The author of the list invites everyone to share her post and add their own thoughts. I have to say that after now having had two newborns two years apart, we've experienced a tremendous outpouring of love and support from so many friends and family. I've learned from their example in discovering what is most (and sometimes least) helpful for parents of a new baby. So, below is the compiled wisdom of my friends and family. Though this list is mostly geared toward helping a new mom, because, let's face it, much of the physical toll falls on her, this is also applicable to all those great fathers like my own husband who are in the trenches too. Some of the items on my list likely overlap with the list in the link above. Please forgive me for any repeats; I'm the mom of a newborn.
The guiding philosophy behind dealing with parents of a newborn is: Don't enter your interactions with any selfish motives. You want to see a cute little baby, one likely tinier than you've ever seen, but they just want to get through the day (and the night...oh, the night). Make everything in your visits and offers of help about the parents, not about yourself, and you'll be the most helpful.
Here are some more specific ways we've been helped:
- When giving a gift after the baby is born, tell them no thank you note or email is necessary. My good friend who sent me the link above reminded me of this one. I try to say this to my friends, too.
- Provide gift receipts for baby clothes
- Buy 9 or 12 month baby clothes
- Bring diapers and baby wipes
- Don't regift them items you know they won't like/need, and don't give them your leftovers of items you know are not the best quality, like cheap diapers that don't actually hold leaks
- Give her a robe she can wear for late-night nursing sessions
- Give her a nursing tank she can just wear (and sweat through) at night (seriously, my night sweats need to end already)
- Give her beauty items she can use on days when she doesn't shower or just wants to feel a little better. A friend brought me these Say Yes to Blueberries Age Refresh Towelettes and they're awesome.
- Share your Amazon Prime membership with them (it can be shared between two mailing addresses)
- Bring toys or other activities to entertain the toddler that: don't make really loud noise, don't require batteries, don't require parental supervision
Gifts don't have to be new!
- Bring any of your leftover, unused baby essentials, such as newborn or size 1 diapers, breastmilk storage bags, nursing pads, extra breastpump parts, formula
- Offer to loan her big-ticket baby items she may not own, such as a swing, bouncer, carrier, infant gym, Snap n Go or Pack n Play
The most appreciated gifts often come in the form of food. Really, you can't go wrong here, but here are a few additional ways we've been shown kindness:
- Bring food in disposable containers or containers you don't except returned
- Bring food that can be easily frozen. Don't have time to cook? A friend brought us frozen meals from Dinner Done. See if there's a similar service where you live.
- Bring breakfast and lunch food they can eat with one hand -- muffins, bagels, fruit that doesn't require cutting or peeling (or that's already cut/peeled)
- Bring food the week that she and/or her mate returns to work
- Bring gift cards for places that offer takeout and/or delivery
- Bring coffee
Helping around the house
- Offer to do the chore they hate the most
- Hire a cleaning service to come by when they've been home from the hospital for two weeks and the house has gotten sufficiently dirty
- Take care of their animals -- take the dogs for a walk or the cat to get its nails trimmed (or, dear god, someone figure out how to make my dogs' breath not smell horrible...)
- Tell her you've also cried in the shower
- Tell her it gets better
- When asked, couch any advice in, "What worked for us was..."
- Help connect her with other moms who have babies roughly the same age as hers
- If you're going to send her links about parenting or babies, make sure there is not a hint of judgment in what you're sending (i.e. the benefits of breastfeeding to a mom who's formula feeding or the dangers of co-sleeping to a mom who's co-sleeping)
- Send her links to articles and websites that have nothing to do with motherhood or babies
- Watch the baby, even if only for an hour, so she and her mate can leave the house together and do something without the baby
- Give her the benefit of the doubt -- she is likely unable to maintain coherent conversations, she might have a meltdown in front of you. (True story: my dog stole my hard-earned sandwich off my plate while one of my best friends was visiting, and I started crying rather irrationally in front of her. She understood.) Don't take it seriously or personally. Just say, "I've been there."