When my closest friends were having babies, I was just getting married. I was pretty clueless about most things regarding the postpartum period and since the last baby to be born in my family was my 22-year-old sister, I knew even less about babies. I hadn’t a clue as to ways to support a new mother.
My best friend, the first one of us to have a baby, had a long labor, which ended with a cesarean. When she returned home, I am sure she was incredibly sore, but she was also clearly frustrated with breastfeeding. When I think back to how painfully clueless and useless I was when she had her baby, I shudder. I mean, I brought her a plant. A PLANT! While plants are lovely and they brighten up a room, it’s also one more thing for her to tend to and it isn’t remotely helpful to her in any way. Oh, and that’s not all. When lunch time rolled around, she heated up leftovers for us to eat. SHE heated up leftovers for ME. (**shudder**) It actually makes my stomach turn to think that I was that out of touch with what she needed.
After my own postpartum experiences, coupled with lots of training on birth and the postpartum period, I think it’s safe to say that thankfully, I’ve learned a few things since then. Here are 10 ways to support a new mother, so the next time you have a friend have a baby, you’ll know how to shower her with love (and clean laundry).
- Walk her dog. She’s healing from birth and her partner deserves a break. Take Fido for a stroll.
- Take her children outside. If mom has other children, take them outside to expel some energy. Playground, walk around the block, bike ride, whatever. Mom will appreciate the quiet and the kids will love the fun.
- Fix her family a snack or bring her a meal (or 2). Anything you can do to take some of the load off, please do. Make them a meal or a snack, and if you can, involve the kids. The kids will enjoy the activity and mom will get a reprieve by them being entertained. If you won’t be there long, bring a meal already prepared, but also one that is freezable, so they can enjoy it later if needed.
- Bring her groceries. When I had my first baby, a friend came to visit, and with her came 2 grocery bags full of food. Some of the food was already prepared and the rest was perfect grab-and-go foods for snacking. I was so touched and appreciated having new items in the fridge. We sat around the table and noshed while she held and loved on my baby. It was incredible and I appreciated it so much.
- Hold the baby and send her upstairs for a long, hot shower. It’s amazing how much a hot shower can change a person. Even if she doesn’t need it, take the baby, and if she has one, the 3-year-old, and send her upstairs for a hot shower and some alone time. She’ll come down feeling grateful and refreshed.
- Load her dishwasher and run it. I’m placing bets that when you go see her there will be a sink piled high with dishes. Load the dishwasher and be sure to run it. If you’re there long enough, empty it on your way out the door.
- Wash a load of laundry. It’s amazing how much laundry a 7-pound baby can produce. Whether it’s spit up on the onesie or breastmilk leaked on her shirt, there’s bound to be a load of clothes waiting. Wash a load for her. If there’s a load that’s been done, fold it. Laundry is one of those things that can get out of hand fast. Helping her stay in front of it will take a lot of burden off of her.
- Take out the trash. On your way out the door after your visit, take the trash with you.
- Sweep. Dog hair, cheerio crumbs, dried up play-doh pieces. It’ll take 5 minutes and will make a big difference.
- Bring her something for just her. Bring her something that will make her feel good. Ok, so maybe that plant wasn’t all bad. I love plants, but whatever it is, make sure it’s something that will make her feel warm and pampered. Maybe bring some great shampoo, bath salts, or handmade soap for the shower she’ll take during your visit. Whatever it is, make it special.
There are endless ways to support a new mother, these are just a few. The bottom line is make her life easy, make her plate lighter, and let her know you love her. Having a baby is hard, and sometimes the postpartum period is even harder. New moms are all too often left unsupported in our hustle-and-bustle culture, but we were never meant to do it alone. Be a good friend, show up, and give her what she needs. When she has a friend have a baby, she’ll remember how you made her feel, and she’ll pay it forward. Little by little, maybe our culture will begin to shift.