Happy Birthday Kristen!
Well, not really but yesterday, June 9, was supposed to be her birthday. It was my “due date” during my pregnancy and I heard the date non-stop for nearly nine months. Isn’t it funny how, 21 years later, June 9 is still a date that stands out to me? It always makes me think of Kristen as a little baby and ironically I just had coffee with my friend Kathy, in town from Florida, who I haven’t seen since…Kristen was that little baby we called “glow worm.”
Do you know someone who has recently welcomed a new bundle of joy to their life? Are you wondering what to take them or how to help them? In keeping with the fact that I wrote yesterday’s blog a day late, I’m doing it again today! In honor of my June 9 due date, here are some Tuesday Tips on how to help someone who just had a baby.
When to Visit and For How Long
First off, always call before planning to visit the new parents and avoid the desire to just drop in. During the first several weeks of having a new baby, 15 minute stays are the perfect length of time to stay, but as the post-baby weeks grow in length, so can your visit lengths as this is the time when long-term helpers and family members have probably gone back home, people have stopped coming by, and spouses have returned to work.
Wash your hands immediately upon entering the home, don’t wear any perfumes or scented lotions as they are often overpowering to both baby and mom whose senses are heightened, and if you have any signs of illness, don’t go!
Something else to keep in mind when visiting a new mom and dad is that the purpose of your visit is, yes to bring a gift and see the new baby, but mostly it’s to be of help. This is the time to do a chore without being asked. Cook a meal or clean up a mess. Load or unload the dishwasher. Sweep the kitchen floor. Fold clothes. Take out the trash. Scrub the toilet while using the bathroom.
Equally important is to always acknowledge the new baby’s siblings. Bring them a special treat and greet them right away. But, don’t bring your kids along unless they can independently and quietly entertain the baby’s siblings while you visit with and help out mom.
The Out of Town Guest
First of all, never invite yourself but if you are invited, offer to stay at a hotel. Chances are you will be welcomed to stay at the home, but leave the hotel option open.
Once in the home, it’s your job to be the new parents’ personal assistant. Drive them to appointments. Run errands. Pick up prescriptions. Babysit siblings. Cook. Clean. Do laundry. Everything! Remember that having a houseful of visitors, regardless of how close you are to them, can be overwhelming so try your hardest to do things independently. The less you ask things like “where are the garbage bags” and “what time does Suzie get out of school,” the better.
Nighttime is a the perfect yet often overlooked opportunity to help. Offer to stay up late with the baby while mom and dad catch some much-needed rest and after night-time feedings, volunteer to burp the baby and put him/her to bed.
Finally, don’t forget outside chores. Lawns still need to be mowed, weeds still need to be pulled, leaves still need to raked, and snow still needs to be shoveled when a new baby arrives.
If you live out-of-town and can’t manage a visit, the best gift is that of paying for services such as housecleaning, yard work, diaper service, food service, and even gift cards.
Other Ways to Help
Anyone who’s had a baby knows the joy of having quiet time either just with the baby or while the baby sleeps. If there are older siblings you feel comfortable with, take them somewhere on an outing. Offer to walk the dog or scoop the poop. Run errands for the new parents like school drop-offs or grocery store shopping. If you are on your way to buy your groceries, call and ask “what can I get you while I’m there?”
Help out anywhere you can but don’t give advice unless asked and keep in mind that parenting techniques and philosophies could very likely have changed since you had a baby, especially if you are a generation older than the new mom.
The Gift of Food
Who doesn’t love having to not cook, right? Well, new parents rank right up there with those who love it most. But, there are some important guidelines to consider before bringing over that spaghetti or meatloaf.
First off, ask about any food allergies or dislikes and don’t take anything that needs to be eaten within the next 24 hours. Also consider cooking breakfast meals, as dinner seems to be what most friends and families drop off. Paper plates, plastic ware, and disposable cups also make great gifts to bring with a meal. Always put whatever you cook in disposable containers and attach heating instructions and a note stating the dish does not have to be returned. In the early days of baby being home, front porch drop offs are more than appropriate, just be sure to notify the family of your delivery!
If the mom is breastfeeding, consider making items that have ingredients known to promote breast milk such as oatmeal, whole grains, dark leafy greens, beans, vegetables, and nuts. At the same time, avoid those that contain herbs like peppermint and sage, which reduce breast milk production.
Most of all, new parents often just want support and love. Ask them how they’re doing and listen to their answers to get a feel for what they may really need. It most likely is simple encouragement and to be told they are doing a wonderful job.