Know somebody who has just become a new mum? There is nothing quite like the newborn bubble. The highest of highs. The lowest of lows. Wondering whether you will sleep/ have clean hair/ wear non-elasticised clothing ever again.
Little gestures go a long way during this emotion-soaked, wild and wonderful period of a new mum’s life. Having just come out of the newborn fog myself, I thought I’d share my list of the awesome ways my friends helped me out. These are in no particular order and obviously you aren’t expected to do all of them (although this would earn you Super-Awesome-Friend Status).
- Ask when the best time to visit is. The best way to be a friend to a new mum is to fit into her schedule, don’t ask her to fit into yours. Send a text to find out when a good time to come over is, make the time then text again just before you plan to leave to make sure it’s still convenient for your friend. Mind you, it might take her a while to respond to your initial text. In my case, it took me a few days to respond because I kept falling asleep whenever the baby was not attached to me.
- Ask if you can pick anything up along the way. New babies bring lots of guests. Guests drink lots of tea and coffee. Tea and coffee require milk. Bring milk. Or offer to do a last-minute shop for any other groceries she may need. But predict she’ll need milk so just bring that over anyway. A friend also brought over a big bottle of juice that was highly appreciated; babies are thirsty work.
- Bring food. It doesn’t matter how you gave birth or whether you are breastfeeding or not, those first few weeks of having a newborn create an insatiable hunger that only trays of lasagne baked by someone else can sate. Bring food. All of the food. Food that can be easily heated and eaten one-handed. Or frozen for later use.
- Do the laundry. It is equal parts horrifying and mind-boggling just how much washing one little person can create. A friend recently came over to meet our babe and as we enjoyed a cuppa in the backyard, without missing a beat in the conversation, my friend began taking all the laundry off the line and folded it. I almost cried in appreciation. Put a load on. Take a load off. Whatever you do, it will be so appreciated.
- Bring her something fancy. The lady has just brought new life into the world. Sometimes this fact can be lost in a sea of baby cuteness. So, bring her a fancy hand cream or special chocolate bar or nice teabags. Something lovely just for her because let’s not forget she’s cute too.
- Buy her a thermal mug. This was one of the best gifts I was given after baby #3. Science shows that a baby reduces a mum’s chance of drinking a hot cuppa by roughly 23%. I absolutely made that statistic up but my experience tells me that it is pretty true.
- Make her a cuppa. Bring the mug then make the cuppa. If you’re visiting a new mum, please don’t expect to be entertained. She should not be making cups of tea. Other people should be doing it for her and delivering it to her comfortable resting spot in her new thermal mug.
- Hold the baby. Offer to hold the baby so your friend can be temporarily free to use both hands AND not have a little person on her. Most friends always make sure they wash their hands before holding the baby. Awesome friends also use lots of positive language whilst holding the baby, marveling and cooing at how divine he is. Super-Awesome friends hold the baby then tell mum to go and have a shower and wash her hair.
- But don’t expect to hold the baby. Being passed from guest to guest, can often lead to an unsettled, cranky baby. Sometimes, the Mumma Lion might not actually want anybody else holding the baby. I was surprised with my firstborn how sometimes I just didn’t want to hand her over. Them post-pregnancy hormones be fierce, people.
- Take photos. At the time, the new mum will probably insist that you don’t take her photo because of her messy hair/ the bags under her eyes/ her spewed-upon trackies. But insist you take some photos, just for her. Don’t post them on Facebook. In a few months when the newborn fog has lifted, she will be grateful for these candid shots of this special — and, in hindsight remarkably fleeting — period.
- Offer to entertain her older kids. A mother juggling a newborn with older kids will never refuse an offer from somebody offering to get them out of the house. Just saying.
- Offer to walk the fur baby. Likewise, don’t overlook the children of a furry variety. Walking the dog is just another thing to do on a long list of things to do, so offer to do it for her.
- Get your friend out of the house. Perhaps it’s actually your friend who needs to be walked. Sometimes the feeling of being housebound with a newborn can be suffocating. At the same time, getting out of the house with a pram can sometimes feel like more effort than it’s worth. Offer to go for a walk with mum and bub. Or let mum go for a solo walk whilst you watch bub.
- Do the dishes before leaving. A new mum should never ever under any circumstances be left with the dishes once guests leave. Clear them. Rinse them. Dry them or stack them in the dishwasher. Simple.
- Don’t overstay your welcome. Keep visits short and sweet.New mums just don’t have the energy to entertain and maintain conversation for too long.
- Do a doorstop drop. If all of this advice is stressing you right out, this is the step for you. A doorstep drop of freezer meals or groceries is always appreciated. Do your best commando roll to the front doorstep, drop off your goods and DO NOT ring the doorbell. If the baby has just fallen asleep, the doorbell will surely wake her up. Ninja your way back off the property and send a text telling your friend to check their doorstep.
- Offer to be an extra set of hands for out and about. Once your friend is ready to venture out, offer to be a spare set of hands. Your role will cover pram-wrangling, wallet-locating in the baby bag, general sherpa duties and child-mustering if she has other kids.
- Don’t take it personally. She doesn’t respond to your texts? Doesn’t RSVP to your event on Facebook? Your friend probably had every intention of replying, but fell asleep. She snapped at you when you spoke on the phone? Don’t take it personally. These are some crazy sleep-deprived, hormone-fuelled days. Cut her loads of slack and let things go. She’ll be back on form before you know it.
- Be her biggest cheerleader. You can never underestimate the power of words at this time in a woman’s life. My firstborn had feeding issues and people would meet her and marvel at how “tiny” she was. In my hormone-fuelled state, I felt as though people were criticising me for not feeding my baby enough. One day, a friend met my new babe and exclaimed how “healthy” she looked. That single use of a positive adjective made me feel like a million dollars. So cheer your friend on. Use positive language to encourage her, not offer unsolicited advice.
- Keep on checking in. After those first few weeks, often her partner has returned to work and the guests have stopped visiting. This is when your friend needs you most.She’s home with a new baby trying to make sense of her new reality. Send her lots of texts and offers of help. She may not even realise that she needs some help or she may feel self-conscious asking for it, so keep the offers coming on tap.
- Give her space if she wants it. We all mother differently. Not everybody wants people around during this period. Your friend is getting to know this little human she has brought into this world and she may want space. In fact, she may not want to see you much at all. Refer to point 18 above, and i you’re not sure, just ask.
What were some of the awesomely memorable ways friends helped you when you had a new baby?
Images: Shannon Wong-Nizic