How To Help A Friend After They Have Had a Baby
When someone close to you has just had a baby, it’s very exciting; all the newness and adrenaline that figures into everything. The new baby smell and tiny fingers and toes. You just want to be happy for them and do everything you can. But you may not realize how much your actions and presence can help or potentially hurt them.
There is a fine line to walk while wanting to help your friend, but it is walkable. Don’t worry, it shouldn’t be daunting. Just make sure that you are taking steps to think about your friend and his or her needs as well as the excitement that you may be feeling. Here are a few things that you can do:
Give the New Family Some Time
Right after baby arrives, it is important to let new parents have some space. Learning how to feed and change the baby, learning the baby’s personality, and learning how to work as a family unit takes time. Not to mention your friend’s healing body, lack of sleep and raging hormones that will figure into the craziness of the first few months.
Inviting yourself over too soon can actually be stressful and unwelcome for some new parents. Instead of coming over right away, send well wishes in the beginning and start to ask gently about visiting a few weeks later. When you do visit, plan to bring a meal with you or ask if they’d like to order in – your treat. Stay for only an hour or until the meal is finished so that you don’t overstay your welcome. Remember, this is not about them loving you – this is about them dealing with their own life circumstances and exhaustion. Be a friend by helping to keep those boundaries without them having to ask.
Be Attentive to Issues with the Baby and Parents
Things like postpartum depression and/or medical issues with the baby can be extremely tough on parents. Be attentive and adjust your help and strategies to assist with different issues.
Be a good listener. If mom is saying that she is exhausted, but can’t leave the baby alone, offer to sit in the room while the baby is sleeping to allow mom to take a bath or read a magazine. If mom wants to breastfeed, but is having trouble, offer to look up phone numbers for people to consult (i.e. La Leche League or a specialist at the hospital). Helping to do some of the legwork and then get out of the way is a fantastic way to be a friend in a stressful situation.
Offer to Help with Siblings
If this is not your friend’s first child, dealing with both a new baby as well as any other kiddos can be a challenge. Offer to play with their other children in another room, or maybe take them to the park or out for ice cream to give the parents time with their baby while the other kids are safe and well. The older children will appreciate the extra attention and you’ll be allowing your friend to take a breath for a few much needed minutes.
Help with Groceries and Food
Helping with groceries and food can be a lifesaver for a new parent. One of the best gifts that you can give to a parent of a new baby is a gift card for a local restaurant that delivers. Attach it to a pack of diapers and you’ll have made their baby shower. Food is often the last thing new parents want to have to deal with, but they have to eat and if they have other children, they have to make sure they are fed as well. Giving them a freebie meal is a huge gift.
In addition and if you want to provide more, try to reduce the number of dishes that they’ll have to wash by bringing food in disposable containers or bringing paper plates and disposable silverware. It can go a long way. Tell them that you’re on the way to the grocery store and while you’re there, you’re happy to grab some milk, eggs or bread. Or if they don’t want you spending your own money, offer to place an order with Peapod while you’re at their house so that they can just list things and have you do the computer work. Use their credit card so that they are paying the bill, but you’ve helped in the way they most felt comfortable.
Offer to Hold the Baby
Offering to give a parent time to do anything on their own can be a great relief, especially if they trust you’ll do well. Offer to hold their baby for a while so they can nap, take a shower or even run to get their favorite coffee. Any little thing that helps them feel like a normal person and allows them to take care of themselves for a bit is a kindness. Don’t be overbearing. Suggest helping and let them decide.
Not all parents will want this kind of help – particularly if this is their first child. If they don’t want you (or anyone) to hold the baby, offer to do the things that they would be doing if they weren’t holding the baby. Wash some of the dishes in the sink, fold the clean clothes in the laundry basket or water the plants. Don’t even make a big deal about it, just grab the sponge while you are talking, give them a wink (or not), and start washing those dishes.
Sometimes the best thing a new parent can ask for is for you to listen to them. Whether it’s completely putting your phone away while you’re there (so they have your undivided attention) or asking about how they’re doing, it can do so much. Listening and being supportive helps new parents know they’re not alone.
Being a parent is one of the most wonderful, joyous, and fulfilling things in the world – as everyone has said. But it can be one of the scariest, most overwhelming and exhausting things as well. That is what no one tells you. Let your friend know that it is okay to talk to you and that you won’t judge. And as much as you adore that baby, their other children, and/or their partner, you are there for your friend.
Change your Expectations
When someone has a baby, that is the new focus of their life. And it really should be. Going out to dinner with friends, returning emails and texts, talking on the phone – these are things that your friend may not have time for right now. That has no bearing on their friendship with you, but your being understanding of it is for the absolute best.
Those people who pay attention to your friend’s needs, boundaries, and challenges are the friends that she will remember when she can think a little bit more clearly. Sometimes the best way to be a friend is to allow your friend some space and not judge her for it. Let her know that you are there whenever they need you, send an “I love you” text once every few weeks, and be patient. A new normal will emerge eventually and you can figure out how to accommodate your friendship at that time.
All parents need a little extra support after delivering a baby. No matter how independent they are, exhaustion, hormones, and caring for the new baby takes up a lot of time and focus. Take cues from your friend about what they can use, what help she would appreciate, and go from there. Even just having good intentions and understanding is a help on your end, so make that the number one focus and your friend will thank you.