As a society, we still have a lot of work to do when it comes to supporting new mothers, so it's normal to feel a bit at a loss.
There is nothing more exciting than when a new baby joins your family or circle of friends. That squishy newborn goodness is the best.
But you clicked on this article, which means that you know the real star of the show is not the baby, but the mom who gave birth to or adopted that baby. (You're awesome for that, by the way).
You probably desperately want to help her—but aren't sure exactly how. As a society, we still have a lot of work to do when it comes to supporting new mothers, so it's normal to feel a bit at a loss.
I asked the awesome mamas of #TeamMotherly to share the acts that really helped them when they were in that vulnerable fourth trimester. First, please make sure you read our 10 crucial rules for visiting a newborn.
Then, here are our 14 ways to really help a new mom:
1. Help her sleep
"When my first was about a week old, my parents came over and forced my husband and me to go take a nap. We slept for three hours, and it was life-changing."
Sleep is so. hard. to come by during those first weeks of parenthood—so help a new mama find it. This is especially true if you are close to her—read: someone she will trust to take care of the baby while she sleeps.
2. Hire a cleaning crew
"My mother-in-law offered to hire a cleaning crew to come by before we got home from the hospital with the baby. Walking into a clean, fresh-smelling home instantly made me relax."
The fourth trimester should be a time of cozy cocooning with the new baby, and this is so much nicer to do when her surroundings are tidy. Always get her permission and then hire a cleaning service to come over and get everything in pristine order for her.
This is a great group gift, too—ask everyone in your circle of friends to chip in a little bit.
3. Pop in an do something helpful
"A friend would come over sporadically and load my dishwasher, bring me food, and hold the baby so I could shower. She did that about two or three times a week for the first month."
"My friend would call about once a week and say, 'Hey! I'm getting bagels and coffee down the street from you. Is now a good time to stop in and bring you breakfast?'"
If you are at the "pop-in" level of friendship, make little trips to see her and do something nice.
4. Chip in for a postpartum doula or night nurse
"I had a postpartum doula for my second birth...I don't think that people know enough about them and what they do. I ended up having a lot of complications and [was] put back in the hospital multiple times and could not have done it without her caring for me."
"My sister paid for two nights of an overnight baby nurse for us. We'd found a lovely woman and paid for a night or two on our own but decided it was a luxury that was out of budget at the time. Having that extra sleep and support was way better than any product gift we could've gotten."
Postpartum doulas and baby nurses are professional, trained experts who specialize in caring for women and babies after birth. Postpartum doulas are more focused on taking care of the mom, while baby nurses are there mostly for the baby. Ask her which she might prefer and then see if you can get a group of friends or family members to chip in.
Pro-tip: Many doulas and nurses have the ability to add their services to a registry, so definitely reach out and ask.
5. Help her go on a date night
"My mom came over like maybe four or five months after he was born and was like, 'you guys need a date night.' She gave us money and told us she made reservations and this restaurant I liked down the street from our apartment—I burst into tears. And when we came home, she said she was going to take care of the baby the whole night so we could sleep."
The postpartum period can be stressful for relationships, and it can be easy for new parents to feel disconnected. If the new mama is in a relationship, provide childcare (and maybe a gift card), so she can go on a date and rekindle some pre-baby flames.
If she's single, do the same thing so she can go out on a date or with her friends!
6. Bring. Food.
"A friend dropped off a fully prepped dinner—lasagna with Sharpie [written instructions] on the container that said '350 for an hour' or something, so it was foolproof, plus a salad and pre-chopped veggies, so all we had to do was heat and eat."
"A friend baked and left on my doorstep oatmeal and raisin cookies to my boost milk supply (these made memorably tasty 2 am nursing snacks!)."
Food is never the wrong thing during the fourth trimester (or ever, really). Make sure you know about any allergies or dietary restrictions and then help her heal by bringing deliciously nourishing no-fuss meals.
Psst: Need inspiration? Here are 12 nutritious foods to eat in the first month after childbirth.
Speaking of food…
7. Organize a meal train
"Someone organized a meal train for us, and it was awesome. I didn't even request it, and it was so appreciated for baby number two."
A wildly popular and loved service called meal train will allow you to organize a steady stream of food and other helpful acts all online. This is an excellent option for a new mom without family nearby. It truly does take a village—a meal train helps you create that village instantly.
8. Help her plan for future meals
"My parents stocked our fridge."
Again with the food. Fully cooked meals are great, but so is a fridge full of snacks and easy to prep meals.
9. Spend time with her
"My closest girlfriends came over a few weeks after our second child was born. They brought trays of food and we just had a quiet cozy night together. They also helped clean up. We even Facetimed in our friend who lives in Oregon."
So many people want to see the baby (and we don't blame them!), but please don't forget that the new mama also needs love and attention. Go over to hang out with her. This is especially helpful a few weeks after the baby is born when people are calling less frequently and that postpartum isolation really sets in.
10. Send encouragement
"A friend sent a postcard in the mail with the words 'you're an awesome mother, and you're doing a great job!' It arrived on a day where I was not feeling so awesome and turned the whole day around for me."
Self-doubt is, unfortunately, a powerful force when you are a new mom. So send her little notes (or texts!) to remind her that she is doing a good job. It may seem simple, but it could make all the difference.
11. Help with pets
"My friend walked my dogs. Very appreciated."
Yes, she's a mom to a human baby now, but she may also still be a mom to the furry kind of baby. Help out by walking the dogs or changing the litter box!
12. Take pictures
"A friend said, 'I bet you don't have many pictures of you with the baby.' She was right and took a selection of pictures of me with my baby."
This period of time is so fleeting for a new parent—help her remember it by offering to take photos of her with her sweet baby.
13. Bring her a gift
"My mom bought me a cozy robe and pajama pants for recovery."
I know, I know! Shopping for baby gifts is pretty much impossible to resist. But the truth is, the baby has no idea that you've brought them a present (and has probably received a lot already). What is something you could bring the mom instead?
Psst: Need an idea? The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama is THE pregnancy and new mama guide women have been waiting for. It has thorough info about the often neglected fourth trimester, including information on her healing body, feeding her baby, and everything that she needs to know to take care of her baby.
And, here are 24 incredibly thoughtful gifts for new parents.
14. Tell her she's beautiful
"A few friends bought food and helped with the baby, but the thing that stood out the most was when my cousin came over a few days after we arrived home and told me I looked beautiful. It meant a lot to a mama who hadn't slept or showered in days!"
Remember that she is a person, not just a new mom. Tell her she's beautiful. Ask her about her. Give her the opportunity to talk about topics other than the baby.
On behalf of mamas everywhere, thank you for wanting to support a new mama in your life. It really does make a difference.