It’s such a funny time when you’ve just had a baby, emotions running high and not really knowing what you want. As a companion or a partner, just being there is help enough, but our resident maternity nurse Mary Ashton has got some great tips up her sleeve.
The more people I meet and work for the more stories I hear about things friends and family have done in an attempt to help when you have just had a baby. Some were helpful but sadly many were not so I thought it might be useful to give you some ideas of what is actually helpful for a new mother whether they ask or not.
1. Unless you are immediate family you are unlikely to be invited to visit straight away. Don’t take this personally the new parents are trying to come to grips with their new little one and their new family dynamic. Do drop the new Mum an email or a text though and let her know you are thinking of her but that she doesn’t need to reply.
2. When you are invited to visit you may want to take a present for the baby and I will talk about appropriate gifts later. If you are going to visit around a meal time take the meal with you – it doesn’t need to be anything special and should be easy to prepare so that you can do that when you arrive. A new mother shouldn’t be made to wait on her guests she has enough on her plate looking after herself and her newborn. Good lunches would be quiche and salad or some fresh ravioli and sauce.
3. Limit your visit honestly an hour to an hour and a half is probably more than enough. Especially if Mum is breastfeeding she may not feel comfortable doing this in front of other people yet. Even if Mum says it’s ok to stay longer she is probably being polite and when you go she’ll probably lie down for a sleep when baby is sleeping.
4. Before you visit pop Mum a quick text and ask if there is anything she needs from the supermarket. In a job I had last year we had the NCT Mums coming round for coffee and had to ask one of them to bring milk as we had run out!!
5. When baby is a little older and if you are comfortable to offer, when you visit you could suggest Mum goes and lays down whilst the baby is asleep and you will watch the baby or take it out for a walk whilst Mum sleeps or has a shower. If you are not comfortable watching the baby loading/unloading the dishwasher will always be gratefully received, although most Mothers would never ask, be proactive and do it anyway. If you know Mum well, maybe you are the mother-in-law, sister, cousin or best friend, pop a load of washing on, take out the washing in the tumble dryer or fold the washing that’s hanging and dry.
6. When chatting with the new Mum and when she tells you about her little one just listen, don’t judge or force advice on her telling her she is doing everything wrong and she should be doing what you did with your baby. Remember all babies are different and respond to things differently. You might gently want to mention a book you found useful but unless Mum specifically asks you what you did try and keep the advice to yourself.
7. If you are buying a gift for baby and decide on clothes please buy a bigger size than the size the baby is right now. The likelihood is that they have enough clothes for now and are doing washing so often that they actually don’t need that many. It’s awful when you get a beautiful little outfit for your baby and they only wear it once because it’s then too small. If you are buying clothes in a bigger size do think about what season the baby will be wearing it in. You may find the most beautiful little summer dress but if you buy it in a 6 month size and the baby is born in the summer she is not going to be wearing a summer dress 6 months later in the middle of winter. Also if possible get a gift receipt with your purchase, not because your friend won’t like your present but if she needs it in a different size or if someone else has bought the same outfit (it happens!) she can get something else she can use. If you don’t want to buy clothes gift vouchers are a great gift, they may seem impersonal but are actually incredibly useful and will be gratefully received.
Finally a little story about someone who was trying to be helpful…
I was working for a client and a friend of hers came to visit I had gone on my break and Mum was lying down with the baby. So the friend decided to do the washing up and washed up everything on the kitchen counter including all the sterilised bottles and the breast pump including the electric motor! Needless to say it never worked again and my poor client had to buy another one. So be helpful but if you don’t recognise some of the baby paraphernalia just leave it alone.