After 6 months hibernating in a cabin in Montana for the winter, we have arrived back in Austin with our newborn, Cruz. You can read the story of our home birth here. When I left I was just a few months pregnant, and now I’m back with my beautiful baby boy. It has been so incredible to introduce our little guy to our friends and welcome him into the loving, supportive community we have here in Austin.
Last week I met my friend for coffee and I shared all of the nitty, gritty details of my pregnancy and birth. I shared the highs, the lows, the things that surprised me, and what challenged me most. My friend Carly (I have 2 friends named Carly!) who I was chatting with doesn’t have children yet and she was asking about how best to show up and support the new moms in her life. Do you give space or show up daily? What is most helpful to a new mom? How can I help in the early days?
So, if you are child-free and curious about how to love on the new moms in your life, this post is for you!
The very first thing you should know is that right after the birth of their child, most moms are on bed rest as they bond with their little one, begin to recover physically and mentally from birth and spend day and night feeding their babe. Someone once told me the only thing for a mom to do during the first month is to keep her little one alive and remember to feed herself as well. If you accomplish those two things, you have succeeded. All this to say, there are so many ways moms need support in the early days!
For me, the first month was almost more than I could handle. I ended up with mastitis in both breasts with a 105 fever and was pretty much unfunctional. On top of recovering physically from birth, I was battling a nasty infection. I was having trouble breastfeeding because of the pain and just dressing myself in the morning was a victory. Had my mom and husband not been there to literally feed me, cook for me, hold Cruz, take over when I needed rest and shower, and manage the household, I image my recovery would have looked much, much different.
First and foremost, check in with your friend before the baby comes to see what kind of support she will have. Will a partner be present? Is a parent, friend, or in-law coming to stay to help out? Depending on what kind of infrastructure she has in place going into the birth, this will dictate how and where you can fill in the gaps.
I’ve found that most women will not outwardly ask for help so don’t rely on her to be upfront about what she needs because she may not even know what she needs (I sure didn’t!). Instead of “Is there anything I can do to help?” lead with, “I’d like to bring you food to stock your freezer before the baby comes. Are there any dietary restrictions I should be aware of?” Instead of “Do you need help walking your dog?” say “I’d like to come over and walk your dog. What time does he/she go out in the morning?” The fewer decisions mama needs to make, the better! Tell her exactly how you’d like to help.
Here, 10 ways you can lighten the load for the new mamas in your life: (Thank you in advance!)
1. Bring food
This one is hands-down, guaranteed a smash hit! Whether it’s fresh juices, warm curries, tea, baked veggies, sweet treats, or to-go food from her favorite restaurant, you can rest easy knowing mama needs some nourishment. Let her know you’d like to drop off some food and you will let yourself in and place it on the table for her. If she’s in the mood to chat, she will let you know when you arrive. Sometimes it’s crazy and chaotic, and other times the baby is sleeping and a quick chat with a friend is so completely soul nourishing. Feel out the vibe when you arrive. It can also be helpful to bring dishes BEFORE baby comes and have some backlog stocked up in the freezer. I had done this for myself but if mama is working right up until her due date she may not have an opportunity. Check in with her!
2. Clean dishes in the sink
A dream visitor notices the little things in the home that need tending to. I remember how painful it was on my back and shoulders to lean over doing the dishes in the early days. Walking into the kitchen seeing a clean sink and countertops was one of the little things that made me feel so comforted. I knew the daily tasks were being handled so I could give all of my attention to my baby. It seems little but will mean a lot!
3. Do a load of laundry
It’s almost unbelievable how much dirty laundry a little 7-pound baby can make, especially if you are like us using cloth diapers. I can almost guarantee that any time you stop by your friend’s home there will be clothes, sheets, and baby blankets that will all need to be cleaned. I remember walking out of my room in the morning seeing a pile of clean, folded clothes with the nursing bras I needed for the day. Truly, bliss. Thank you, mom!
4. Walk the dog
It’s common that our four-legged family members often take a back seat when baby first comes home so having someone dedicated to showing the pup some love is so valuable. You can simply let your friend know you will stop by daily on your way to work that first week to take the dog on a 5 – 10 minute walk. That is just one more thing they won’t need to worry about. Plus, depending on how the birth went, walking during that first week may be totally off the table.
5. Send a loving text
If it’s not possible to show up in person, send a “check-in” text to let them know you are thinking of them. It is also helpful to mention, “no need to reply” so it’s clear there is no need to respond back. Something along the lines of, “Just wanted to let you know I am thinking of you guys and sending all of my love. I am here for a chat anytime you need! No need to reply, just sending love.” Ah, so perfect.
6. Hold the baby
If you are comfortable with it, holding the baby for 30 minutes or so can be so incredibly helpful. It gives mama time to shower, take a nap, or even just eat with 2 hands. I remember not wanting to assume people wanted to hold Cruz so I didn’t ask them to hold him unless they outwardly asked. But anytime they did, I was grateful to give my arms and back a break. Bonus points for washing your hands first! Don’t make mama ask.
7. Organize a meal train
This is another one that can be done remotely if needed and helps so, so much! Through a website such as mealtrain.com, you can have family and friends sign up for a designated day to deliver food to the new mama and family. The website handles all of the coordination, food preferences, calendar reminders, and sign-ups and also has a donate option for those who want to donate but cannot bring food in person.
8. Give their partner a break
Partners may have gotten a break from actually birthing the baby but like mama, they are up all night and adjusting to life with a newborn; they too need a break to shower, eat, nap, etc. Let your mama friend know you want to give her partner a break for a couple of hours and ask when is best to stop by. Everyone will benefit from a quick reset!
9. Foot massage/touch
This one surprised me but I read about it in a pregnancy book and it proved to be true for me! In the beginning, EVERYTHING is about the baby but mom is going through a very intense recovery period including lack of sleep and surging/plummeting hormones. If your friend is one who enjoys touch (I definitely am!) ask if you can give her a massage, rub her feet, brush her hair, or just provide some loving touch. It allows her to be seen in a way other than just a feeding machine for baby…which is very much how it is in those first couple of months.
10. Run errands
Even though mama’s life has now changed forever and life as she knows it looks a lot different, everyday life is still going on outside the home. That means the mail still needs to get collected, the trash needs to go down on Tuesday, other kids in the home need to get to school, and the car needs filled up with gas. These are the “etcetera” things that will get pushed to the backburner in the early days. Let mama know you have a couple of hours to run errands for her and you will stop by at 3 pm to pick up a list of things that need to be done. You will be the hero of the day!
There you have it! Please hit “share” below and pass along to all the women in your life. We truly need one another!
This is a post from the author of one of my favorite pregnancy books, “The First Forty Days.”
@motherbees: “The First Forty Days fantasy visitor…learns that you are home alone with your baby because your partner has gone back to work. She calls to ask if she can stop by later that day or the next day to spend a bit of time with you and bring you some food. She knows that when she arrives at your home there may be a note on the door that says, “I’m napping. You can leave food at the door. I’ll call you when I can.” She doesn’t take it personally and is happy you’re getting some rest. If you are open to a visit, she immediately puts the food she’s made in the fridge or heats up a bowl, gives you a hug, looks you in the eye, and asks, “how are you?” While you’re answering she goes over to the sink saying, “I’m listening, I just need to wash my hands so I can hold the baby and give your arms a little break.” She doesn’t stay too long, the fantasy visit lasts for 45 min to an hour.”