10 Ways to Help The New Parents in Their Fourth Trimester
Those first few weeks and months with a newborn baby can be so sweet; the snuggles, the bonding, the newborn smell. But they can also be super hard; the sleep deprivation, the wondering why the baby is crying, or if the baby is supposed to be doing that. For some, it can be really hard to ask for help or even show that you are struggling.
Motherhood can tend to be really glamourised and there is pressure to show that you have it all together at all times. It can be hard to know how to help out new parents, without stepping on toes or making people feel like you think they can’t cope. Below are 10 best gifts you can give a new parent:
1. Visiting new parents? Bring food!
If you are going to visit new parents, take food. Whether it's a take away coffee and a muffin, or meals ready to be reheated, food will always be the best gift you can give people who are trying to keep a new human alive.
My parents came over one night with a home cooked meal, served it to us, cuddled their granddaughter so we could eat, then packed up all the dirty dishes and took them home again. Friends came to visit and bought lunch. My sister in law used to bake me cookies so I had a snack while feeding at 2am.
To have someone come and take care of you while you’re learning to give your everything taking care of your infant is a really special thing. It’s easy to lose yourself in having a baby and these gestures really made me feel like I mattered too. It doesn’t matter what it is, if it's edible, it will be gratefully received. Food will always be the greatest gift.
2. Give new mums and dads a chance to nap
If the new parents feel comfortable, snuggle their newborn while they take a nap. It will give them superpowers! Not really, but almost, as they will feel like they are ready to take on the world. If food is the number one coolest thing you can do for a new parent, giving them a chance to catch up on a little sleep is the second.
My mum once popped round for a visit in the afternoon, took one look at us and suggested we take a little nap. We woke up three hours later to my mum sitting in the pitch black house because she said she was worried if she got up to turn on the light, we would be woken. A nap can change someone’s world.
3. Get gifts for parents
While it is always thoughtful to give the new baby a gift, sneaking a little something in for the new mama is a very lovely thing to do. She will be recovering from the birth, maybe she will be sore from breastfeeding, maybe she will realise she didn’t buy enough newborn nursing clothing, maybe she is just cold, feeding the baby in the middle of the night. Whatever the case, something just for mum makes her feel super special as well.
Some suggestions might be comfy pyjamas, a cozy robe, chocolate, lotions and creams for her skin, chocolate, some nice teas to sip on, did I mention chocolate? Whatever it is, a special little treat will make her feel seen at a time when most of the focus will be on the newborn baby.
4. Help new parents before they ask for it
This one depends on your relationship with the new parents a little bit, but more often than not, if you ask them if there is anything you can do to help, they will brush you off with a “Oh no, it’s fine.” Also, open-ended questions like, “What can I do?” are sometimes too exhausting to answer so, “Nothing at all,” is the easiest response, not the truest one.
If you know it won’t upset them, just start doing things. That basket of washing on the couch next to you? Fold it. See a sink full of dishes while making the tea? Wash them. Notice a pile of laundry by the machine? Wash it. And hang out whatever is sitting clean in the machine while you’re there.
And if there is an older sibling who is really comfortable hanging out with you? Take them out to the park for a run around and a snack or lunch. Or if you live on the other side of the world and can afford it? Hire a cleaning company to pop in once a week for a few weeks and clean the house for them. You will be elevated to the top tier of friendship, trust me.
5. Don’t hog their newborn
I get it, newborn cuddles are one of the best things in the world. But do not go around to a new parents house and sit on the couch soaking in all that newborn goodness while the new parent is doing things like putting the kettle on or arranging a plate of bikkies. By all means, snuggle that baby but AFTER you’ve made sure the new parents have a cup of something hot, a sandwich, a snack, a topped up water bottle.
Don’t add to the list of chores that fill up a new parent’s day. Another thing to remember is that sometimes you may not get to hold the baby at all. In these current times it’s easy to imagine why new parents may not want lots of people holding their tiny baby but sometimes the baby will need to be fed, or it’s sleep time, or the parent simply wants to cuddle their own baby. It’s important to not take this personally and remember that the parent has the final say.
6. Do the grocery run
When you are popping to the shop for something, shoot a quick text and ask if the new parents need anything. Or better yet, grab an extra loaf of bread, a bottle of milk, a pack of loo paper, a block of chocolate and some apples and drop them off on your way home. Sometimes it's worth rationing toilet paper rather than dealing with the immense effort of leaving the house with a newborn to get more.
7. New parents need compliments
One of the nicest things to hear while you are sitting on the couch, on day three of no showers and wearing a shirt that you aren’t even sure when it was last washed, is, “You are doing such a great job.” If this is the first baby then I can guarantee you the new parent is riddled with doubts and worried about ‘messing up’ the baby. Some positive reassurance that they are nailing it goes SUCH a long way.
8. Be there to listen to new mums and dads
Be there and listen with no judgment, without making it about you and your experiences. And for the love of all things bright and beautiful, do not start giving advice UNLESS you are explicitly asked. The best thing you can do when visiting is nod your head, listen and give hugs where needed.
Being a parent can sometimes be an overwhelming and lonely experience. Lots of parents need time to vent and talk out everything they have gone through or are going through. They don’t need suggestions on how to do it better or how to ‘fix’ things.
9. Text before showing up
Unless you are just leaving a bag of snacks on the doorstep, always make sure you send a text and get confirmation that it's ok to pop by.The last thing you want to do is interrupt some quiet time or heaven forbid, a nap. I’m going to repeat this because it’s so important. Never, EVER just pop by to a new parent’s home. Ever. Unless there is a national emergency and the phone’s are down and you are whisking them off to safety. I’m being serious here, do not do it unless it is life or death.
10. Leave the new parents alone
For goodness sake, keep your visit to 30 minutes and then leave. They’re tired.
So, there you have it! The 10 best ways to help support those new parents in your life. Hopefully this helps people to get support or be supportive at a time of huge change.