There is nothing like lavishing a new mother with love and attention. When a close friend or family member has a baby, we want nothing more than to support her in any way we can (and you know, snuggle the cute newborn while we're at it).
Alas, in the midst of a pandemic, many of the ways we are used to helping new mothers are off the table. She is anxious to protect her health and the health of her vulnerable new baby, and you have concerns about your own safety, as well. It's a hard time to cross that motherhood threshold.
But that doesn't mean that you can't be helpful—far from it! There are many ways that you can support a new mom right now! You just have to think outside the box a little bit.
Here are 12 ways to help a new mom during a pandemic—that are actually helpful.
1. Send food.
Food is always first. Always. Not only is a delicious meal a thoughtful way to show her you care, but it's also incredibly important to her overall health. She is recovering from birth (or adoption, which has unique challenges), possibly breastfeeding and taking care of a tiny human. She needs all the nutrition she can get.
Now, during a pandemic, she may not feel comfortable eating food made in someone else's home—if this is the case, try not to be offended. Remember, it's not you, it's COVID-19.
So ask first. Try saying, "I want to send you a meal. Would you prefer something homemade, delivery from your favorite restaurant, or a gift card to a grocery store or delivery service?"
2. Pick up and drop off her laundry.
Under normal circumstances, I always suggest that helpful friends and family members (that's you!) offer to help clean up the new mama's home (in a non-judgmental way, of course). But during the pandemic, going into someone's home to clean isn't ideal. The good news (and bad news) is that the fourth trimester is notoriously chock-full of laundry to be done. So why not offer to stop by, pick up the laundry and return it the next day clean and folded? What a huge help that would be!
3. Walk her dog.
Taking a dog for a walk can be wonderful, but possibly not ideal as she's recovering from birth and caring for a newborn. Offer to stop by (occasionally or regularly) to walk the dog! It's a great way to help that doesn't require you to set foot inside her home.
4. Have a socially distanced, masked, outdoor visit.
If you and the new parents are comfortable with it, you could offer to have a very safe visit with them. To make it as stress-free as possible, I suggest pulling out all the safety stops:
- Visit outdoors (a local park is a great option).
- Stay at least 6 feet apart.
- Wear masks.
- Consider leaving the baby home with her partner if she has one.
Even 30 minutes of safe gathering can be incredibly impactful—especially if she trusts that you will follow the guidelines to keep her and her new baby safe.
5. Call her consistently.
Confession: I just had to pause writing because I realized that I hadn't checked in with my good friend who had a baby a few weeks ago.
My suggestion (so you don't do the same thing) is to put calling your friend or family member into your calendar. Because let's face it, with everything going on right now it can be easy to forget, even when it's something fun and joyful. Ask her what frequency works for her, and what day and time is best—and then stick to it. Knowing that she can count on a regular adult conversation will make a big difference to her, especially during a pandemic when she might be feeling extra lonely.
6. Start a voice memo thread.
A friend recently introduced me to the pleasure of using voice memo services like WhatsApp for sending voice messages back and forth between friends. Think of it as a hybrid between text messaging and phone calls; it's more personal than texting since you can hear the person's voice, but it's more flexible than phone calls—she can send you a message when she's up feeding the baby at 2 am!
This is another great way to help her feel connected without any of the risks of in-person visits.
7. Go shopping for her.
Shopping during a pandemic is stressful—especially if the person has a newborn and is recovering from birth or adoption. If you are heading to the store, send your friend a text beforehand and ask her what she needs.
Don't feel like you have to pay for the groceries or supplies. If you can and want to, that is super nice, of course; but budgets are tight right now! She'll appreciate the ability to take an extra nap and then wake up to fresh groceries at her front door.
8. Take photos of her and the newborn (safely).
With fewer visitors, new moms might have fewer opportunities to have their photo taken with the baby (because people aren't there to take the photos).
Offer to come over and take a few photos from a safe distance—maybe on her fronts steps or outside somewhere. She'll cherish them (and you) forever.
9. Send her a 'just because' gift.
Your presence in her life is the most important present, of course. But sometimes a sweet gesture in the form of a thoughtful gift is just what she needs for a boost. While you may be inclined to get the baby something (because baby gifts are impossibly cute), try to make it mama-focused, instead. Remind her that she is still important.
(Psst: Check out a few of our favorite ideas for gifts below!)
10. Encourage her to pay attention to her mental health.
Experts are concerned that new parents are at an increased risk of experiencing postpartum depression and anxiety during the pandemic. All of the regular stressors are compounded by the isolation, fear and change that we are living through.
Mental health concerns still have a stigma associated with them–but that needs to change. Don't be afraid to encourage the new mama in your life to reach out for help if she needs it. If you know a great therapist, let her know. If not, suggest a website like Psychology Today, Better Health or Talk Space.
11. Let her vent.
Motherhood is amazing—and incredibly tough (especially right now). Let her work through those difficult emotions with you.
So often in our culture, we ask mothers to sweep negative feelings under the rug and force them to focus only on the positive. This is called toxic positivity, and it has severe consequences. The next time a new mother vents to you (about her birth, how hard breastfeeding is or just how challenging motherhood is in general), resist the urge to try to fix the problem or "help her" focus on the positive. Be brave enough to sit in the fire with her for a bit—it will support her more than you know.
12. Help her embrace the excitement.
People who are becoming parents right now are missing out on many of the experiences people get excited about when picturing new-parenthood: Baby showers, a home full of adoring visitors, mommy-and-me yoga classes and so much more.
(After you've let her vent), join her in her excitement. Help her to feel celebrated. Revel in her joy with her. Gush over the sweet baby and the strong mama!
Let her know that despite all that is wrong in the world right now, she is allowed to feel happy. This time is sacred for her—and you are a very good friend for wanting to help her through it.
As promised, here are a few of our favorite 'I'm thinking about you because you are amazing' gifts to give a new mama:
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