Forget the baby blankets. Save the well-intentioned advice. When visiting a newly postpartum family, here’s what can really help:
- Avoid holding the baby. Grab a broom instead.
I know. This one is tough. Babies are biologically designed to kick us right into snuggle mode. Believe you me, my job can be so overwhelming when faced with the allure of a fresh newborn. More than a break from baby, though, many parents could really, really use some light help around the house. In the midst of sleepless nights and spit-up from places they never knew existed, simply seeing that their trash has been taken out or the sink cleared of dishes could mean the absolute world to new parents.
- Food! Food! Food!
Between pumping or prepping bottles and having a human perma-tached to one’s person, there can be very little time for real, honest meals. A half-eaten PBJ here, a juice box that’s been out on the counter all day. Give your loved ones a big break. Bring over a hot meal along with disposable plates, napkins and silverware (or wash dishes after). Or pack your bags with several pans of frozen, fully prepped dinners that require nothing more than setting an oven and baking for half an hour. Hint: pasta, sauce, cheese and any sort of meat? Always a good start.
- Stop waiting for your turn to talk and just listen.
This seems simple enough, but we tend to spend a good portion of our time doling out advice to others or secretly foot tapping in hopes that it will soon be our turn to speak. Honestly? The best thing you could do for a new mother is ask how she’s doing. Not just ask and tune out. Ask and be her sounding board. Chances are there’s a story just aching to come out. Even if you have no answers, simply acknowledging someone’s feelings can go such a long way.
- Run an errand. Or two. Or three.
New baby owners probably haven’t been out of the house much. They may have developed a keen talent for figuring out the culprit in “Law and Order: SVU” within the first five minutes. They’ll be able to tell you in minute detail the individual sounds and faces their child makes for every minute of the day. But they may not have been planning for how they’re going to be getting more toilet paper. When you’re over, ask if they have a list of things they need. Suggest basic necessities. If you’ve got pockets deep enough, perhaps even offer to cover a shopping trip. It’s not until you’ve given birth that someone bringing you toothpaste becomes as valuable as a spree in Sephora.
Cara Del Favero is a Capital District mother of two, placenta encapsulation specialist and a birth and postpartum doula providing holistic, nonjudgmental support for all childbirth options. To contact her, visit thealbanydoula.net or call 337-6272.