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Parents Get Real: What Is (and Isn’t) Helpful When Welcoming Baby

Follow this useful advice to lend support when baby arrives. And new parents: take note on how to ask for what you need.
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By Anna Davies, Contributing Writer
Published May 1, 2024
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Three days after the birth of my daughter, I got a text from a neighbor: Send me your shopping list and coffee order, and I’ll be by in 20 minutes. True to her word, she arrived with paper towels, a cold brew and a homemade quiche. When she left, she brought the trash with her. To me, this was the perfect postpartum visit. Short, sweet and useful. Here, other parents share what’s actually helpful during the fourth trimester—good advice for anyone visiting a new baby, as well as for new parents looking to ensure you get what you need from your village.

Offer options

“I so appreciated a friend who asked me if I wanted her to visit, to FaceTime or for her to leave me alone and let me text her when I was ready. It made me feel like she wouldn’t take it personally, and I loved that she was flexible. I had thought I would want to be home alone with just my partner and baby, but I was so stir-crazy by day three, I texted her to come over. I knew that she would take my lead and wouldn’t overwhelm me.”

Sharon K., mom of one, Puyallup, WA

Don’t overstay your welcome

“Fifteen minutes is perfect. Come, say hi to the baby, drop off food, and head home. There will be plenty of time to hang out and catch up, but in the first few days and weeks, a shorter visit is better. I once leaked through my shirt in front of a friend because I needed to pump and felt too awkward to let her know.”

Kim, 33, mom of one, Jersey City, NJ

Bring food that’s easy to eat

“Food you can eat with one hand? Amazing. Food you can eat cold or hot? Even better. New parents have their hands full, so it can be great to send robust snack options that can be eaten at any time. I really liked fruit salads, deli salads, dips and smoothies. One friend ordered a bunch of pre-prepped foods from a local delivery place—overnight oats, salads, meatballs, sliced grilled chicken. They weren’t ‘meals,’ but they were nutrition-dense and got us through the first few weeks.”

Renee B., mom of two, San Diego

Be the point person—new moms don’t need more on their plate

“I talked with a few other dads, and one thing they suggested was that I be the person everyone was supposed to contact, starting two weeks before my wife went into labor. I didn’t want my wife dealing with ‘is the baby here yet’ texts, so we sent out an announcement to our network, including our parents, to reach out to me first. We also set up a family WhatsApp group about baby news that I managed. My wife sometimes reached out in the chat, but setting that up was key.”

Dave, 49, dad of one, New York City

Offer to do chores

“I would have loved for someone to help me clean up, do dishes, fold or put clothes away. I would recommend you keep a running list of things, even if they’re small, like taking out recycling. And then get used to asking everyone who visits to do one thing. People want to help out, so it’s a win-win.”

Marisol, mom of one, Secaucus, NJ

Make a post office run

“This may be niche, but I felt like I was returning a lot in those first few weeks. If someone had offered to take care of my returns, that would have been everything. I would say, think about the annoying parts of your day, and then imagine how much harder they are with a newborn. Things like offering to fill their gas tank, run to the store or even bring them their favorite drink from a coffee shop mean a lot.”

Jessa, mom of one, Savannah, GA

Be mindful of boundaries

“My mom came and stayed with us for six weeks (she’s from the UK, so that’s why it was an extended stay). It was great, and one of the reasons it went smoothly is that she didn’t insist on holding the baby or giving us her opinions. She waited until she was asked to help with the baby, and helped us with laundry, cooking and other life stuff. My advice would be to get very specific about what you do and don’t need. I told my mom I would ask her if I needed help with the baby, and I’m so glad that she respected that boundary.”

Priyam M., mom of one, Bayonne, NJ

Realize how much their life has changed

“I had two coworkers come visit me when I was four weeks’ postpartum. They came and looked so beautiful, and were talking about this fancy gala that I wasn’t going to. Part of me liked peeking into my old life, and part of me just felt really sad. I would say to be sensitive that even though it’s a happy time, a parent’s entire life has changed. I think I would have preferred if they hadn’t talked so much about the real world.”

Kathryn, mom of one, Encino, CA

Don’t ask, “What do you need?” Just do it.

“My baby needed surgery within his first week. To say I was overwhelmed is an understatement. My best friend checked in every day, knowing I wouldn’t always write back. I also really appreciated people who sent food, who arranged cleaning services, who just did what was needed so I didn’t have to think. My advice—to parents of newborns who need extra support, but really just any parent—is to do something/anything that makes their lives easier.”

Kamika, mom of one, Bayonne, NJ

Always assume mom needs something

“From grabbing a bottle to grabbing a glass of water, assume she needs something, especially if the baby is lying on top of her. I was always too embarrassed to ask, but I would have loved it if anyone who came in would ask what I needed and then go get it.”

Caroline T., mom of one, Evanston, IL

Be considerate of all families

“When my wife and I had a baby, I was the non-birthing partner. People would see me out with our newborn, and express surprise at how I didn’t look like I just had a baby, which really bothered me. These types of conversations, and the world just not always being set up for same-sex parents, led me to begin working with a therapist. I feel like I had my own version of postpartum anxiety, which I don’t think parents recognize can happen even if you didn’t birth your own child.”

Cara, mom of one, Brookline, MA

Philips Avent understands that as parents we can best take care of baby when we focus on our own self-care too. That’s why Philips Avent has created innovative products that help moms around the world share the care for baby, so they can focus on taking better care of themselves, and experience more joy in the early days of parenthood. Read more on TheBump.com.

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