Your friend just had a baby and you love them and want to help. However short of waving a magic wand and helping them feel as rested as a college student on summer break, what can you actually do to help them?
When I had my babies, I was fortunate to have friends who knew what would be helpful. One thoughtful friend, who had two small children of her own, made the trek to my apartment with things I needed, tylenol and trail mix. The need wasn’t great and I could have ordered those things online, but this friend sat on the couch with me as I fed by newborn and encouraged me. This small act helped me feel loved and part of community when I was exhausted and didn’t have much to offer as a friend other than the cuteness of the newborn I was holding.
Over the years, it’s been life-giving to show my friends who become moms this kind of love in some of the following ways:
1. Bring them cut up fruit. Fiber and nutrients are helpful to new moms and stopping to wash and or cut your favorite fruit may just feel like Mt. Everest.
2. Bring them muffins, pack them individually so they can freeze them or eat them when they are hungry. Which if they are nursing could be every hour.
3. Tell them you are sending them delivery from their favorite restaurant, ask what day would be best.
4. Do they have a dog? Offer to walk the dog for them once.
5. Move their car for the street cleaner if their partner is back at work or away on business.
6. Is their baby tending to be fussy? The week their on their own for the first time offer to hold their baby for them so they can take a nap.
7. Ask if they are up for a walk and walk slowly around the neighborhood. Be gracious when they are 45 minutes late for your agreed upon time.
8. Offer to loan them that giant baby toy you no longer need.
9. Ask them about their feelings and if they are feeling like themselves. If they are, cheer them on. If they are not, help them get help. Encourage them to talk to their doctor, or go to the doctor with them if they need the support.
10. Listen to their birth story and empathize without sharing your own birth story.
11. Listen to them talk about how great it was to have family help, or how hard it was to have family help after coming home from the hospital.
12. Empathize when they say it hurts to shower!
13. Offer to talk about your experience of feeling sleep deprived, cluster feeding, sleep regression if they.
14. Say, you need to figure out what works for your family. Every baby is different and every parent is different so what you may find works for you could be different than what worked for me.
15. Tell them they are doing a good job. They are! Bringing a child home from the hospital, feeding, changing diapers and bathing a newborn are not easy and making it through the day is doing a good job.
Erin is sharing her experience of living in Jersey City and raising three kids a year apart. She and her husband chose to make Jersey City home in 2008. Erin previously worked from home for an international non-profit during her pre-schoolers’ naps. Now she’s cheering them on as elementary schoolers as she works part-time from home for Downtown Community Church.