The Best Ways to Help a New Parent

Our first time

The day my husband and I brought our daughter home from the hospital will always be a day that I remember. We were so ready to go home after spending three days in the hospital following my daughter’s delivery via emergency C-section. At home there would be no uncomfortable hospital bed, no nurses waking us up at intervals to document vital signs or to ask about pain, no loudly beeping machines to interrupt the little sleep we had. We were anxious to get to our quiet home with our baby, to sleep in our bed, relax in our living room, to have some peace and get to know our child.

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My husband drove about five miles per hour the whole distance to our house. Once we arrived home and brought in the baby, the bag, the flower arrangements, the gifts, etc., we looked at each other like, “What now? Why did they let us take this tiny human home with us? What are we supposed to do?”

Our daughter hated sleeping in the bassinet and she also kept rolling over to face the far side of it. Between her cries of protest, while lying in the bassinet and our fears that she would roll over and suffocate, our hopes of respite in our comfortable bed were quickly dashed.

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We tried to sleep in the living room, my husband on the couch and I on the loveseat, while Abby slept in the Pack ‘n Play where we could keep watch. After a couple days of aching from the delivery, the rock hard hospital bed, and uncomfortable loveseat I begged my husband to go to Walmart to buy a second Pack ‘n Play for our bedroom.

After that sleeping was better, but we still had to navigate how to change our first blowout diaper, constant nursing, creating a new family routine, taking care of our normal household chores, and so much else.

When you have a baby, friends and family want to meet the new bundle of joy as soon as possible. While this is quite understandable, I found that visitors were both a welcome blessing and sometimes, a hassle.

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The first week home I was still wearing the mesh underwear from the hospital and living in a nursing bra and shorts. Showers existed only in dreams. There was a tiny little person who now ruled the roost and who all household activity was dictated by. Perhaps it was just my changing hormones or sleep deprivation, but I felt like I needed help and was too afraid to ask, I also felt like I wanted company and at the same time didn’t want anyone in my home. I am very grateful for all the love and kindness that our family and friends gave us at that crazy time. There were some things that were more helpful than others and some that I wish I had known or not been too proud to ask for.

The best ways to help a new parent

The best ways to help a new parent

So what are fantastic ways to help out a new parent?

Call before you visit

Don’t take it personally if you are told it is not a convenient time to visit.

Don’t visit right away

Give the family time to adjust their new life together and also time for them to try to rest and get acquainted with the baby and her needs.

Think about illnesses

Don’t visit if you are sick and please don’t bring your kids to visit a newborn. Think of how many times your kid sneezes without covering their mouth, wipes boogers on their sleeve, or doesn’t wash their hands after using the restroom.

Don’t kiss the baby; don’t kiss the adorable little face, hands, fuzzy little shoulders, or other parts. Always wash your hands before holding the baby. Do not stick your hands in the baby’s mouth or on the baby’s pacifier.

A baby’s immune system cannot fight all of the germs and viruses they will be exposed to. Something that you wouldn’t give a second thought to could be dangerous for a newborn. Babies are especially susceptible to illnesses like the Herpes Simplex virus, which can cause meningitis and death- even if you don’t have an active cold sore please be careful around a baby or immunocmpromized child.

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If you will be spending time with young children make sure your vaccinations are up to date. Some vaccines cannot be given to a baby until the child six months old or older. Do not bring an unvaccinated person around a baby.

Listen to the parents

If they ask you to not pick up the baby or to wash your hands, oblige them.

Don’t just go gaga over the baby

Give Mom and Dad attention too. Offer to give Mom a back rub, bring her a coffee, etc. I remember my whole body being so sore and feeling so tired in the first few weeks. I think I was literally running on coffee and leftover pizza.

Pick up groceries or needed items from the store

Ask if they need diapers or wipes or anything else that they may be short on. Taking the baby out in public should be avoided as much as possible in the early days, especially during cold and flu season.

Offer to wash laundry or clean

I remember going through so many burp rags and baby clothes each day. I was constantly washing laundry and a lot of other chores got swept to the wayside. Trying to remove wet clothes out of the washing machine was painful because I am short and my C-section incision would rub against the corner of the machine. It was so helpful when someone offered to wash for me.

Bring over a frozen meal or a gift card for a restaurant that delivers.

How many times does a new parent go without eating because they are so busy taking care of the baby or they can’t put the baby down to cook? My mother made several casseroles for us and it was wonderful to just warm up the oven and stick one in to prepare a meal.

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Give Mom and Dad time for themselves

There were so many days in the beginning where I didn’t get a shower at all, maybe I was peed on or spit up on, or felt like my top and bra were soaked in breastmilk. Just having someone to hold the baby or watch the baby while giving Mom and Dad a chance to take a bath, change clothes, eat lunch, go pee, take a catnap, whatever. It will be very appreciated.

Be a shoulder to cry on and an ear to listen

Let Mom or Dad know that they can come to you for support, whether it be for a hug, a rant session, someone to give them five minutes alone, or whatever they may need.

Spend time with older siblings

Chances are, if there are older siblings in the family, they may be feeling left out.  Give them a little extra attention instead of just focusing on the baby. Go out to eat, see a movie, take a trip to the park. The older siblings will feel included and get some one-on-one attention.

What do you think?

What were things that helped you the most when you had a child, or what do you wish you had and did not? I would love to hear from you in the comments.

Sarah

11 thoughts on “The Best Ways to Help a New Parent

  1. Simon says:

    Love the point you make about giving the parents some attention also! Often forgotten as everyone is mesmerised by the baby.

  2. Brittany says:

    I feel like every pregnant mom should send this out before delivery! Such great tips for friends and family, most of which people don’t even think about! We had a friend that “just” had a slight runny nose that was “no big deal” and it can be hard to put your foot down and tell them no!
    The one thing I learned was to ask for help! The people that come and see you typically want to help out and are more than happy to bring a pizza on their way over!
    You have some great advice here!

  3. Amarjeet Sonia Madaan says:

    Excellent post. Really in those days I was not willing to entertain guests. It’s the time new moms need proper rest. If you can’t help her, so at least do not put them in troubles. That’s would be the best way to support a new mom.

  4. Jessica says:

    I gave birth to my daughter 5 weeks ago and reading this post made so much sense to my experience!

    I can particularly relate to wanting people there whilst simultaneously wanting to be left alone…it really is a strange time with hormones etc.

    I definitely found it difficult adjusting to the lack of showers etc, and feeling like I had to put on this front of having everything under control when in reality I just felt as though I was making it up as I went along.

    The only thing that I wish I could have changed was the inevitable advice that everyone wants to give you in the early days. Some of it can be so conflicting and it can make a difficult time a lot harder, so yes, if I add anything I would say answer a new parents questions but don’t force opinions upon them. This is why posts like yours are so helpful because the tips you share such as mind the baby so the parents can grab a shower/nap etc or bring a meal around so they can eat, those are the things new parents really need and appreciate.

  5. Nyxinked says:

    I’m not a parent but this is excellent advice. I’ve had a few friends take the plunge into parenthood and all they want is someone to listen, to help out when needed and to let them get a few hours sleep.

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