How to support a new mum – it seems obvious, right? Nope. Ask any new mama and you can bet she’s had to serve cups of tea to visitors when she’d rather be napping.
Adjusting to having a new baby in the house can be difficult for the whole family. Sleepless nights and a change in routine can leave a mama feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. Offering support to a family with a new baby can help them adjust to their new normal, but often when asked, a tired, frazzled new mum isn’t able to think of the exact way she needs help. Here are some ideas.
By Sarah Lyons
1 // Stop by the store
Going to the store with newborn and possibly older children for the first time can be a daunting task. Offer to pick up a few things the family needs. This is especially easy if you will be out running errands already. Have the family order and pay for groceries online, then pick them up and deliver them. Helping to put them away would be an extra bonus.
2 // Help around the house
Want to REALLY support a new mum? Sweep the floor, fold laundry, vacuum, or do dishes… even a little bit of tidying up can make a big difference. A clean house during a time of transition can bring order to a time that feels chaotic. However, if she prefers to clean herself, offer to care for the baby and other children while she works on a household project.
3 // Come when others don’t
Not all new mamas are ‘new mamas’. Families that are adding their second, third, or fourth child need help just as much as first time mamas, if not more. When there are older children there is no time for resting when the baby rests. Older children do not stop activities just because a new baby has arrived and mum and dad are tired. It can be very difficult to entertain a toddler while breastfeeding or changing nappies. Offer to take care of the older children for her or offer to take care of baby so she can spend some alone time with her older children.
4 // Provide a meal
Friends and family often send versatile casseroles like lasagna after the new baby is home. Try thinking outside the 13×9 pan. Why not bring the family the fixings for breakfast and lunch rather than just dinner? Stock the freezer with easy, ready-to-make items like pizza, pasta sauces, soups and stews. Then the family can pull something out of the freezer when they are not up for cooking. Crunched for time or don’t feel like making an extra meal? Bring the family their favourite take-away or send a gift card.
5 // Let her shower
A new mama may feel she doesn’t have time for basic things like a shower, rest, or time to eat a meal. One of the simplest ways to support a new mum is to hold the baby and watch the other children while she eats lunch, enjoys a relaxing shower, or takes a short nap. When she is rested, fed, and freshened up, it can really make her feel ready to take on the rest of the day.
6 // Help with the older kids
Show support by offering to pick up the older kids, even if it’s just for a couple hours. If you are taking your own children to the park, swing by and pick up hers for the afternoon. This gets them out of the house and gives Mama a break. Driving the kids to school or activities is also a big help for a family with a new baby. Time alone with baby may be just what she needs.
7 // Ask about her birth story
Giving birth is a huge milestone, an experience no mama will ever forget. Every birth has a story and many times, there aren’t a lot of chances to tell it. Ask about her birth story and listen. Becoming a mother is a joyful, stressful, awe inspiring, and life-changing experience. Telling the birth story helps women to process and embrace this new journey.
8 // Bring a gift for Mama
Many people bring gifts for the baby, but Mama is usually the one doing all the work. Bring a snack or treat for her to enjoy. Other great gifts are ones that pamper her or make her feel beautiful and comfortable in her postpartum body. Lotion, perfume, a new nightgown, or slippers are some good ideas. A delivery of flowers is another great way to bring cheer and make a mama feel special.
9 // Don’t stay too long
Families who have newborns generally like to have company, especially if they pitch in around the house and with the kids. However, don’t overstay your welcome. New parents tire easily. Visit the family, bring a meal, and help out but watch for clues from her as to when the family would like some alone time.
10 // Take her somewhere
She may not be able to drive for a few weeks after birth, so offer to take her on errands or just out for coffee. Being able to get out of the house can do wonders for someone’s outlook.
11 // Don’t give advice
An important tip for anyone chatting with a new mama is to listen, but don’t give advice unless you are asked. It can be frustrating and overwhelming to get unsolicited advice from everyone she bumps into. It’s important to ask her what would help her. Would she prefer to have help with housework? Would she like you to hold the baby while she gets some things done? Some mums would prefer to have someone to chat with for a while and some mums may want to get out of the house for a bit. Offer several options and see what sounds most appealing to her. Any offer to help is always appreciated by a family adjusting to having a new baby in the house. And just by giving her the option, you’ll do a world of good to support a new mum.