Whether it’s a first baby or a seventh, the first few months of being a new mother are usually exhausting. No matter how prepared parents think they are, there’s no way to truly plan for sleepless nights, anxiety and the barrage of emotions that hits like a tsunami.
Of course, it’s not only the new parents who’ve been anticipating the arrival of the baby. Soon-to-be aunties, grandparents and friends of the couple experience the excitement of the baby’s birth too and are keen to do all they can to help. Yet, since every new parent is different, it can be difficult to know how best to support new mums, as a friend, an auntie, uncle, or a grandparent.
Focusing on mistakes friends and relatives of new parents often make after the baby is born, this blog shares 8 useful, non-intrusive ways we can support new mums.
Don’t Visit A New Mum For Too Long
This one can be tricky because of course we want to be around as much as possible in this happy time. We also want to meet the baby. However, it’s so important to understand that a new mum will be tired, she might be feeling as if she needs time for just her and the baby to bond and she might also have other things she needs to do. If there isn’t enough time to do the cleaning, catch up on sleep, shower and cook then there isn’t going to be time for long visits. Apart from this, new mothers might be recovering physically from giving birth or adjusting to breastfeeding, which may not be something some mothers are ready to do in front of an audience.
A new mum needing time and space isn’t a reflection on your relationship with them, it’s about their relationship forming with their baby. So, keep visits to under an hour and make sure the parents know you don’t expect anything from them - make your own tea (and one for them) and make sure you’re picking up on their signals. If a new mum doesn’t seem comfortable with letting anyone hold the baby, don’t push or ask again. Similarly, if a new parent is mentioning how tired they are and the baby has fallen asleep, then leave and let them sleep. It’s impossible to be direct with a guest who has only come to see and show support so you have to be the one to be hyper-alert to their needs. Short, semi-regular visits are generally preferred when there’s a new baby in the home.
Don’t Turn Up Empty-Handed
You needn’t bring expensive gifts or homecooked pies every time you visit a new mum. However, during this time when it might be difficult for new parents to get to the shops and finances might be tight, try to bring something practical. This might be muslin cloths, snacks, herbal teas, etc. The little things that will be used.
Try to avoid anything that will cause a parent extra work or try to ‘educate’ them, such as parenting books. One thing that can be difficult if you’ve had a baby yourself is to restrict your advice. Listen and answer any questions they may have, but remember that a baby is already overwhelming and unsolicited advice and opinions are rarely needed.
Leave Drama At The Door
This can be particularly difficult for friends who are used to leaning on one another and sharing everything. These relationships are vital and beautiful but the only exception to this would be when your friend is going through a life-changing experience, such as having a baby. It’s important to understand that they may not have space for your problems or successes right now. They’ll feel guilty about this and they’ll probably try to listen but, ultimately, it’s fairly likely they won’t be able to give you the support they usually can. Naturally, there are exceptions to this in certain circumstances, but, generally, one of the kindest things you can do is allow this time to be about your new mum friend or relative and their new baby.
Go For A Walk
One of the hardest parts of having a newborn is feeling stuck indoors. If you’ve read my other blogs then you’ll probably know how much I advocate for spending time outdoors. It’s essential for our wellbeing, both mentally and physically.
For some new mums, the idea of leaving the house can be overwhelming so don’t push too much. However, helping new parents to get out of the house - not for chores - can be good for getting them over that hurdle and for blowing out the cobwebs. Obviously, when I talk about getting out for a walk, I mean with the baby. I mean putting the baby in a sling or pram and taking a short stroll around the neighbourhood. Nothing complicated - it’s not necessary to venture into the countryside or go for a meal - it’s just about stretching the legs and benefiting from some fresh air. Going for a walk also takes the pressure off them feeling as if they need to tidy up or entertain you during your visit. Moreover, getting out of the house may be quite daunting for a new parent to do by themselves so this can be a great way to support a new mum - if they’re ready.
Food For New Mums
A healthy diet is so important for new sleep-deprived parents, especially breastfeeding mums. However, it’s often the first thing we let slip when we’re busy. So, visitors who bring food are usually very welcome. Make sure you’re not creating extra work. Any food you bring should be ready-to-eat.
The other alternative, because parents can be in a situation where everyone brings food and there’s too much, is to gift them meal service vouchers. Cook offer a Meals For New Parents Service and you can buy a box or get one delivered to your friend’s home. This can be quite expensive but they also offer a 10% discount for new parents across their full range. The key thing with this service, over most ready meals, is that the quality is high and the nutrition is good because the last thing parents need when they’re run down is unhealthy unsatisfactory meals.
Cleaning For New Mums
Supporting new mums with cleaning can be a difficult one to navigate. You don’t want your offer of help to make your friend or relative feel as if they’re not coping. However, sometimes a take-charge attitude can be exactly what’s needed. The best approach is not to visit and wait to offer help because that can be interpreted the wrong way - as if you’ve looked around the house and decided it’s not tidy. Sometimes the best way to present this is to declare you’re ‘here to help’ as soon as you walk through the door. Get your new mum friend or relative sitting down, make them a drink and start just sprucing things up. No need to get the hoover out or deep clean, maybe just do the washing up as you chat. For friends or relatives of new mums who are really close, you might ask if you can do more. You might give them the opportunity to nap or take a bath whilst you look after the baby, make dinner or do a more thorough clean. This kind of help can be amazing but it’s important to consider if you are this ‘kind of friend’ because this level of support from a casual colleague or relative of your partner, to whom you’re not all that close, might be a bit much. Again, listen more than you speak and pick up on those signals, whether they brighten up at the offer of your cleaning or childcare services or whether they display discomfort.
If you are cleaning for a new mum do refrain from putting anything ‘away’, especially if it’s baby-related, unless you’re absolutely sure where it goes. Tidy piles are far less of a nuisance for new mums than not being able to find the talc when in desperate need.
Buy Mum Gifts That Really Are For Mum
When a baby is born there are so many gifts showered on the new arrival and that’s fantastic. New parents often even experience more joy in the gifts given to their children than to them. However, that’s no reason not to give a new mum a gift to remind her you're thinking of her too. What you need to be mindful of is that it’s a gift they can use during this very busy time. Books generally will go unread, spa vouchers that require leaving the baby won’t be used for a while and new clothes are an absolute no as bodies change during and after pregnancy. However, some simple, lovely items can help support a new mum in carving out just a little much-needed nurture time for themselves.
Out Of The Box have several gift boxes for mums. Our New Mum Gift Box contains; a Reed Diffuser, to keep the home smelling fresh despite the nappies, a face mask, vegan lip butter, vanilla rose bath salts for a blissful soak, chocolate (of course) and a complimentary gift tag. The purpose of this box is to promote self-care and support a new mum in getting back to feeling relaxed and calm.
We also have a Mama Love Gift Box which contains; two hot chocolate spoons, a Bee candle, lip butter, vanilla rose bath salts and a complimentary gift tag.
All gifts in our gift boxes are vegan, ethically sourced from independent businesses and arrive in recyclable packaging with a handwritten note of your choice.
Help Find Her Groups For New Mums
In the first few weeks, there’s already plenty to think about. However, after all the attention starts to fade and friends and relatives are going back to their everyday lives, new mums need to find their own tribe. It helps in getting out of the house and in finding those with which to exchange advice and share struggles. After the first few weeks, one of the best ways to support a new mum is to help her find more support. Some parents will do this by themselves but, especially if you’ve gone through early parenthood yourself, you might be able to help with recommending groups and classes that mum and baby may want to try. You can help your new mum friend or relative to find a group that suits them, whether that’s breastfeeding clinics, new mum groups, baby singing, baby signing or baby massage classes. There are also free drop-in groups for babies and toddlers and these are so important for new parents because, as much as your friends and family can support you, there’s nothing like talking to others going through the same experience at the same time. Only, some new mums may need a gentle guide to encourage them to do this because it can be a little intimidating and the home can become such a ‘safe place’ when you’re facing leaving the house with a pram and nappy bag stuffed with necessities.
Overall, the best thing you can do to support a new mum is to listen, pick up on her signals and only take the reins when given genuine permission.