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How to Support Parents with a Newborn

Snuggle Bugz | | Comments 0

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When a friend or family member is expecting a new baby, it’s an exciting adventure for everyone involved. That said, having a newborn can also be an incredibly challenging experience, combining joy and wonder with equal parts sleep deprivation and anxiety. So, how can you help support new parents during this stressful but miraculous time?      

By now, the parents-to-be probably have all the necessary gear ready to go for their little one’s arrival (if you’re not sure, check out this handy guide featuring a breakdown of essential items for the first 30 days). But being prepared is about more than just buying gear – it means having a plan in place for how you can support them when the time comes.  

To help you help them, we’ve assembled some dos and don’ts, along with some suggestions for going the extra mile in newborn parent support.  

Basic Dos & Don'ts  

While every family is different, there are some general guidelines to keep in mind when someone welcomes a newborn. If you’re unsure how the new parents feel about any of these rules, try to ask before the baby arrives so everyone is on the same page.  

  • DO make sure you have an invitation before you head over for a visit. Things can get hectic with a newborn, and a surprise arrival can force new parents to perform the role of gracious hosts when they don’t have the energy to socialize.   
  • DON’T expect to be treated as a guest (e.g. served with food and/or drinks), even if you were invited. Bring your own water bottle.  
  • DO respect the boundaries set by the parents (when to come over, whether or not to post pictures online, etc.) and their way of doing things. There is no definitive ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to parent.   
  • DON’T give unsolicited advice. New parents have lots of questions, and will welcome you sharing your experience — but please wait until they ask.   
  • DO check in on parents. Stay in contact, even if you were the last one to reach out. It is entirely possible they forgot about your message due to exhaustion. 

Ways to Go the Extra Mile  

If you have the time and energy to offer next-level support, here are some ways to help lighten the load of any new parent:  

Bring Food  

No new parent wants to cook every single meal. Before the baby comes, see if the parents are interested in setting up a meal train. This is a group of people who take on the mental load of providing organized deliveries of food to the new family. A good meal train works together to provide frozen and/or fresh meals, gift cards, and snacks. You can leave deliveries on the doorstep if parents want some time to themselves. Whether you’re setting up a meal train or just bringing by a single meal, keep their dietary restrictions and preferences in mind, but don’t pester the parents with questions.  

Remember to provide solutions, not create problems. Instead of asking, "What do you want for dinner?" Say "I would like to bring you XYZ on this date and time and drop it off, is that okay?"

Help with Housework  

Life with a newborn is hectic — to say the least. Babies require constant care and attention, and this means that a lot of the other day-to-day tasks can fall by the wayside.  

If you have an invitation to come over for a visit, ask if you can help out by running a load of laundry or washing some dishes. Suggest they jot things down on a notepad as they think of them so there’s a to-do list ready for you when you come by for a visit. This takes the pressure off parents from having to come up with a list of things the need in the moment.    

Run Errands  

Even the most prepared parents-to-be need things as they come up. If you live close by, offer to be their “gofer.” Let the parents know they can call or text you and you’ll head out on a diaper run, grab a few things from the pharmacy, or hit up the grocery store for some postpartum snacks. If you don’t live nearby, look into delivery options in their area. There are lots of retailers that can deliver pretty much anything a new parent needs.

Care for Older Siblings  

(or the baby, if the parents are comfortable with that).  

Parenting is tough, and looking after a growing family has unique challenges, as not everyone is on the same schedule. Helping look after older siblings can take many different forms. Talk with the new parents and see if they could use a hand dropping off or picking up siblings at school/daycare. You could also offer to set up and supervise playdates or suggest some kid-friendly outings to get the kids out of the house. The goal here is to keep everyone happy so Mom and Dad can shower, take a nap, or just have a few moments of calm.  

Remember: It’s Not About You  

One last thing to keep in mind as you get ready to help the soon-to-be parents in your life is that it’s not about you. Remember the new parents don’t owe you anything — they don’t HAVE to let you hold the baby, attend an event, or whatever else it might be. Your role is to assist them by providing help and support as needed. Most importantly, your job is to listen. Many new parents feel overwhelmed after the baby arrives — validate their experience by listening to what they have to say, and only provide advice when asked. It is essential to respect the new parent’s boundaries and work together to reduce stress and make the first few months with baby as magical and happy as possible.