10 Ways to Help a New Mom
Friend or co-worker have a new baby? Want to help? Alleviate the new mom's stress with these tips.
Having a baby is one of the most joyous times in a person’s life, but it can also be very stressful. A new mom often experiences a rollercoaster of emotions, and needs friends and family to help with the stress. But what are the best ways to help without being pushy or in the way?
We spoke with parenting expert Carrie Contey, PhD and authors of The Happy Sleeper, Julie Wright, MFT and Heather Turgeon, MFT, about the best ways to help out a new mom.
1. Don’t Expect to Be Entertained
Someone you love has just had a baby. You want to head straight to her house to celebrate. Not so fast. A baby is something to celebrate, but, for a new mom, it’s not entertaining time. “New moms need loved ones around that are calm and empathetic,” explains Contey.
Visiting (even with the best of helpful intentions) may put too much stress on a new parent, making them feel the need to hide that huge pile of laundry or put on actual clothes that don't smell like spit up.
2. Help With Chores
When you ask someone how you can help, Wright says new moms will often deflect the question with an “I don’t know” or “I don’t need anything.” “Don’t be afraid to take initiative and be resourceful,” she offers.
For example, assisting with household chores seems like a no-brainer, but the trick is to do it without being asked. Or without making the parent feel awkward. Maybe do the dishes while your friend puts her feet up. Or hire your housekeeper to clean your friend's home, so she doesn't have to.
3. Offer to Babysit
One of the hardest parts of being a new mom can be the lack of sleep. “Sleep deprivation is normal, but very challenging, and contributes to depression and anxiety,” says Turgeon. “Offer to care for the baby for a few hours, so mom can shower and rest. The more regular the help is, the sooner she’ll begin to truly relax.”
Or be really generous and share the contact information for your favorite babysitter.
4. Take Her for a Walk
Depending on the mom, fitness can be a priority or the last thing on her mind. Either way, suggesting a walk is a great way to get the mom back to being active, and the baby can even go along. Contey says, “Going for a walk with her and the baby is always a good idea if she’s expressing an interest in doing things, but isn’t ready to do it alone or without her baby.”
5. Give Her the Gift of Relaxation
Caring for a newborn is a huge workload. “It’s almost always surprising to new moms just how many hours of each day are taken up by caring for a newborn,” explains Wright. Give the new mom a relaxing break from the work with a gift certificate for a massage, a manicure or something else she enjoyed pre-baby -- and an offer to babysit.
6. Bring Food
Lots of people bring food and treats to a family when they first have a new baby. A new mom may be swimming in gifts of goodies for the first few weeks. But after a month or two, that trove may have dried up. Bring food when people least expect it -- and need it most. Stocking a freezer with meals or sending chocolate may be the best way to help.
7. Fill Her Phone
There are lots of great apps out there for parents -- for researching information, connecting with other moms or simply playing games. But a new mom may not even have time to research them! Make a list of great ones and give it to her with an iTunes gift card.
Start with these 12 Great Apps for Busy Moms.
8. Act as Her Assistant
With a newborn, the pressure of everyday life can feel impossible to manage alone. “It’s very common for moms to feel they can’t get to their list of ‘to-dos,’” explains Turgeon. Help by becoming her temporary executive assistant, undertaking tasks like sending thank you notes from the baby shower, running to the dry cleaner or picking up something from the store.
9. Help With Child Care
If the mom has to head back to work soon, she may be worrying about child care options. Should she hire a nanny or explore day care centers? Offer to help with the process.
“Learning and weighing the options out there can be daunting, especially with the fatigue and separation anxiety,” says Wright. Show support by helping research options, visit centers, write interview questions, etc. Here are articles about child care that can help.
If the mom seems to be struggling now, or not getting enough sleep, suggest she hire a night nanny to help. Learn more about what a night nanny is.
10. Listen and Empathize
No two moms are alike. What worked for you or someone else may not be what the new mom in your life needs. “Read her cues,” suggests Wright. “She may be dying for adult conversation or she may be too exhausted to say much.”
Sometimes all a new mom needs is a little reassurance. New parents are often terrified of failing, so make her day by telling her she's a good mom.
Being there to help a new mom, without being intrusive, shows how much you care and may be just what a new mom needs to feel loved and empowered. Be there for her, so she can be the best mom she can be.
Victoria Kerr is the owner of a dog and cat and is an avid writer. She enjoys playing guitar, singing, and songwriting.