Balloons. Flowers. Picture frames. Wine. I got numerous gifts following the birth of my daughter, and that of my son, and while I appreciated every one — especially the alcohol — none were what I wanted. Scratch that: None were what I needed, because the gifts new moms really need aren’t tangible or physical. In fact, the gifts new moms really need are often overlooked.
“That whole newborn stage was such a blur to me. It was the hardest stage for us as both parents and as a couple,” Megan Cardwell writes for Scary Mommy. “But if I could go back and coach Michael and me through that sleepless stage all over again, I would be more outspoken about needing someone to take care of me... because I may not have realized it then, but that’s what I needed.”
Here are six things you can do to help the new parent in your life.
Give them the gift of time.
Becoming a parent is challenging. In fact, the early days of motherhood are beyond tough. From breastfeeding to (not) sleeping, time blurs together. Having a moment to yourself is a gift. But instead of offering to visit the new mom in your life — which comes with hosting obligations — offer to help her care for her newborn. You can feed her baby, if they take a bottle. You can burp them or rock them, cradling them in your arms until they fall asleep. Or you can simply sit vigil while the new mom in your life showers or sleeps. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as it is helpful and gives mom time to do other things. Just let her know clearly that you’re there to help, and she doesn’t need to feel obligated to entertain you.
Send them food — or cook them a meal.
Before I became a parent, I spent a lot of time preparing meals. After all, everyone told me I wouldn’t have time to cook in the days and weeks following the baby’s birth — and they were right. Food was the furthest thing from my mind. But new moms (and parents in general) need to eat, and sending or dropping off a meal is a great way to remind them you are there and care.
Not sure what they like? Try a DoorDash or GrubHub gift card.
Babies are very cute, but very messy. From blowouts to bottles, they add a lot of work to your (already busy) day. But one way to help the new mom in your life is to help them with the mundane. Do a load of laundry for them, or three. Load (and run) the dishwasher or boil all those binkies and breast pump parts. Oh, and don’t ask if they want help, just do it. Why? Because mom will (likely) say no, because we all know moms don’t like to ask for help, but it can be impossible to get anything done with a new baby. Trust me. These small acts of kindness go a long way.
Ask them how they feel, and on a regular basis.
When a person gives birth, everyone asks about the baby, and this (of course) makes sense. We want to know all the details (like their name, height, and weight) and about their overall health. But mom’s health matters too. Physically and emotionally, we need to be doing more to support the new parents in our lives, and this can be done with a simple check-in. Text mom and ask her how she is feeling. Don’t take “I’m fine” for an answer. Keep digging. Share stories of your personal struggles, if you can relate. And keep asking about mom because while congratulatory messages are great, new parents need ongoing support.
Help with siblings.
Does the new mom in your life have other children? Toddlers? Tweens? Even teens? If so, offer to watch them for a bit. Why? Because this frees up some of mom’s headspace and gives her a break. It also helps older children feel special, which is particularly important since a new baby generally gets all of mom’s attention and time.
Not sure what to do? Take them to a park, a ballgame, the mall, or a movie.
Take them out.
While it’s important to get older siblings out, new parents need to get out too. As I mentioned, the early days are particularly rough, and this can really affect your mental state, i,e., the lack of adult interaction coupled with postpartum mood changes is tough. Offer to watch your friend’s (or family member’s) child while she and her partner go on a date. Try and arrange a sitter for a mom’s day out. Or simply offer to join her and her little one a walk or trip to the coffee shop. Trust me: Mom wants and needs it. Fresh air, friendship, and non-incandescent light can go a long way toward giving a new mom the energy she needs to make it through yet another sleepless night.