One of the first things friends and family will say to you after you have a baby (after a whole lot of congratulatory hugs and cooing over baby) is: "Let me know what I can do for you." Or "How can I help?" And 99.9 per cent of new mums will say "Oh thanks, I'll let you know!" and then never mention it again - even if they hit Struggle City pretty hard. The thing is, a lot of the time you KNOW you probably need some help, but you're not sure what help you need. It's often not until someone swoops in and saves the day with the simplest of gestures that you realise how helpful it actually was - even indirectly. Whether you're about to become a new mum and are wondering what kind of help you'll actually find helpful, or you want to support a pregnant friend or family member as they journey into motherhood, here are some great suggestions for you to ask in your own way - or do in your own way. Because it does take a village - that quote was quipped with good reason!
1. Ask for gifts of paper plates and frozen meals in disposable containers The old food delivery is a popular one by family members and neighbours, but even more helpful? Anything that doesn't require washing up or remembering to whom a container needs to be returned.
2. Get a visitor to text or call you before they leave - even if you arranged their scheduled baby meet-and-greet that morning, a lot can change quickly with a baby and maybe it's just not a good time anymore. Getting them to call before they leave will give you a chance to postpone if it's just not right.
3. Make up a list of chores that need to be done and leave on the fridge or kitchen island Any visitor worth a place in your heart is going to cross something off that list if they see it! It could be the washing up, sweeping the kitchen, folding laundry, sterilising the baby things, helping your older child with their homework or home reader. Make sure they're doable for anyone and that you're not fussy with someone else doing it for you.
4. Have your support crew come at the times you really need them Maybe baby's witching hour is not 6pm but 11am and you could just do with someone else doing the bouncy hallway pacing and back-patting for an hour. Maybe it's to put the older kids to bed - Granny doing the bath, book and bed routine is an exciting novelty for the kids and lets you give baby your undivided attention for a few hours. Ask them to come for the tough times, not for when baby is sleeping so they can have peaceful cuddles - that should be your time.
5. Ask for the baby, not for you If you struggle asking your mother-in-law to do something for you, ask on behalf of the baby. "Would you mind please grabbing me a few things for the baby on your way tomorrow? Do you mind folding up baby's tiny things? Aren't they cute?"
6. Turn your visitors into photographers They're probably going to take pictures anyway - so get them to take some of you and the baby. Or of your older kids doing their thing to make them feel special. Or all of you together - we often forget to take some pics of ourselves with bub!
7. Have someone walk the dog, mow the lawn or look after your bins - those first weeks can be a blur and the days get mixed up more often than not! A nice neighbour would probably be happy to put out your bins for a week or so while you get settled, and friend's tween might like some pocket money walking the dogs for a couple of weeks or looking after other pets. Hand over those tasks you just might forget about or not have time to do but that you know are still important.
8. Assign babysitting duties Ask close family members if they'll take older kids for a sleepover, out for the day or just to the park for a couple of hours so you can have some quiet(er) time. Sometimes just being able to focus on one child is luxury enough. As is being able to have a shower or go for a massage. If your baby doesn't sleep for long unless he's being held, bring in a body double and do something for yourself for a little while. Who could refuse the job of being a human mattress for a cute newborn?!
9. Chat, vent and cry Get your best girlfriend, mother's group pal or fave super-mum around who you know you can REALLY talk to - about anything and everything. Pick their brain, tell them how you're really feeling and ask advice if you need it. But don't choose someone who needs entertaining - just the one who doesn't care what condition your house is in, how long it's been since you washed your hair or if your dishes are piled sky high.
Other ways to help a new mum -
Here are some helpful things new mums discovered to be a big assistance after bringing baby home - and what they'd happily do for another new mum in the future.
"I asked people to not visit in the hospital but rather wait until I was settled at home to meet the baby. It gave me time to bond with the baby." Letitia
"A friend brought around a quiche all cut up. Not for dinners but for me to freeze and pop a slice in the oven every day for lunch. Best idea ever as you always forget to have lunch and hubby isn't there to help like they can be at dinner time." Cassie
"I had a friend who would let me know whenever she was going to be nearby my house in case I needed her to pop in so I could take a shower or have a nap. I took her up on that offer several times!" Kristie
"My mother-in-law would call me whenever she was on her way over and say she was at the shops - even though half the time I don't think she was. She'd ask if I needed anything while she was there and I'd always get her to grab me a few things, but I'd never have told her a list if she'd just said "would you like me to go to the shops for you on the way?." Renee
"My mum was always so helpful, but with every one of my four babies, she would stock my cupboards with all the essentials, special treats and lots of easy pantry meals that we could whip up in no time weeks down the track on those crazy days." Belinda
What was something someone did for you when you brought baby home that you found so helpful?
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