20 Ways to Help Parents of Newborns
Have you ever wondered how can you help make life a little more normal for new parents?
Below are twenty ideas that friends and family can do to give the parents (and families) of a newborn some relief in those first few weeks.
- Give Them Space: Many couples today are hoping for a “babymoon” that is peaceful, calm, and relatively free of a steady stream of visitors. Too many businesses give little or no maternity/paternity leave, so new parents are forced to return to work very shortly after the birth of a new baby. Let the new couple enjoy their short time with their newborn without feeling the need to entertain guests.
I would suggest an email of congratulations with an offer to stop by as soon as they are up to visitors, then follow up in a two to three weeks – the new parents may not feel comfortable enough to reach out for help when they need it. And when you do finally stop by? It might be nice to make moves to head out the door within about 30 minutes, unless you are actively doing something in the house to help or the parents ask you to stay longer.
- Provide Fresh or Frozen Meals: It is hard work taking care of a newborn and trying to feed a family. New parents (whether they have one or ten children) will almost always appreciate food, and there are even free online services that can help you organize a “meal train.” Be sure to ask if the family has any food sensitivities, and whether or not they would prefer fresh or frozen meals or a combination of the two. An added bonus? Consider bringing the meals in portion sizes with disposable plates and cutlery – yes, it’s not the greenest option, but less dishes for the new parents might trump their environmental ambitions during the first weeks of a newborn’s life.
- Bring Goodies for the Breastfeeding Mama: Nursing mamas are often tied to a chair or bed for hours with little relief. And when they do get up, they may rarely get the chance to do something for themselves, because there is a baby (and possibly other children) to tend to. Brighten a breastfeeding mother’s day by gifting her with goodies she can keep in her breastfeeding basket – lactation cookies, a fun bottle for water, the latest novel or magazine in her chosen genre, etc. Check out “What to Put in a Breastfeeding Basket” and “Breastfeeding Gift Ideas for Expecting Mothers” for more ideas.
- Help Around the House: No matter who you are, never stop by the house of a new parent without offering to help out with some kind of chore. Take the garbage to the curb, vacuum, pick up toys, do a load of laundry, wash the dishes in the sink. If you are getting some snuggle time in with a sweet-smelling newborn, it’s only fair that you pitch in to help your friend (who may be sleep-deprived and exhausted from around-the-clock nursing).
- Hire Professional Housecleaning: If you don’t have time (or you feel awkward) helping clean the new parents’ house yourself, get some friends to pitch in on a gift certificate for a professional housecleaning service. Try finding a green service – the new parents will appreciate the fact that they will use fewer toxic chemicals around their newborn.
- Offer to Run Errands: If the grocery store or library is on the way to your friend’s house, offer to stop by and pick something up the next time you are out. Or better yet, ask your friend if there are any errands that she has been unable to do herself – she may be grateful to avoid the trip.
- Arrange Playdates for Older Siblings: For parents of newborns who also have older children, offer to host a play date for a couple of hours once a week after baby arrives. Their older children will benefit from time with their friends, and it will give the parents some much needed rest. If the sibling is not ready for playdates, offer to play with the sibling there at the house for a few hours.
- Help Older Siblings with Outside Obligations: There may be other opportunities for you to help older siblings in those first few weeks – if your child is involved in activities with the older siblings, offer to take them to/pick them up on your way. If the children are in school, offer to help out with lunches, rides, practices, homework, or other tasks that can easily get overlooked in the whirlwind of a new baby.
- Create Activity Bags for Older Siblings: If there are older siblings who are toddlers or preschoolers, the parents are likely going to be looking for ways to help the older siblings entertain themselves more often than usual. Help the parents out by creating easy and inexpensive activity bags. You can read more about activity bags – and get tons of great ideas – at Toddler and Preschooler Activity Bag Fun.
- Take Pictures: Whether you’re a professional photographer or simply handy with a camera, offer to take a few candid shots of parent(s) and baby. The parents would probably appreciate a heads up so they can actually shower, but don’t hesitate to bring a camera with you if you happen to stop by without a planned photography session. The newborn never needs to shower, so you can always get a few beautiful snapshots of a sleepy baby.
- Check in to See How Breastfeeding Is Going: Especially for first time mamas, check in to see how breastfeeding is going. Really listen to mama and let her express any worries or frustrations. If she needs more support than what you can give, offer to go with her to a lactation consultant or a La Leche League meeting.
- Loan or Gift a Quality Carrier and Help Them Figure Out How to Use It: Baby carriers can be the saving grace for many tired parents, but they can also be incredibly difficult to figure out – especially when parents are operating on little sleep. If you know how to use (and nurse in!) quality baby carriers1, offer to stop by and help the new parents become familiar with the carrier.
- Give the Gift of a Postpartum Doula: If the new parents are open to having a postpartum doula, consider helping them hire someone. Postpartum doulas do “whatever a mother needs to best enjoy and care for her new baby.” This could include anything from education to house cleaning – the details would need to be arranged with the individual doula and mother.
- Give Them a Rest: If you are a trusted friend or family member, the new parents may appreciate an offer to have you come snuggle the newborn for a couple of hours on a regular basis so they can get some uninterrupted sleep or relaxation time – usually in the same house, just in case.
- Listen: Sometimes the one thing a new parent needs is someone to listen, especially when that listener comes without judgment or criticism. A new parent may simply need to unload on someone who has walked this road previously. Withhold unsolicited advice, and just be a good friend by listening.
- Send a Note: Let the new parents know you are thinking of them beyond those initial days after the birth announcement. Send a handwritten note with a special poem or quote that will bring a smile to their faces. Even if you live far away and cannot stop by with a meal or an offer of help, your thoughtfulness will surely be a blessing.
- Provide a List of Resources: Do you have all of the best parenting resources at your fingertips? Are you the organized mama who has phone numbers handy for lactation consultants/LLL groups, parenting support groups, and the like? New parents might appreciate short, concise lists of some of the most practical resources for new parents in your area.
- Help Them Get Out of the House: New parents can turn into shut-ins if they don’t make an effort to get out of the house, help them out by inviting one or both out for tea, to the park, shopping, etc.
- Breastfeed in Public with Mama: There’s nothing like the solidarity of nursing in public with another mama – so if you are still nursing, support her in the way only a nursing mama can – nurse your little one along with her! Give her plenty of positive words and encouragement as she learns how to latch on in public, and let her know what your state’s law is for nursing mamas. Hopefully, your state protects the right of mamas to breastfeed anywhere, anytime.
- Ask and Offer: No matter what you do, ask what the parents might need and continue to offer to help. Offer something specific, like one of the suggestions above; if they turn you down one time, they might accept your help the next.
What did your friends/family do to help after you had a baby that you loved, or what do you wish someone had done for you that would have made your life easier?
- For more on quality baby carriers, see “Facing In? Facing Out? A Science-Based View on Baby Carrying Positions,” “Infant Carriers and Spinal Stress,” “A Review of Baby Carriers,” “Baby Carriers: An Overview,” and “Thinking Beyond the Bjorn: Considerations in Choosing a Baby Carrier.” ↩
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"20 Ways to Help Parents of Newborns"
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