BY SARAH LYONS
Adjusting to having a new baby in the house can be difficult for the whole family. Sleepless nights and a change in routine can leave mom feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. Offering support to a family with a new baby can help them adjust to their new normal. Often when you ask, mom isn’t able to think of the exact way she needs help. Here are some ideas:
Stop by the store
Going to the store with a newborn and possibly older children for the first time can be a daunting task. Offer to pick up a few things the family needs. This is especially easy if you will be out running errands already. Many grocery stores now offer drive through pick up. Have the family order and pay for groceries online, then pick them up and deliver them. Helping to put them away would be an extra bonus.
Help around the house
Sweep the floor, fold laundry, vacuum, or do dishes. Even a little bit of tidying up can make a big difference. A clean house during a time of transition can bring order to a time that feels chaotic. However, mom may prefer to clean herself. Offer to care for the baby and other children while she works on a household project.
Come when others don’t
Not all new moms are “new moms”. Families that are adding their second, third, or fourth child need help just as much as first time moms, if not more. When there are older children there is no time for resting when the baby rests. Older children do not stop activities just because a new baby has arrived and mom and dad are tired. It can be very difficult to entertain a toddler while mom is nursing or changing diapers. Offer to take care of the older children for mom or offer to take care of baby so she can spend some alone time with her older children.
Provide a meal
Friends and family often send versatile casseroles like lasagna after the new baby is home. Try thinking outside the 13×9 pan. Why not bring the family the fixings for breakfast and lunch rather than just dinner? Stock the freezer with easy, ready to make items like pizza, pasta dishes, soups and crock pot meals. Then the family can pull something out of the freezer when they are not up for cooking. Crunched for time or don’t feel like making an extra meal? Bring the family their favorite take out or send a gift card.
Set up a train
When one meal just doesn’t cover it, set up a meal train using websites like www.signupgenius.com or www.takethemameal.com. Discuss with the family the most convenient dates and times to deliver meals and solicit friends to fill all the open spots. Social media is a great place to recruit people you might not think to ask.
Let her shower
A new mom may feel she doesn’t have time for basic things like a shower, rest, or time to eat a meal. One of the simplest ways to help a new mom is to hold the baby and watch the other children while she eats lunch, enjoys a relaxing shower, or takes a short nap. When mom is rested, fed, and freshened up, it can really make her feel ready to take on the rest of the day.
Help with the older kids
Show support by offering to pick up the older kids, even if it’s just for a couple hours. If you are taking your own children to the park, swing by and pick up her’s for the afternoon. Driving the kids to school or activities is also a big help for a family with a new baby. Time alone with baby may be just what mom needs.
Ask about her birth story
Giving birth is a huge milestone, an experience no mom will ever forget. Every birth has a story and many times, there aren’t a lot of chances to tell it. Ask about her birth story and listen. Becoming a mom is a joyful, stressful, awe inspiring, and life changing experience. Telling the birth story helps women to process and embrace this new journey.
Bring a gift for mom
Many people bring gifts for the baby, but mom is usually the one doing all the work. Bring a snack or treat for mom to enjoy. Other great gifts are ones that pamper mom or make her feel beautiful and comfortable in her postpartum body. Lotion, perfume, a new nightgown, or slippers are some good ideas. A delivery of flowers is another great way to bring cheer and make mom feel special.
Don’t stay too long
Families who have newborns generally like to have company, especially if they pitch in around the house and with the kids. However, don’t overstay your welcome. New parents tire easily. Visit the family, bring a meal, and help out but watch for clues from mom as to when the family would like some alone time.
Take her somewhere
Mom may not be able to drive for a few weeks after birth. Offer to take her on errands or just out for coffee. Being able to get out of the house can do wonders for someone’s attitude.
Don’t give advice
An important tip for anyone chatting with a new mom is to listen but don’t give advice unless you are asked. It can be frustrating and overwhelming to get unsolicited advice from everyone she bumps into.
It’s important to ask mom what would help her. Would she prefer to have help with housework? Would she like you to hold the baby while she gets some things done? Some moms would prefer to have someone to chat with for awhile and some moms may want to get out of the house for a bit. Offer several options and see what sounds most appealing to the new mom. Any offer to help is always appreciated by a family adjusting to having a new baby in the house.
Sarah Lyons, mom of six, has learned first hand what it is like to adjust to a new baby in the house. She is so grateful for the family and friends that helped her as each baby came home and loves to return the favor to others.