We know you're excited to see that baby. We're excited for you to see that baby, to hold that baby, to love that baby!
BUT we're here to tell you: it's not all about that baby.
Being a helpful & encouraging postpartum visitor is about more than the birth and the new life that has emerged, it is also about supporting the transitioning family and helping the new parents stay sane!
To be honest, it's easy to get caught up in the euphoria of being around a newborn. They're just so fun to look at and they smell divine. But while you're staring at that sweet baby, your friend is hungry and tired, and probably hasn't showered in a few days. And she needs your help.
So, what can you do to help??!
First things first, make an appointment to stop by.
Don't just pop in whenever it's convenient for you. The new parents might be sleeping or mom might be breastfeeding, or perhaps they have other guests over. Unannounced visitors can be extremely overwhelming. Schedule your visit, tell them what you have in mind in terms of helping them and ask them for a time frame - 10 minutes, 30... let them decide... and be flexible. Don't be offended if they reschedule or if your 30 minute visit gets cut down to 15. Remember, this is not about you.
Oh and when you do schedule your visit, whatever you do... Don't ring that doorbell. Text your friend upon your arrival or knock softly. Barking dogs wake sleeping babies and when a new parent has just spent 45 minutes getting that baby to sleep... well, we don't have to paint that picture.
Next up, bring some delicious, nourishing treats.
Healthy foods are essential for postpartum recovery. Check with the family first to see if there are any allergies or foods they need to avoid. Once you have that info, prep them some lovely meals - meals that will last a few days and that are easy to reheat. The typical meal visitors bring is dinner, but remember the new parents need to eat breakfast and lunch too! Include fresh vegetables and lots of protein. Think outside the box or get specific suggestions from the new parents themselves. We highly recommend using disposable containers. The last thing new parents need is to wash a bunch of dishes or keep track of whose tupperware is whose!
Once you arrive with the yummy meals, fix them a plate, PRONTO!
If they've already eaten, send them off to do a little self-care. Give them some time to nap or shower or just enjoy some quiet time as a couple.
While they're eating, sleeping or having some alone time, you can do a few things - if baby is awake and needing comfort, here's your chance! Hold and snuggle that baby to your heart's content. But if baby is sleeping, the following are some SUPER helpful household items that typically need addressing:
- clean out the fridge of any expired leftovers or takeout containers (check with mom or dad first!)
- empty the dishwasher or take out the trash
- throw in a load of laundry or fold any clean, dry clothes. If time allows, put them away.
- get some household cleaner & a rag and wipe down common surfaces - kitchen counter, bathroom counter, door knobs, etc.
- take the dog for a quick walk
- spend some quality time with any older siblings - maybe take them to a nearby park to play.
After the meal or the rest, check-in with the new parents emotionally.
Ask how things are going, ask if they need help with anything specific. A lot of new parents aren't comfortable asking for help. There's a weird stigma around postpartum and the ability to do it all alone. It doesn't have to be that way. Even if they don't need anything right at that moment, let them know that you're available! Really listen to what they're saying and offer help and support where you can.
Keep note of the time and don't overstay your welcome.
Set an alarm if you have to or intentionally make an appointment after your visit with the new parents so you are forced to leave on time. Often times new parents are too polite to set boundaries and visitors end up staying hours, draining the energy out of the new parents and disrupting any semblance of a schedule they might have. PSA: Don't be an energy suck.
We know that 30 minutes doesn't seem like a lot of time to offer support, but really, it does wonders, especially if you are aware of the family's needs & how best to support them. Once the first 4 weeks have passed and the new parents have found their footing, look into scheduling a longer visit. Most people visit new families within the first few weeks - it may be helpful to spread out your visits to offer longer term support. If time constraints or schedules don't allow you to visit in person very often, consider giving the gift of a Postpartum Doula.
We may not always recognize it but it truly does take a village and your support and love is greatly appreciated by the new parents. Their needs are just as important as the newborn's and with the support of friends and family, you're helping to ensure they have a positive, empowering postpartum experience.