In those early weeks after bringing home a newborn, new parents have a lot going on. Besides all of the positive emotions they are feeling, they’re also sleep deprived, overwhelmed, and trying to figure out how to be a parent without the rest of their life falling apart. Mom in particular is recovering from labor, possibly trying to breastfeed, and navigating the hormonal shift happening in her body. It’s a lot. It's a huge change and adjustment period. It’s hard to put into words just how monumental it feels when you’re actually in the thick of it.
My husband and I were fortunate enough to have a really solid support system, and they helped us get through it. Support can come in lots of shapes and sizes. If you are wanting to offer support to new parents but not quite sure how, here are some ideas.
First things first, let’s go over a few don’ts when it comes to supporting new parents:
DON’T come over unannounced: they are in no shape to host or feel uncomfortable by surprise visits. Either ask if they’re comfortable with you stopping by or wait for them to offer.
DON’T visit without asking what their rules are: parents have varying rules for how to handle visits and holding the baby. Might be handwashing, removing shoes, no kissing, etc. Asking them ahead of time can remove some of the awkwardness they might feel.
DON’T assume what kind of help they want: meaningful help can vary greatly person to person. Let them take the lead on what’s most helpful! Ask if you’re not sure.
Food is a major and typically easy way you can support new parents, and there are lots of options when it comes to helping them get fed.
My sister-in-law organized a food delivery meal train for us where she coordinated the dates and the person who would be in charge of meals for that day. All they had to do was reach out on the day of and we coordinated the meals from there. This was great because it maximized the meal help available to us, and once it was all set, it required minimal coordination or thought from anyone!
Our neighbors grabbed us a ready-to-go meal kit from Costco that was super convenient to have on hand.
We were gifted DoorDash gift cards and we were sent food and coffee deliveries unannounced. Both were very appreciated!
Another idea would be to offer to grocery shop for them, or get them a grocery delivery service gift card. You could even meal prep ahead of time for them!
If you are visiting, see what chores you can help out with. That said, this is where letting the parents lead can be incredibly helpful. In my house, some chores were easy to take over and do for us without me or my husband having to give any instructions whatsoever. That was great!
However, I realized that there were a handful of chores that I was particular about and it was easier to just do them myself, and I truly didn’t mind! So in that case, it actually was supportive to sit and hold the baby so he was content, and I could tend to those chores. That will vary parent to parent!
Giving the Parents a Break
Another form of support that happens to include holding the baby is simply visiting and allowing the parents to rest, shower, or do whatever else they’d like to without having to worry about the baby for a bit.
In the early weeks, babies love to be held as much as possible, and can get quite upset when put down. While it’s heavenly to snuggle your newborn baby, it can be hard to care for yourself if holding them 24/7. If the parents are okay with it, you can hold the baby so they can have a bit of time to themselves to spend in whatever way they’d like. Even just the mental break of not having to worry about the baby can be its own form of help.
Letting Them Know You’re There
For me personally, the biggest form of support was the smallest. We had a handful of people reach out and let us know they were always available if we needed help with anything - doing our grocery shopping for us, watching the baby so we could nap, etc. Simply knowing we had people thinking of us and there for us if we truly needed it was touching and supportive. I never even took them up on it, but just knowing the option was available to us was huge.
Also, a local friend would check in from time to time and simply send encouraging, thoughtful text messages. After the first few weeks, the excitement dies down. Support starts to fade a bit, it’s normal. She still reached out and let me know I was doing a great job. It took her probably 1 minute to type up a nice message, but the difference it made for me has lasting impacts even to this day.
Feeling ready to offer support?
At the end of the day, whatever form of support you choose will be appreciated. Just knowing someone is thinking of you and wanting to help is huge in and of itself. Hopefully these ideas give you a bit of insight into the emotions and needs of a new parent, and how you can not only offer support, but offer the kind of support that will matter most to those parents in particular.