I gave birth to a bouncing baby girl nearly three months ago. She is my second child, with a six-year gap between the two. It's safe to say I am removed from newborn life. I have been overwhelmed with support during my "fourth trimester" this time around. From 0-12 weeks, a newborn baby is transitioning to life outside the womb. A new mom is trying to get to know a brand new person who is likely making life a lot harder than it was.
Do you know a friend/coworker/relative/deserving stranger who is about to have/just had a baby? Do you want to help? Don't bother spending your hard-earned money on (more) cute, tiny outfits. There are plenty of less expensive options that are worth a lot more to a new mom. Allow me to enlighten you on what I think postpartum moms actually wish for.
1. Hold The Baby.
It seems simple, but this is invaluable. If you hold the baby, she can nap. Or take a shower. Or maybe even blow-dry her hair. Just go over and take the baby and tell her to do whatever she wants until baby is hungry again.
2. Feed Her.
This is an extra bonus for breastfeeding moms, because those munchies are no joke. However, ANY mom needs something close by that she can grab and eat quickly, because I can tell you that many a day has passed when I didn't eat because I couldn't put a baby down long enough to think about it. (And coffee. Always bring coffee.)
3. Feed Her Family.
Mom may be able to live off of spoonfuls of cookie butter and random handfuls of mixed nuts, but the rest of her house is hungry, and guess who isn't making dinner a week after a C-section? Please bring hearty meals that husbands/partners/visitors/older children can easily pop in the oven -- or even better, something ready-to-eat.
4. Bring Disposable Dishes and Cutlery.
The same mom who isn't making dinner also isn't doing dishes. This is not eco-friendly, but who really cares? Being able to throw away all the things is amazing.
5. Entertain The Other Kid(s).
An older sibling is excited and well-behaved for the first five minutes, and then it's a lot of attention-seeking chaos for a while. They are used to being the center of attention, and they will do just about anything to re-earn that title. Trust me. Go over and play Legos with him, take him on a walk, or let him read you a book. He needs the attention, and Mom just can't even right now. While you're at it, offer to take the other kid(s) to school or the bus stop. I can't even tell you how much help that alone was, for me.
6. Fold The Laundry.
This turned out to be one of the toughest things to get to. For some reason, there were certain tasks I could manage, but folding the laundry just wasn't happening. Maybe because it builds so quickly and newborns are notorious for not allowing their mothers to do pretty much any chore that can't be finished in 4-5 minutes.
7. Babysit For Date Night.
She. Needs. This. Even if she is just going a block away to have coffee with her husband for an hour, go sit with the baby so she can have a grown-up conversation with her right-hand man. It's no secret that a new baby takes every ounce of energy, leaving you feeling like you haven't had any time for your spouse. A new mom needs to feel loved and supported by her partner, and have some time to recharge that dynamic now and then. The coaches of a winning team need time to game plan! My recommendation is at least once every other week. If she's a single mom, give her a date night with her bestie.
8. Run Her Errands.
Her list is building. She needs groceries, stamps, to make a bank deposit and pick up her refill of ibuprofen from the pharmacy. First of all, if she had a C-section, she isn't allowed to drive for a couple of weeks. Secondly, well, it's a pain to get a newborn and possibly more kids in and out of the car, etc.
9. Bring Wine.
Any wine will do.
10. Send Words of Affirmation.
Tell her she's awesome. Make sure she knows you haven't forgotten about her three weeks later, when the hype dies down. Validate that being a new mom is hard. Keep texting her over the weeks that follow, and make sure she is practicing self-care and not forgetting about her needs. Let her know you are there for her. Sometimes one encouraging text from another mom was all I needed to make it through the day.
If you are going to visit a new mom during the magical and messy time that is the postpartum period, give a gift from this list. Most of them cost zero dollars and would be appreciated more than you could know. You don't have to buy someone a maid service, mobile massage therapist, or postpartum doula to be a blessing to a new mother. (Although, if you have lots of cash and feel the need, I'm sure no one would complain...)
I was beyond taken care of by friends and family, and I had each one of those 10 things given to me -- some of them multiple times. Don't let a new mom refuse your help. Go over anyway and help her.