When my first child was born, any confidence I had about being a competent mom vanished almost instantly. I was a hormonal wreck, terrified of messing up even the most basic baby stuff. (Don't get me started on my anxious vigil for his first poop.) Most overwhelming of all was feeling like I had to stay on top of all the other details of daily life in addition to caring for my son. So when I got offers of help or thoughtful gestures, no matter how small, I was grateful beyond words. Oh, I still wrestled with doing-it-all angst, but I knew that I had a support system to fall back on when I needed it.
If you have a sister, friend, coworker, or someone else in your life who just had a baby, don't hesitate to reach out and help them in some way. Helping a mom is more than just offering babysitting services (though that's a welcome gesture, too). Trust me, the little things mean just as much as the big things. Just taking care of the dishes in the sink when you come to visit, or helping address her thank-you notes for the gifts she just got, will take one less thing off her massive to-do list and make her feel like she might just be able to handle this motherhood business.
These are just a few suggestions of ways to help a new mom. You might have some brilliant ones of your own, depending on who the mom is and what she needs. The important thing is to make it happen, and to let the mother know that you're ready to help. Being specific is best: say, "I'd love to come by and bring you lunch this week; what time would be good for you?" instead of "I'm here if you need me." Reach out today, and both you and the new mom in your life will feel great.
1. Bring her coffee.
Hot, iced, full strength, latte, or herb tea if she's watching her caffeine — anything that she doesn't have to brew herself or go out for will be appreciated. Find out the best time to bring over a cup, and be there, even if it's 6 a.m. on a Sunday.
2. Do her grocery shopping.
You don't have to load up three carts' worth, but she could probably use some staples: bread, milk, bananas, juice, bagged salad. While you're at it, throw in a box of newborn diapers and a bottle of organic laundry detergent.
3. Do a load of laundry.
Not only are the usual assortment of clothes piling up, but now there are stained nursing shirts and wet onesies in the hamper, too. Take an hour and get that task off her hands. Or, if she already has a load done, do the folding.
4. Take a walk with her.
Sometimes, just taking the baby outside can seem like an ordeal. Having a friend along to help with the stroller and to chat with can be a big help.
5. Take (and post) pictures.
When you visit, take a few candid shots of mom, baby (and other family members, if they're there), and get her okay to post them on her Insta or FB account. Even better: If you get an especially great shot, have it printed out, frame it and give it to her as a gift.
6. Let her cry.
New moms are expected to be a fountain of effervescent joy, happily recounting their blessings and delighting in the maternal life. Just below the sunny surface, though, they may be overwhelmed, frightened, stressed, and just one big hormonal mess. Let the mom in your life know that it's okay to share all the feels with you, even the miserable ones. Bring tissues.
7. Do something fun with her older kids.
If this isn't her first child, chances are the older sib(s) are feeling a little left out. Offer to babysit for an afternoon and take them out to a movie or the playground. Bonus points for getting ice cream afterward. Super amazeball bonus points for bringing a double scoop home for Mom.
8. Host her friends at your place.
One saintly mom-friend told Hallmark that she invited a new mom and her friends to a "sip and see" gathering at her house. The friends got to enjoy wine and snacks and fuss over the baby, and the mom got to relax and socialize without having to worry about cleaning her house and shopping for prosecco.
9. Take care of her pets.
Her hands are full enough dealing with gloppy diapers. Give her a break for a day or two by taking over dog-walking, litter-box scooping, birdcage-newspapering, or whatever animal care she's too tired to handle.
10. Text her.
She may not be up for a long phone call, but a quick check-in via text ("how u doing? any sleep last nite?") will let her know you're thinking of her. Or message her a cute gif or Bitmoji. And don't worry if she doesn't reply right away; she may be busy or exhausted, but she'll still appreciate hearing from you.
11. Bring dinner over.
The last thing a new mother wants to think about in those first weeks is getting meals on the table. She's obsessed enough as it is with making sure the baby is feeding well. Take the burden off by providing dinner for her family; a dish of comfort foods like baked ziti or fried chicken should go over well with everyone. Add a salad or veggies and a dessert, and you'll really be a hero.
12. Help her friends bring her meals.
Or go a step further and set up a Meal Train account. A twist on the crowdfunding model, this site lets friends pick from a selection of preferred dates and times to bring over food for families in need of support for any reason (a birth or death, illness, or just hard times). The site even lets you add details about dietary restrictions or preferences, which is especially helpful for families who are vegetarian, kosher, paleo, allergic to certain foods, or just have picky eaters.
13. Let her take a shower.
If sleep is the first casualty of new motherhood, regular bathing has to be the second. When you visit a new mom, point her in the direction of the bathroom and insist she indulge in a warm shower or soak while you watch the baby. If you bring over a gift set of scented gel and lotion, that'll tempt her to take advantage of the offer.
14. Change a diaper.
Catch a whiff of ripe bottom while you're cradling the baby? Instead of handing the little one back to Mom, head to the changing table and do the job yourself. Just make sure you know where the extra onesies are before you start, in case of an atomic poop.
15. Support her choices.
She's formula-feeding? Using cloth diapers? Co-sleeping? Not co-sleeping? Going back to work after just four weeks? Whether you agree with her parenting choices or not, the best thing you can do is to keep your opinion to yourself. There's enough mom-shaming going on in the world without adding to the problem. Same goes for subtle digs like "I could never do that, but if it works for you..." If it is working for her, then that's all that matters.
16. Give a word of encouragement.
Even the most confident new mom has her moments of doubt and worry — and most of us have a lot more than just a few moments. Letting her know that she's doing fine will go a long way toward boosting her self-esteem. Try: "You're an amazing mom.""You've got this." "You're a natural." "It's okay to feel overwhelmed. You're doing great."
17. Bring the baby a book.
A nursery is usually well stocked with blankets and pajamas by the time the baby arrives. The bookshelf, on the other hand, often gets overlooked. Start the little one's journey to reading with a book or two; maybe a board book of first words, along with a copy of an old favorite like Goodnight Moon.
18. Bring a book for her, too.
A light beach read, a thriller, a novel by an up-and-coming writer — whatever genre she enjoys, she'll appreciate having something to read while the baby feeds or sleeps. If you know she's a fan of audio books, send her a few Audible credits so she can pick a title she's been meaning to "read."
19. Keep her hydrated.
If the new mom is breastfeeding, she'll find that she's surprisingly thirsty all the time. Gift her an infusion bottle (like this one, available on Amazon), which has a full-length infuser for inserting fresh fruits to add extra flavor. Then make a strawberry- or lemon-infused water treat for her.
20. Fix her kids' lunches.
A new mother spends a huge chunk of time either nursing, pumping, or prepping bottles. Trying to toss together a lunch for her school-aged kids every day on top of that can be stressful. Offer to put together the PB&J yourself, pack the lunch boxes, and have them ready in the fridge. It's one less thing for her to think about.
21. Make her bed.
A new parents' bed quickly becomes a rumpled, sweat- and milk-stained mess. When you visit, find out where the linen closet is and put on some fresh sheets — and then send the new mom in for a lie-down. She'll feel positively spoiled.
22. Put together an essentials bag.
A well-stocked diaper bag is always good to have, but they can be bulky and awkward, especially on short outings. Give her a smaller bag with just the basics: a couple of diapers, a small pack of wipes, a travel-sized rash cream, a change of clothes, and maybe some non-perishable snack options for baby and mom. She can keep it on the back seat or the bottom of the stroller for everyday use.
23. Give her some me-time.
Ever since that tiny bundle was placed in her arms, it's been all about the baby 24/7. Let the mom know it's okay to make herself a priority once in a while (or more than once in a while, really). Take charge of the baby while she goes out to get her nails done, does some stroller-free shopping, or just goes into the other room to nap.
24. Buy her a mom-only gift.
Moms-to-be and new mothers don't lack for gifts... for the baby, that is. By the time their bundle of joy actually arrives, they're well stocked with crib gear, bath linens, feeding supplies, brain-boosting toys, and enough outfits to last a month without wearing the same thing twice. But the parents tend to get lost in the hubbub, and it doesn't take long for a mom to wonder if she'll ever have an identity or a life apart from her child. Let her know she's still a distinct human being by bringing a little present just for her: a Starbucks gift card, a soothing body lotion, even a bottle of wine for nights when she's inclined to pump and dump. Anything that doesn't scream "Mom" or has to be shared with the baby will do nicely.