When a new baby joins the world, friends and family come out of the woodwork to visit. Sometimes, it’s great for the new mom to have another pair of hands around the house. But sometimes … well, we’ve all heard of the mamas hosting not-so-helpful visitors, right>
Let me give you a quick idea of what I’m talking about. New mom and baby come home from the hospital, and family (or friends) come to visit and meet baby. Some of these visitors are from out of town, so they stay over for a couple of days … or more.
This is where it gets tricky.
Obviously, this is a great opportunity for the visitor to make life a little easier on the new family — but it doesn’t always go that way. Instead of aiding the new mom with household tasks that really need to get done, some visitors do little more than hold the baby. While he or she is sleeping. In a clean diaper. And yes, of course, it’s always wonderful to have someone showing your baby some love, but it’s also really helpful for new moms to have someone come in and take care of chores that she can’t get to, or take care of a fussy baby so mama can rest for a bit. It’s far less helpful for that new mom to feel more exhausted when her guests leave than when they arrived.
I hope to never be a not-so-helpful visitor — and I’m sure you feel the same way. However, simply hoping is not enough, because, do you know what happens when I have to think on the spot? I completely blank out and become the least imaginative person in the world.
So, I decided to prepare myself with a few actionable things I can do to actually help a new mom I may be visiting. (You know, the “be ready, stay ready” type of thing.) So here’s my list of a few practical ways to provide support to a new mom — first timer or not.
Do the dishes. Dishes are like dirty clothes — they are always there, waiting for a wash. Being a new mom does not make you exempt from this natural phenomenon. (Unless the new mom never eats and walks around nude all the time.) With that being said, the new mom most likely has some dirty dishes, so prepare to get your hands wet or put your organization skills to the test with the dish washer.
Pick up a room. Now, I’m not saying deep clean, but if you see clothes on the floor or toys from an older sibling all over the place, gather them in one general area to give the illusion of a cleaner place. Mom and older sibling can sort out or properly put away the items you gathered at a later time. Sometimes, simply having a space without the clutter helps you breathe better.
Feed her. Bringing food to a starving new mom is like introducing the stomach to heaven, and you don’t have to be a great cook — or even cook at all — to do this. If you do enjoy cooking, great! If you don’t enjoy cooking, there’s always takeout.
Take (and print, or at least share) pictures. We are living in technologically heavy times, which means, pictures are worth a million captions. Not everyone has the means to pay for professional newborn, infant, breastfeeding, etc. pictures, so being present to capture mom with her new baby could be a big deal to mom.
Let her shower safely. I remember when my babies were newborns and how terrifying it was to shower. I remember the horrific ideas that would come to mind once I’d hear my infant start crying (or not hear — those ghost cries are real!). Those cries would cut my showers from 5 minutes to never-mind-this-shower-turned-into-a-fast-rinse. Staying with the baby while mom showers could turn out to be more help than you could imagine. With your help, mom can confidently spend more than five minutes getting clean.
Before providing any help, I recommend giving the new mom a heads up about your intention to be of service. Be clear from the beginning to give the new mom time to decide on how comfortable she is with your specialized support. Provide a safe space and be verbally cognizant about things like knowing that you won’t do things exactly the way she does them. Lastly, be ready for the new mom to say “no” to your help; this is okay too. Don’t take it personally!
What was the best way you received support during your postpartum period? —Jasmin