When I think back to my pre-baby self visiting friends who were new moms, all I can think of is the facepalm emoji. I guess I really didn’t know any better, but I definitely didn’t understand how difficult being a new mom could be in those first few weeks.
Fast forward to having gone through it myself, I realize now that there are a lot of small things you can do for a new mom that can be incredibly helpful. Whether it’s allowing her to enjoy use of her own hands for 20 minutes or helping her with chores that are No. 47 on her to-do list, there are tons of ways to support a new mom – even if you can’t personally relate.
After chatting with The Everymom team, I came up with a list of 10 things that we found most helpful in the first six weeks of motherhood.
1. Know how to change a diaper
As a new mom, you basically spend all of your time feeding your baby and changing diapers. And while it’s not the most difficult task you’re doing as a new mom, there is something so nice about having a break.
Everyone wants to come over and hold a sleeping baby, but it seems as soon as your baby needs something, he’s all but thrown back at you. Give mom a break and make sure you can change a diaper before coming to visit. Here’s a video if you’re new to this or need a refresher. And, if you’re still not sure, ask her to show you how – she will feel so good that you are interested enough to learn.
2. Scrub the bathroom
It’s almost impossible to not live in squalor for the first six weeks postpartum. You are basically in survival mode 100 percent of the time. There is so much cleaning between butts, bottles, and blood — some things just end up getting pushed to the end of the list.
Sometimes for a new mom, being able to take your bi-weekly shower in a clean bathroom feels like a trip to paradise. I know, it’s not glamorous, but it’s so helpful.
3. Sign up for dish duty
Doing dishes can be annoying before you have a baby. Then, you add on a whole new load with bottles and pumping accessories. As a new mom, it seems endless – especially when you just want to sit down after the baby finally falls asleep.
So, don’t wait for a new mom to ask, just do it. I’ve never met someone who wouldn’t be grateful for an empty sink and clean dishes. If you don’t know how to clean bottles, you can learn here.
4. Feed the baby
New moms generally have their hands full (pun intended). But seriously, it feels like you have something in your hands at all times in the beginning (and actually, maybe for the rest of your life?).
So, letting a new mom sit back and relax while you feed and burp the baby allows her to have a moment to herself.
5. Know how (or try) to calm a fussy baby
This goes back to when I mentioned people always wanting to hand the baby back to you as soon as they’re not perfectly still or sleeping. I really can’t stress enough that holding a sleeping baby is not really that helpful for a new mom.
I’ve generally found that there are a few things that will calm a baby down, if they’re not hungry, of course. First, stand up. I’m not sure what it is, but sometimes babies just want to be held standing up. I swear this works 50 percent of the time. If they’re still fussing after this, try bouncing a bit – bend at the knees (not a squat, just a bouncy bend), and start a gentle “shh” sound in their ear. Gentle pats on the back or butt also seem to be calming for babies — a nurse friend taught me this one.
Sometimes, none of these things work, and mom will have to jump in and work her magic. But if you check with the mom to make sure it’s OK to try soothing the baby, and she’s all for it, then give it a go!
6. Bring fresh food and wine
Everyone is always saying to bring frozen food to moms or moms to be, which is nice, but reheating food can get old pretty quickly. It’s really nice to have some fresh food that still doesn’t require much thought.
Contributing Editor Kathy Sisson had someone bring her two bags of Trader Joe’s groceries which sounds like a postpartum dream. Senior Content Editor Ojus Patel had friends set up a meal train and had hot meals delivered for weeks, which is also a dream. Either way, good food is always welcome and is such an easy way to take a load off of a new mama.
Also, wine. It has been nine months — bring all the wine.
7. Help with laundry
The only thing we all hate more than doing laundry is folding laundry. If you’re a close friend, offer to throw a few loads of laundry in (not everyone is OK with someone random touching their underwear).
If someone doesn’t want you touching their intimates, you can always do a load of baby clothes and burp cloths. Freshly laundered bed sheets are also a treat, especially since a new mom is likely soaking them from night sweats. Otherwise, help fold the laundry that’s already done.
Senior Content Editor Ojus had a friend come over weekly with wine to help fold laundry and she says it’s the thing she remembers the most. It’s the little things that make a big difference.
8. Take pictures
As a new mom, and a mom in general, it’s so rare to have pictures of yourself with the baby. Husbands are notoriously bad at remembering to take pictures, or, maybe worse, take pictures of you where you look like Chewbacca. If mom is in the mood, or if you realize you have a sweet candid on your hands, take some family pictures so your new mom friend can have some memories that aren’t 3am selfies in a dark room. Maybe even give a new mom a heads up so she can pull herself together a bit if she’s so inclined.
9. Be mindful of how long you visit
This is a hard one.
I remember as a new mom feeling conflicted because I wanted so badly to be an adult and sit with friends chatting for hours over a glass of wine, but I was also exhausted and knew I should be sleeping and often wished people would leave.
I think in the early weeks especially, plan to keep your visits short and sweet, unless the mom requests otherwise. However, when my husband went back to work after two weeks, I was so lonely and wanted people to hang out with so badly. I loved when people would come over and stay for hours to keep me company.
Try to read the situation and check in with the mom to see how she’s feeling. If she’s up for it, a long chat with a friend might be just what mama needs.
10. Be tactful with offering help
As a new mom, and especially a first-time mom, you feel like you’re supposed to do it all, and if you can’t do it all, there is something in you that can feel as if you’ve failed. You don’t want to be a burden on people because you feel like you should be able to handle everything alone. Because of that, “Let me know if there is anything I can do” can be useless. While it’s thoughtful and comes from a good place, it can be hard to ask for help and not feel like a burden.
Senior Content Editor Ojus recalled how a veteran mom offered to help: “That’s another thing my friend did that I noticed. She wouldn’t say ‘Let me know if you need anything.’ She’d be like, “When can I come do your laundry, what do you need cleaned, what dinner would you like tomorrow night, when can my husband come rake the leaves.”
Specific tasks are so much more helpful than broad offerings.