Picture this. I’m sitting on the couch, nursing my 4-day old baby, ugly crying over a combination of sleep deprivation, engorged boobs, and sheer fear at the thought of taking care of this tiny bundle of cuteness. My sister is looking at me bewildered, offering a tissue while I’m blubbering and trying to say that “I’m fine”. My mom walks over, calmly takes the baby and orders me to bed. “Go take a shower. Put on a sleep mask, shut the bedroom door, and go to sleep”. I shakily trudged down the hall, following orders. An hour and a half later, I woke feeling like a new person. It was only a ninety-minute break but was exactly what I needed.
I have a friend who’s about to have a baby, and it got me thinking about those first few days (weeks) home from the hospital. It really does take a village of support, and we were so blessed to have many people looking after our care. Here are some ways you can help a new mom out.
Offer to buy groceries or run an errand
It’s a major chore to get out of the house as a new mom, especially a first-time mom, and especially if she had a c-section. Some of the best ways my family or friends helped me was by sending a simple text “Need anything?” and grabbing something to drop by. This was random, like drinks on sale that week, nail file and gloves for baby, and trash bags.
Watch the baby while mom sleeps
Like my story, you can be a new mom’s hero today by giving the gift of uninterrupted sleep. There were several times that my own mom did this for me, often straightening the house or cooking dinner while I snoozed. The lack of sleep in the early days can be a major stressor, and even when I had the chance to nap, I felt on pins and needles that the baby could wake up any minute. I found a sleeping mask and shut my door while mom was happily watching baby M.
Bring dinner (or breakfast…or lunch) over
This is a common one, but shouldn’t go unmentioned. My husband’s grandma was a lifesaver for us and cooked meals the first two weeks. She brought bbq, a ham, chicken & rice, pork chops, spaghetti, and sides galore. The timing for drop-off wasn’t always ideal (8am on our first morning home), but it was a godsend. We had food galore, and it was so nice not having to worry about what to have for dinner. She even brought us drinks and the food was all in disposable containers so no washing was necessary! Not everyone has the capacity to do that for someone else, but maybe you can make freezer meals, or put together a simple casserole for a new mom. Put it in a disposable container, and include all of the sides to make a meal. Trust me, it will be much appreciated.
Give a gift basket
One family member sent a gift basket to me and was one of the most endearing gestures. It included chapstick, tissues, hand lotion, breakfast bars & shakes, germ-x, and candy. It was like new mom heaven and made me feel so special. Lord knows I needed the tissues!
Have a movie night
There’s a lot of ups and downs in the first few weeks (ahem, first year) of becoming a mom for the first time, and I felt like I was constantly trying to find “new normal”. I struggled being at home and constantly tried to find ways to get out of the house, often over-doing it. Nonetheless, it was great when my mom offered to come over with dinner and brought some movie options. She held and rocked the fussy baby while we all piled on the couch, and took care of the bedtime routine for me. It was a great break from the evening “witching hour” with Little M. You could also go out with a new mom, or invite her somewhere to do something. Occasionally, we went to a soccer game of my sister’s in those early weeks.
Make things easier
The bottom line – what can you do to make a new mom’s life easier? It’s a delicate time, so you have to tread carefully. You definitely don’t want your act of kindness to be a hardship on the new mama, and it’s very easy for things to shift in that direction. Be mindful of timing of visits (when and how long), and look for ways you can make things simple for her.