Welcoming baby home is a time of joy… and transition… and also total, complete exhaustion. After the birth of baby, well-intentioned family and friends are often eager to be of assistance. But if you want to help a new mom, keep in mind that some kinds of help are simply more helpful than others.
No one knows what a new mom wants like a fellow mama. So I went straight to the source! I asked a group of new moms what was the most helpful thing someone did for them after they had a baby. Answers ranged from the basic (i.e. my mother-in-law did four loads of laundry one day when things were really starting to get backed up) to the extraordinary (i.e. a friend giving the gift of a night nurse for a month). But the overwhelming majority of new moms told me that it was the small, thoughtful gestures that they really remember (who knew changing someone’s sheets could make someone so happy?!). All of these new moms had one thing in common: deep gratitude for the people in their lives who knew that they needed help and happily provided it.
Here are some suggestions on how you can help the new mom in your life—straight from the mouths of real moms who’ve been there!
- A friend came over and made us homemade dinner. Then she unload, loaded our dishwasher and cleaned our whole house while we ate. It was wonderful. – Kaylin R.
- After my second was born, my Mom took my took my older son to and from preschool for the first month so that I didn’t have to take the newborn out twice a day in the middle of winter. – Amelia D.
- My parents hired me a night nurse for 3 days a week so I could get some sleep. It was definitely the most helpful thing. – Hannah M.
- Someone came over to walk our dog. – Ashley D.
- My parents washed our sheets, vacuumed our house, and did our laundry. It was so nice to “sleep” in a fresh clean bed … until my boobs leaked and baby spit up all over the bed! – Krissa H.
- Friends brought meals. Honestly, that was the most helpful thing. Also, they did not stay to visit. As much as I appreciated it, it wasn’t ideal. People would show up and hold my sleeping baby and keep me up talking for hours and just as they left and I wanted to rest he’d wake up! – Lea M.
- Meals, dishes, loading and unloading the dishwasher, holding the baby so I could take a shower or eat a meal. – Maura M.
Something as simple as holding baby so mom has a chance to shower & eat with two hands can be a HUGE lifesaver.
- Had our house cleaned—best gift EVER. – Kate M.
- When I had my first, my sister-in-law cooked for a full day, put everything in a cooler, drove from Cleveland to Chicago, and FILLED our freezer with homemade food. We had dinners for about two weeks. – Colleen R.
- My best friend came over the weekend before I returned to work. She had a huge basket of cleaning supplies and a steam mop. She cleaned my entire house top to bottom. She said she knew going back to work would be stressful and wanted me to go back without the weight of a messy house on my shoulders. – Kirsten I.
- Childcare for the older kids for sure! – Katie
- My wonderful friend catalogued all my baby gifts so I could write thank you notes! I’ll never forget that! – Shelbi S.
- My sister coordinated with several of my friends and people brought us homemade meals for the first 3-4 weeks we were home. I ended up having a c-section and was breastfeeding, so it was especially helpful to be well fed but not have to do more than pop something in the microwave! – Nichole
- Meals, cleaning, dog care and most importantly—not staying to visit or asking to visit. – Rebecca G.
- A friend who had a baby a few weeks before me shared the contact info for the lactation consultant she used and encouraged me to call if I had any issues. It was so nice to have on hand when I had my own nursing difficulties and saved me the stress of having to find a good one on my own! – Abby A.
- A friend listened to me when I needed to talk and cry through all the changes and adjustments. – Gretchen H.
- A friend sanitized and put together all my pump parts for my electric and hand pump, and showed me exactly how to use it. It was so intimidating at the time! – Brenna
New moms also agreed that they all really appreciated when people took the time to ask them what they need and really listen to the answer. Arm yourself with this list next time one of your friends brings a new babe home and you are looking for ways to help out!
Caitlin Murray Giles is a mother of three and the co-founder of 2 Moms Media LLC. Caitlin lives in Wicker Park with her lawyer husband, three busy kiddos and the “fourth baby” Theo the dog.