After nearly 12 years as a parent, I’ve certainly gained my fair share of experience when it comes to raising kids. But I still remember those early days struggling to figure out what to do. Why was the baby crying? Was I feeding her enough? Would people judge me if I asked for advice? Whose advice should I even listen to?
It’s always tricky, isn’t it, to know whether to offer a helping hand or your take on a parenting dilemma to a new mum. You don’t want to come across as patronising, nor to imply that they are not coping.
If a close friend or someone in your family has just had their first baby, though, there are plenty of practical things you can do to help them out without overstepping the mark.
Some newborns find it difficult to sleep for long. Poor mum can end up exhausted in just a couple of days. If you have three or four hours to sit with a newborn one afternoon, tired mummy can get a much-needed rest. In that time, you may need to offer a feed and a nappy change. Be sure you have everything close to hand.
I remember that the last thing I felt like doing was cooking. After a C-Section I wasn’t up and about for a few days in any case. It’s too easy to get so wrapped up with the new baby that you forget to eat.
Why not drop off a meal – something that can be popped in the fridge or freezer and microwaved later?
Just make sure that you know what she is able to eat – some foods might be out of bounds if she’s breastfeeding.
Some mums find it difficult to grab even a shower each day with a demanding newborn. Even if you’re not too confident about nappies and feeding, you can sit with a baby for twenty minutes while mum gets dressed. You might even bring mum a fresh new outfit, or some makeup to help her feel human again! And don’t forget to bring something nutritious for her to eat.
Organising a Christening or Naming Ceremony is hard to do when you’re sleep-deprived and frantically busy with a newborn. You can help by finalising the arrangements and managing the invitations.
Sometimes, just offering to host and help out with the catering after the ceremony can be a huge relief for a new mum.
Finding the time or energy to clean up around the house is never easy for a new mum. The laundry piles up and so do the dirty dishes. Whenever you pop round, see if you can lend a hand to get some bits done. Perhaps you can take the laundry home to do, or run the vacuum around. Few new mums would be put out by a little domestic assistance!
Getting out and about can feel like the impossible challenge for a new mum. Offer to take her and the baby out in the car to town for a spot of retail therapy and a coffee. It’s important to take your time and not let it feel like a burden. Help pack up the bag and dress the baby for going out. Pop the pram in the car. Pack extra burp cloths and a couple of bottles. Then proudly wheel the pram into the cafe and have a seat. New mums can often feel like they’re in the way or putting people out. You can do a lot to allay her fears.
Offering to babysit her other children or perhaps take them out to the park or local play center is sure to be welcomed. This will give her some time alone with her newborn and perhaps the chance to take a nap if the baby is sleeping.
You don’t necessarily need to schlep around the supermarket. Why not help set up an online shopping order for groceries or baby supplies?
If she runs her own business, there are sure to be numerous administrative tasks you could help with – whether it’s returning messages, answering emails or typing documents, any assistance you can give is sure to be welcomed if she doesn’t employ any staff.
It won’t take long for your friend to feel comfortable in her new role with your support. Just respect her boundaries and be patient whilst your friendship readjusts to the huge life change she has gone through.
If she is on her own for most of the time and you suspect that she may be suffering from postnatal depression, or even if she is unusually depressed or anxious, look out for her mental well-being by gently suggesting that a visit to the GP or health visitor is in order. (And note that fathers can also become depressed after the birth of a baby).
Creating the opportunity for an honest, open conversation about how she is really feeling may be the best thing of all to help a new mum.