Welcoming a new baby into the family is NO JOKE. It is such a special time of sweet snuggles and finding a new normal as you finally meet and get to know the newest member of your family that you have waited NINE WHOLE MONTHS to hold. It is also frequently a time of sleep deprivation, hormonal shifts, and milk-soaked shirts, let's be real.
Our culture is one of the worst in the world in terms of supporting the postpartum mom. In many cultures, women are served and expected to do nothing but rest and care for her baby as she recovers from her pregnancy and delivery. Our American culture, however, encourages us to jump right back into our old routine and bring baby along for the ride. We are expected to entertain guests, keep up with the home and older children, get back to work a few short weeks later and the list goes on. This is not at all conducive to a healthy recovery or mom.
Here is a list of 5 ways to be the perfect postpartum visitor/helper so mom can be better supported as she recovers from this AMAZING feat.
1. DO NOT, I repeat, ABSOLUTELY DO NOT show up unannounced.
Yes, you may be thinking it is better to just drop by when you have a minute and you don't want them to stress about cleaning up before you arrive. This is a bad idea. There is nothing worse to a new mom than having to jump out of bed to answer the door. Or worse, being surprised when someone comes into the living room to find her with her boobs exposed as she and baby try to establish a good nursing relationship.
Call or text first to schedule a time that is good for her and dad. Trust me, they will enjoy your visit much more when they are prepared for it.
2. SUPPLY FOOD
Meal trains are my favorite way to support a new mom. I always ask if she has one set up and if she doesn't, I try to take it upon myself to set one up. Websites like takethemameal.com are great resources for putting together something fairly quick without a lot of hassle. So sign up for a meal or two (another hint here: when you bring them a meal, bring it in disposable containers... trying to keep track of and returning dishes is a hassle they just don't need) and deliver it at an agreed upon time.
If you can't bring a whole meal, bring healthy snacks for the new mama and dad or even the older siblings. Having something quick on hand to grab in between meal times is really helpful and she will appreciate the gesture.
Passing by a grocery store on the way? Ask what they could use or grab a few staples. Bread, milk, and eggs anyone?
3. BRING YOUR CLEANING GLOVES AND A GOOD ATTITUDE
Ok, so I'm only partially kidding here. If you walk into her home and ASK if there is anything you can do, she will almost certainly say no. It takes a special breed of us to be honest about what we need or would like for that matter. Trust me, there is ALWAYS something you can do. Don't ask- just make yourself useful! See an overflowing trash can? Take it out and replace the bag. See a sink full of dishes? Load the dishwasher or wash them by hand. See a basket-- or 4-- of laundry? Get to folding while you chat and catch up. Could the floor stand to be swept or the rug vacuumed? Believe me, a mom will feel so loved and cared for when you actively meet her where she is and more often than not, drowning in undone household chores is where the new family will be. So as the old adage states, "leave the room cleaner than you found it." Be helpful and here is the most important part of it all- DO IT with a GOOD attitude. Be a cheerful giver of your time and talent. If you wipe off her kitchen table with a scrunched nose or grumble about the work to be done, you will make her feel like an inconvenience and your "good deed" won't feel all that helpful.
4. LOVE ON THE OLDER KIDDOS
This is a BIG one for families who are welcoming a baby into a family with older siblings. New babies require a lot of attention and care and sometimes one of the hardest parts for new parents (I'm speaking from experience here) is feeling like the older children aren't getting enough attention in the process. Take the siblings on an adventure to the park to play, or even in the backyard if mom would prefer they stay close. Offer to take them to school or pick them up and stop for a snack on the way. Either way, make the siblings a priority and make them feel special too. Mom and Dad will breathe a sigh of relief if they know the older kids are having fun and being well cared for.
5. Last but not least, be THAT FRIEND
You know, the friend who shows up and doesn't expect anything from her. The friend who she's comfortable enough around to not feel like she needs to change out of her pajamas or get up off the couch to greet. The friend she doesn't have to put on makeup for or hide her leaky boobs from. The friend who will listen to her as she shares all the wonderful and challenging moments of her day while encouraging her that she's doing a great job. The friend who would NEVER reach for her newborn without first washing your hands.The friend that brings fresh flowers just because you know they will bring a little cheer. Be that friend. We all need that friend from time to time, but new mamas especially need that friend.
There you have it, folks! Apply these principles and I promise you that the new mom will be thankful for your visit. Enjoy those new baby snuggles!