Being a new parent is one of the most extraordinary but also disorienting experiences you can ever have. When you have a newborn, help from your community is both welcome and necessary. But what are actually the best ways to help new parents?
I reached out to the Mama Embodied Instagram community to ask about the most and the least helpful things people did for them when they were new parents. Keep reading to find their answers and learn about ways you can help the new parents in your life!
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7 Ways to Help New Parents
The name of the game when helping new parents is: Focus on caring for the parents so they can focus on caring for their new baby.
The most important thing is setting them up for success so they can start their parenthood journey off strong! If you’re not quite sure how to do that, this list of ways to help new parents is here to help!
You can use this article in a few ways:
- For ideas to help loved ones who have just had a baby.
- As new (or soon-to-be!) parents trying to figure out what to ask for when people tell you they want to help.
Of course, all new parents are different. Some things that are helpful for one parent of a newborn won’t work for another. And things that some people hate wouldn’t be offputting for others.
So use discernment and your knowledge of the people you want to help. And if you’re really not sure, just ask them whether something on this list would feel helpful or not!
Here are 7 ways to help new parents as they navigate the early weeks of newborn life.
This is one of the most common ways to support new parents, but I didn’t want to skip over it!
In those first weeks, you’re in newborn land. Time is meaningless, and the brain fog is real. For me, planning and cooking a meal felt nearly impossible. I was grateful for every meal that came through our front door and felt so much love for the people who brought them.
Food is love, and it fills a tangible need. New parents are keeping a brand-new person alive, and bringing them a meal gives them a little survival help, too.
And if that baby is being breastfed, feeding their parents is feeding them, too!
Here are a few specific things that can be helpful when bringing food to new parents.
Give Recipe Options
When people were planning to bring food over after my baby was born, the question, “What should I make?” was way more stressful than I thought it would be.
Brain fog and decision fatigue made it hard to think of a specific meal to ask for. I was just trying to get through an hour at a time.
One of my cousins emailed me three meal options and linked the recipes so I could choose what sounded best, and that was so helpful! We still got to choose something we’d like, but we didn’t have to try to come up with meal ideas ourselves.
Since I used the book The First Forty Days to plan my dream postpartum period, my bonus mom and I went through the recipe portion of the book and marked the meals that appealed to me. She ended up making most of them for us during the first six weeks of our baby’s life.
Both of these were thoughtful ways to make sure they were making food we’d love without adding mental strain to our already overloaded brains.
Don’t Forget About Breakfast!
Dinner is definitely the most common meal to bring new parents. But don’t sleep on breakfast!
Ellen, a member of our community said, “[Bringing] us breakfast foods/meals along with a dinner was so helpful! You’re up so early and sometimes coffee shops aren’t even open yet. So being able to have a muffin or breakfast burrito handy first thing in the morning was awesome.”
In those early newborn weeks, I found breakfast to be the toughest meal to make happen. I usually woke up already starving and needed a protein-rich option to set me up for success for the day. Having premade breakfasts that just needed to be heated up was a lifesaver!
Some great options for breakfasts for new parents are:
- egg casserole
- my Protein-Packed Smoothie (make a few days’ worth and deliver them in bottles)
- peanut butter oat bars
Far Away? Send a Meal Delivery Gift Card.
A few of our friends who live in different states sent us meal delivery gift cards. This was such a fun way for them to help us with this basic need from afar. AND it felt super special to order takeout without being concerned about delivery fees.
This would also work well if you live in town and want to provide a meal for some new parents but don’t have space in your schedule to make and deliver food.
Set Aside Expectations.
Another member of our community, Tessa, said, “Bringing food without stipulation to stay (my house was a mess!)” was one of the most helpful things people did for her and her husband when they were new parents.
In general, it’s best to set aside most of your expectations when helping new parents.
Set aside any expectation to:
- be invited into their home
- hold the baby
- stay for dinner
- see a tidy house
Those first few weeks with a newborn are an incredibly vulnerable and overwhelming time. There will be plenty of time later to chat and hold the baby. For now, let the new parents find their footing and respect and boundaries they set, even if they don’t totally make sense to you. You’re showing the parents that you support and respect them. And you’re building trust that will contribute to your relationship with the baby throughout its life!
When you’re visiting the parents of a new baby, look for something that needs to be done, then do it!
It’s likely that new parents won’t ask for help with household chores. But cleaning one thing each time you visit is a wonderful way to take something off their to-do list so they can focus on their newborn.
Some helpful things you can jump in and do in the home of new parents include:
- emptying and loading the dishwasher
- running a load of laundry
- walking dogs/caring for pets
If you’re worried that the new parents might be offended if you start cleaning something in their house, feel free to ask them if you can do a specific chore. But I personally felt so loved and grateful every time I walked into my kitchen to find my bonus mom emptying my dishwasher during my early postpartum. It’s likely that other new parents will, too!
Giving advice to new parents can be tricky (see “3 Things That Are NOT Helpful for New Parents” below). But sharing resources doesn’t come with the same minefield.
If a relevant issue comes up in conversation, you might say, “When I was going through that with my baby, [this resource] was really helpful.”
Mama Embodied’s Instagram community identified these as helpful resources for new parents:
- Instagram accounts: Solid Starts, Taking Cara Babies, Hey, Sleepy Baby
- Apps: Glow Baby, Wonder Weeks
3 Things That Are NOT Helpful for New Parents
Just as important (if not more) as finding the best ways to help new parents is avoiding what is not-so-helpful. No one wants to be a stumbling block for parents who are finding their way.
Here are 3 things our community identified as being unhelpful for new parents.
Giving unsolicited advice.
Carly from Mama Embodied’s Instagram community said that “telling me what I should try with my baby” was unhelpful as a new mom. I could not agree more!
New parents are inundated with information these days. It’s likely that they’ve read up on and made conscious choices about almost every aspect of raising a baby, from swaddling to feeding to sleep.
Even if it’s meant to be helpful, unsolicited advice can come off as critical. Like you saw what a new mom or dad was doing and thought, “You’re doing it wrong. You should do it my way instead!”
Allow new parents to build their intuition by observing their baby and learning what does and doesn’t work through trial and error. Stepping in to offer unsolicited advice can interrupt this process and lead parents to lose confidence in their own instincts.
Being grabby with the baby.
As a new parent myself, there was a huge difference in how loved I felt by the people who visited just hoping to hold my baby and the people who wanted to support my husband and my transition into parenthood.
At one point, I wrote in my Notes app (where I record a lot of random thoughts), “I don’t need other people to take care of my baby. I need them to care for me so I can do the very best job of caring for my baby.”
My new mom instincts also made me very protective of my baby. So when people tried to take her from me too often or without asking permission, I felt uncomfortable and territorial. Not ideal for my maternal mental health.
Can holding the baby be helpful sometimes? Absolutely! Newborns love to stay close, so holding them can help new parents get a chance to take a shower or a nap.
But I highly suggest waiting for the parents to ask you if you’d like to hold their baby instead of asking them if you can. That way, you know they truly feel comfortable with you holding their baby and aren’t feeling pressured to say “yes” out of obligation.
This may sound harsh, but new parents shouldn’t have to play host to people who are just hoping to hold a baby. If that’s all you’re looking for, then wait to visit until they’re out of those first chaotic months of parenthood. The best thing you can do for that baby in its first weeks of life is to support its parents so they can feel confident in their parenting.
Babies tend to attract a lot of visitors. So if you’re lucky enough to get to visit a new edition, try not to stay too long! New parents are exhausted, but they may still feel like they need to be good hosts, even if they don’t really have the energy for it.
I really appreciated the people who popped in with a meal or a gift, stayed 15 minutes to chat and exclaim over our baby, and politely excused themselves to go run errands or get back home.
It was great to connect with members of our community and hear news of the world outside of Newborn Land. But I often didn’t have more than half an hour of social energy to give, and I was grateful to the people who understood that.
As with everything, there are, of course, exceptions to this “rule”. If you’re part of the new parents’ core support team, you’re obviously going to be at their home for longer periods of time.
And some people might be hungry for company and want you to stay longer! The only way to know is to check with them.
You might say something like, “Well, I know how tiring a new baby can be. I don’t want to keep you.” If they want you to stick around, they’ll tell you. If not, this shows that you’re thinking of their well-being and keeps them from having to be the one to cut the visit short.
I hope this list gives you some great ideas for helping new parents! What else have you found helpful as a new parent? Tell me in the comments!