So your co-worker or friend just had a baby. And beyond the adorable onesie you bought her for the shower and the congrats text with the baby emoji, you have no idea what to do next.
But you want to help because you've heard the stories. A new mom is riding the 4th-trimester roller coaster of her physical healing while figuring out how to keep a little helpless human alive while juggling the potential onslaught of family coming in to help or visit—with little to no sleep. So yes, she would love your help.
And no, she won't ask for it because she's too busy doing the aforementioned things.
I get it—it's awkward for you, too. You've heard that the days and weeks that follow a baby are blurry and chaotic. You've probably read blogs where new moms lament over visitors who overstayed their welcome or did something else equally annoying. Or you're weirded out by boobs and breastfeeding.
And you are just too nice of a person to risk frustrating your friend.
But can I offer a different perspective? This is an incredibly special and messy and crazy transition. And I bet—no, I know—she doesn't want to do it alone.
Here's a great rule of thumb to be a blessing to a friend you care about while also avoiding stepping on any toes: Don't ask and make room.
Here's what I mean by don't ask.
Don't ask a new Mama if she needs anything—she will likely decline. Instead, tell her you want to do something to help, like cover a meal.
And here's what I mean by 'make room'.
In your message, make room for her to tell you what helps her the most. Because that's what you are going for, right?
But your burning question—what does she need?!
Here are 3 ideas that mean the world to new mama but won't ask much of your wallet—
1. She needs food
Sometimes the baby's arrival is planned in advance and comes in right on time. Other times, the baby makes a surprise debut and, as you might have guessed, a grocery run before heading to the hospital is not going to happen.
Regardless of the baby's arrival, cooking falls way down the priority list. So the simple, classic act of delivering a meal to them is a perfect way to take one thing off their minds, at least for that day!
Make a yummy dinner for the new parents and try to limit the prep they will have to do as much as possible. Bonus points if you drop it off in containers that you don't care about seeing again because it's one less thing to remember for new mama. Too busy to cook for yourself, let alone someone else? Get an idea of their favorite foods and use a delivery app like Eat24 to place an order on their behalf. (The delivery option is also a great idea if your friend lives out of town!)
Something like this text is perfect: “Hey New Mama! Thinking about you—life must be busy right now! I'd like to help by cover dinner for you sometime this week or next. What day is best? And what foods do you and hubby prefer?"
Want to go a little further? Drop off some easy snacks for the new mama. A friend of mine dropped off a huge container of cut-up strawberries and a gallon-sized bag of yummy homemade banana muffins about 10 days after I had my daughter. To this day, it's one of the most thoughtful gifts I have ever received. I could eat them with one hand (because I was holding an infant in the other arm.) and they lasted a few days.
Many times there are family members around for a week or longer so make a reminder for yourself to reach out a week or two after the baby is born.
2. She needs help with self-care
A newborn needs to eat every 2-3 hours—and they are not usually fast eaters. New mama is feeding her baby for about 30 minutes—1 hour around the clock. Through the night, she's getting to sleep in 1-2 hour segments. And if she's like me, she's not taking the advice of veteran moms who tell you to sleep while your baby sleeps during the day.
So it's no surprise that she's tired. All the time.
You may hear New Mama talk about wearing the same clothes a few days in a row and here's a big reason why: Spit up. Baby is spitting up his milk all day, usually after feedings. So why change your shirt if it's just going to happen again 1 hour later? Plus, if she's breastfeeding, she's taking off her shirt every hour so it kinda counts as changing her clothes ... right?
Ask when you can come over to give mama a break. You'll hold the baby (free snuggles for you!) while she can do whatever she needs to do: shower, sleep, get out of the house for a bit without baby in tow.
Want to go a bit further? Stay a little longer and clean something. Clean up her kitchen, vacuum the carpet, or if you are great friends, do some laundry. Because she definitely doesn't want to do it but definitely wants it done. My best friend cleaned my whole house while I held my 4 week old daughter and I literally wept out of gratitude for it. (Yes, I was probably still hormonal at that point.)
3. She needs companionship.
Your friend's world just got thrown upside down by the cutest little bundle of joy. But nothing is the same for her—her heart, her body, her mind. Nothing about her is untouched by having a child—her routine, her marriage, her finances, her everything. It is a great and glorious change but it. is. hard.
And, like a lot of hard things, it is lonely.
Because one thing that changes the most are her friendships. She doesn't have the same amount of time to invest them. Girls' Night Out, shopping trips, working out with her friends—whatever she enjoyed before baby as common blessings will instantly become rare luxuries.
And never will they be as freeform and spontaneous, because she'll always have a little bit of her mind on her baby.
One of the best things you can give your New Mama friend is your company. You'll want to be on time (new moms curse the “fashionably late" rule) and you'll want to give advanced notice. An ideal visit is about 30 minutes unless she asks you to stay longer. Ask her how sleeping is going, how baby is feeding, how her heart and mind are doing. Put your phone away and listen.
She has so much to say & share with you—and maybe a few tears to cry.
Finally, two things to avoid:
1. Don't avoid her or assume she's too busy with baby.
Maternity leave is lonely. Raising a new baby is hard. Yes, there are so many cute photos on Instagram that paint a picture of everlasting bliss but don't be fooled. Is your life as good as you make it look on social media? Yea, I thought so.
While she might not want to hang out for more than 20 minutes, your New Mama friend does crave a sense of normalcy—aka time with you.
2. Avoid sharing wild birth stories you read about on the internet or from your cousin.
Listen, I know this sounds weird but New Mama goes into hyper-drive of all that could go wrong in her baby's world. I once got angry while on walking on a sidewalk next to a busy street because the street had no guard rails—because what if a stroller got loose and rolled into oncoming traffic?!
Not only that, but New Mama is hyper-aware of every sound or movement the baby makes that isn't normal. She has her baby's doctor on speed-dial to double-check anything and everything that seems odd.
So save your crazy, death-defying, did-you-hear-about-this stories for another time. She doesn't want to hear it.
At the end of the day, I encourage you to enter into her life in whatever way you can.
Offer to come over and then serve her with all your heart—because she's giving her entire body to serve her little one. This is a new side of her that you get to know and she'll be there for you when and if it's your turn. It's a beautiful transition and she wants you to be a part of it.
Just bring some snacks with you.