting to life as a parent is the loss of individual identity. Many parents report feeling confused about who they are, and feel a sense of loss when it comes to their “old selves.” However, becoming a parent doesn’t need to mean losing yourself and your identity! You are still a worthy individual outside of being a mom or dad. It’s important to have supportive people who can be there through the difficult times and the fun times, who care about your wellbeing not only as a parent, but as a human being.
Supportive friends don’t cast judgment or have unrealistic expectations for new parents. The best support comes by acknowledging that although parenthood is beautiful and rewarding, it is also difficult, time-consuming, sometimes enraging, and exhausting. Normalizing the not-so-great aspects of parenthood can help new parents adjust to their new roles without feeling pressured to live up to an unrealistic societal expectation.
Give gifts that make life easier.
A great way to help new parents adjust to their new way of life is to give gifts that help make their lives easier. KeaBabies products are all designed with parents’ comfort and ease in mind, offering a line of products for parents and infants to help make the parenthood journey a little easier.
When it comes to bonding with newborns, the KeaBabies Baby Wrap Carrier is a great option! This snug, comfortable infant carrier is a great way for parents to be hands-free while holding their newborn close. Baby wearing can also promote lactation, parent-child bonding, and physical recovery. This carrier is a great gift for a new mom or dad because it helps them hold the baby, while still keeping their hands free!
Another great gift for a new mom or dad is the KeaBabies Diaper Caddy. This is a great storage option for a family that is on the go, or has a large house! You can store diapers, wipes, rash cream, medicine, burp cloths, and whatever else you need in this spacious storage caddy. The handles make it easy to carry all of your baby’s necessities from room to room. New moms can appreciate this versatile product that makes a wonderful gift.
Another wonderful gift for any new mom is the KeaBabies All-In-1 Multi-Use Cover, which can be used for breastfeeding, as a car seat cover, and as a high chair or shopping cart cover. This multi-use product can help take care of a number of their new baby’s needs. This lightweight, breathable nursing cover gently cradles the infant’s body while preventing the mother and child from overheating.
Friends and family can be a great support to new parents.
In order to be a true source of support, friends and family must do some careful preparation when it comes to figuring out how to offer help, advice, and guidance. Instead of just coming over to visit and play with the newborn, help new parents by bringing over a meal, offering to do some household chores, or asking if you can watch the baby while they take a nap. Whether they’re first time parents or seasoned pros, the first weeks and months with a newborn are tough! Newborns require care and attention around the clock. Help the parents adjust to life with a new baby by being an active, ongoing source of support long after they arrive home from the hospital.
Meet Our KeaMommy Contributor: Kaitlyn Torrez
I’m Kaitlyn Torrez, from the San Francisco Bay Area. I live with my husband and two children, Roman and Logan. I’m a former preschool teacher, currently enjoying being a stay at home mom. I love all things writing, coffee, and chocolate. In my free time, I enjoy reading, blogging, and working out.