The truth is that you don’t have to be a parent to be able to provide support to new a mum. It’s a common misunderstanding that helping out new parents can only mean placing the entire responsibility of the baby onto yourself for a while – no, this isn’t the case. I only realised that there are other ways to assist once I became a mum myself – no amount of babysitting nieces and nephews could have prepared me for parenthood, I tell you! (New dads need support too, but this post will focus on what one can do for mums).
So if you’ve got friends, relatives or even a neighbour who’d just become a new parent, and you’d like to offer your help – whether it’s because you already know first-hand how tough it is, or you’d like to prepare for when you do become a parent, or you just can’t help yourself to stand by and do nothing (good on you!), here are a few things you can do to help in the first few months.
#1 Food & Snacks
There is no such thing as a well-fed new mum. We are hungry. All. The. Time. But we just don’t have 60 seconds to make a cup of tea or coffee. Pop by and bring over something small or light. A sandwich with a packet of chips would be perfect too. Just to be able to eat some kind of food during the day is a luxury for most mums.
#2 Adult Conversation, No Baby Talk
Ask how we are, and don’t make the entire conversation only about the baby (“Does he sleep? For how long? What time does he feed?” Etc… quite unnecessary). We want conversations that remind us that we are still a part of our society. Talk lifestyle, politics, entertainment or fashion… We want to be kept in the loop.
#3 Handy Around the House
Are there dishes in the sink? Of course, there is. Don’t feel shy to wash them. Clean or tidy up something around the house that visibly needs tidying. Our hands are always full with baby, and we just don’t get the chance to tuck away the loose ends or wash that cereal bowl from yesterday.
#4 10-Minute Check-Up
Your visit doesn’t have to be long. A quick 10-minute catch-up can mean so much. And, truth be told, it can be uncomfortable for us to have guests that stay for extra long periods of time, while the baby is competing for our attention. So 10 minutes is certainly sufficient.
#5 Extra Set of Eyes
Staying for longer than 10 minutes? Baby asleep? You can watch over the baby for a few minutes while we finish up our half-eaten breakfast, get a quick shower, or simply change out of PJs. And if you’re comfortable to babysit, let us have a quick power nap while you watch over the baby (mums with bottle-fed babies would hardly say no if you’d like to do the feeding while we take a break and actually breathe).
#6 Tone Down the Criticism
We’re learning and getting the hang of things. If you don’t like what you see, it’s alright. The last thing we need is criticism that we can do without. “Is that how you burp your baby? I’ve heard it’s more effective if you do it like this“, “Your baby still looks hungry. I think you should feed him more“, “You gave your baby the bottle too early. That’s why you can’t breastfeed now.” How is this a nice thing to say? It isn’t. So you shouldn’t.
Another thing I’ve noticed that people do is, instead of criticising the mum to her face, they talk directly to the baby, saying how ‘bad’ mummy and daddy are for doing such and such. This is low, guys. Just stop.
#7 Respect Our Choices
New mum or not, all mothers have a motherly instinct. Try and be a positive force that encourages us to believe in ourselves and make choices on what feels best for us and our baby. All mothers will get this right. And if we don’t, we learn. Dismissing our situation as something “everyone goes through” or “all babies do that” or something that “just won’t work”, is hurtful. There are diplomatic ways of advising and suggesting alternatives that you can opt for.
Do remember: Only the parents of the child will know entirely what they’re going through, which will lead them to make certain parenting choices (that others don’t need to love!).
While we may not have the time to talk for hours on end anymore, you can still send an SMS or WhatsApp to say, “Hey we’re thinking of you and hope you’re doing alright.” It sounds like something small, but in the middle of the madness, this small thought has a big impact. Touch base when you can. It can mean more than you know (but please don’t be offended if we don’t have the chance to respond. If we have a moment to, we definitely will).
I hope this offers some direction if you’re wondering how to be of help or a support to a new mum. And if you’re a mum too, which small act others did that helped you when you were busy in the first few months? Do share, I’d love to know!