How to be an Awesome Newborn Family Supporter

May 2, 2011 § Leave a comment

Newborns sleep nearly always, and never long.

Great advice for a newborn mother is Do Less Than You Know You Can.  Newborn parents live in an alternate reality and often don’t remember, or have the energy, to take care of their own basic needs.  That’s where you come in!  By making one or two brief visits during the baby’s first month, you will be giving a great gift.  It may help to remind the new parents they should not tidy up for you.  Understand that asking for, or even accepting help, is difficult for many new parents.  Below are suggestions of how to be a most appreciated postpartum support visitor:

  1. Email ahead to ask when is a convenient time for you to quickly stop by.  Offer a couple of suggestions that work for you so they don’t have to think too hard.  If they don’t reply within a day, stop by anyway, but be prepared to just drop off your dish and drive away.
  2. When you arrive at the door, knock quietly to keep from waking anyone.
  3. While you wait to be invited in, check the time and calculate when your 15 minutes will be up.  That’s plenty of time to accomplish at least 7 out of these 11 suggestions.
  4. Don’t wake anyone who is sleeping.  At best you may get a glimpse of the new baby.  If you are not invited to hold her/him this time, perhaps on your next visit.  If not, don’t worry, (s)he’ll still be tiny and adorable in a few weeks when the parents are more eager to pass their baby around.  And if ever you do hold the newborn, be sure you’ve just washed your hands and that you are in good health.
  5. Ask the parents when they last ate.  If they don’t answer “we just did”, check out their options and offer them a choice of A or B.  Then warm up and present a meal or snack to them wherever they are sitting.  (When deciding what to bring, consider stocking their kitchen with snacks that will be easy for them to grab later.  Keep in mind that breastfeeding moms may be avoiding dairy, nuts and soy since presence of those foods in a mom’s diet causes discomfort for many babies.)
  6. Regardless of food, be sure the mom has a drink.  Raspberry leaf tea is wonderful for contracting her womb, or water with a splash of juice is always rejuvenating.  Her partner could surely use a drink too.
  7. Before leaving the kitchen, wash all dishes in the sink and/or load the dishwasher.  Wipe down the countertops and check out the fridge to be sure it’s organized enough that they can easily find something when they’re alone and want to eat using the least effort possible.
  8. As they are enjoying a snack or beverage, excuse yourself to the bathroom.  While you’re there, wipe down the sink, toilet and tub.  If you really want to be prepared, secretly bring eco-friendly cleaning supplies with you.  (Even moms who previously doused their bathrooms in bleach often switch to less toxic products with a newborn in the house.  Baking soda and water makes an awesome paste for scrubbing sinks and tubs.  A spray bottle of white vinegar and water works well on mirrors and shower doors.)  If needed, empty and reline the trash on your way out.
  9. Look around for a basket of clean laundry, or check their dryer to find the next clean load.  Then fold it and offer to put another in the washer.  Newborn parents are often stunned by how many onesies, blankets, sheets, towels and their own t-shirts such a tiny creature can soil in one day.
  10. The next time you’re heading to the store, call or text to ask what they need—diapers, milk, fruit, laundry detergent…  If they offer to pay you back, take the money.  It may make them more willing to accept your help.
  11. If you are invited to sit down, ask an open-ended question like, “What’s the most surprising thing about having a newborn?” and then, just listen.

Birth is a wildly profound event in a woman’s life.  It can take her beyond the edge of what she had imagined was possible.  It can also hit her like a Mack truck a few days later.  Birth and a newborn baby are emotionally and physically exhausting for a loving partner too.

Be gentle.  Be assertive.  Be brief.

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