I decided to make some food to take over for my friend. I'm making a lasagne for her and husband to have for dinner one night and will bake some cake in the morning to take to her too. I remember how hard it is, those first few weeks especially, when you are trying to throw some dinner together after an exhausting day and usually around the time the baby gets particularly fussy too. Parenting magazines and books recommend you cooking and freezing food for dinners before the baby arrives but let's face it, not all of us are that well organised and even if we are, those supplies will soon run out.
The same magazines and books tell you not to worry about looking after visitors when they come to see the baby. If they offer to make you a cup of tea, do some of your ironing and if they bring you food, accept all this great help! That's what I remember reading but it's definitely not what happened when our friends came to visit! Maybe that's because not many of our friends here in London have children. Our family certainly helped out with meals, washing and lots of other household chores during their visits.
The ideas themselves are good though and as a mother now, I have a greater appreciation for these types of gestures and how helpful they really are for tired, fraught parents. Here are six suggestions for ways to help out a new mum (or dad!):
- Look after them in their own home when you visit. Make them a cup of tea and bring some biscuits or cake to have with it and as a treat for the mum. Generally try to avoid them waiting on you in any way.
- Offer to watch the baby for an hour or two. Even a short break can be wonderful for a new mum so they can have a lie-down or enjoy a long soak in the bath.
- Bring food. It's one less thing for them to think about. It could be a meal or a box of delicious, healthy foods you know they'll enjoy. A friend of ours once emailed a bunch of friends suggesting we all made a contribution to some take-aways or other meals for some new parents (friends of ours) whose twins were in hospital for a long time and who were consequently having a tough start to parenthood. As they lived in a different country to us, this meant we could help out in a small way.
- Offer to help with domestic chores. Can you put on some washing for them, fold some clothes that are dry, do some washing-up or load the dishwasher?
- Encourage a bit of relaxation. Bring some magazines or a movie over for a bit of light entertainment while the baby is sleeping. I got a lot of reading done whilst breastfeeding for the first couple of months and it felt like a real treat for my husband and I to watch an hour or so of a movie in an evening whilst our son was asleep.
- Be there for them. On the end of the phone or in person, let them know you'll do what you can to help in any way. Maybe they want some company on their first outing with the new baby or for you to pick up some nappies for them so they don't have to leave the house. Having someone to turn to in their hour of need is invaluable.
The same things apply to anyone with a new baby, whether they themselves are a new mum or whether it's their third or fourth child. Those same needs are there and more experience with babies doesn't mean the parent can't benefit from a helping hand - maybe they need it all the more!
Do you have other ideas to add to the list? Were there things that your friends did when you first had your baby that really helped? In retrospect, can you think of things you wish people had done to help you out?