There’s no doubt that the transition to parenthood can be stressful or just plain emotional for new parents. Roles and routines change, sleep becomes fractured at best, and mothers, especially, can have difficulty finding time for themselves.
Thankfully, a good support system can ease the transition a little. There are plenty of ways friends and family can help new mothers thrive during this tumultuous time.
Friends and family who want to visit a new mother and baby need to be aware of at least the basics of infant safety. Visitors should wash their hands before touching the baby, carefully support the baby’s head and neck, and always use the safety straps on carriers and car seats.
If you're going to offer to help with feeding and changing, learn from the parents and respect their preferred methods.
Perhaps the most difficult aspect of new motherhood is the sleep deprivation. Friends and family can help by offering to hold the baby while mom naps. She can even prepare a bottle of breast milk or formula ahead of time so she doesn’t need to wake up in time for the next feeding.
New parents are saddled with a mountain of responsibilities, and household chores can fall to the wayside. When visiting, although it’s most fun to hold and admire the new baby, the parents will probably appreciate an offer to help out in other ways.
Some straightforward chores that won’t require a lot of direction from the parents — don't cause them more work — include dishwashing, laundry, and dusting.
Parents of newborns often need to switch their eating habits to include more convenient, easy-to-prepare foods. Friends and family can break up the monotony of frozen dinners by bringing over fresh ready-to-eat meals, making sure they take the parents’ dietary preferences into account.
Casseroles are traditional, but other balanced choices include fajitas with fresh peppers or pasta with roasted vegetables. Bring enough so they have leftovers for a couple days.
One study found that while new mothers would like to walk for exercise, time is a major obstacle. The subjects reported that scheduling time for a walk or having a walking partner would help.
Offer to watch the baby while their mom takes a walk or to be her walking partner while someone else babysits. If the weather is nice, bring the baby along and help out where you can.
It’s normal for new mothers to experience anxiety, irritability, and sadness. Friends and family can help by reassuring her that these feelings are normal and not her fault, and by supporting her mental health in typical ways like helping her get sleep, exercise, and adequate nutrition and hydration — without being preachy.
If distressing feelings are particularly intense or last longer than about two weeks, she may have postpartum depression. New parents who didn't give birth can also experience postpartum depression. It’s common and treatable, so friends and family can help normalize and encourage seeking medical care.
Parenting a newborn can be lonely, especially if one parent is staying home for an extended time. Becoming a parent can also take away time from socializing.
Friends and family can help by listening compassionately. Sometimes the simple opportunity to talk with another adult can help with feelings of isolation.
New mothers report that they especially value advice from their own mothers and from friends who have gone through childbirth recently. Personal experience can be a treasure trove of helpful information, but it’s important not to be pushy or judgemental of a new mother’s choices.
Parenting is complex and personal, and she will likely choose to follow some pieces of advice and ignore others.
New parents often need answers to specific infant care questions or simply reassurance that they are on the right track. Even loved ones who are not parents can provide information in the form of a high-quality parenting book or website. Government websites often link to trusted resources, and healthcare providers can recommend good parenting books.
Couples often report lower relationship satisfaction after the birth of their first child. For new parents, getting out of the house and spending some quality time together could relieve stress and foster a sense of togetherness. Friends and family can help by giving new parents a gift card for a restaurant or other outing and by scheduling a time to watch the baby while the couple goes out.
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.