New parents often get the same question a few days or weeks after delivery: how can I help? Everyone from family and friends to coworkers and neighbors want to support new parents, and why wouldn’t they? What’s better than meeting a new baby?
Despite our best efforts, it’s sometimes hard to know how we can help without causing more hassle. The last thing you want to do is create more work for new parents. To clear things up, we asked a few parents what they appreciated most in those first few months and what they didn’t.
When to Visit
Most parents will want at least a few weeks to bond as a family. A congratulatory text or card is always appreciated, which can be sent right away or in the weeks that follow.
If you’re hoping to meet baby, make sure you’ve waited three to six weeks and are flexible on meeting times. A baby’s first month can be mostly eating and sleeping, so planning a time in advance can be tough. However, being available and open on your end can ensure parents aren’t stuck to a timeline.
You’ll also want to consider your health if you’re thinking about making a visit. Do you feel a cold coming on? Have you been coughing? Bringing lasagna over is great! Bringing lasagna and cold germs is not. If you’re teetering on the edge of getting sick, it’s best to postpone your visit until you’re in the clear.
What to Bring
Gifts for new parents and babies are always appreciated, as trips outside of the house during that first month are limited. If you’re unsure of what to get, see if they need anything that day that you could pick up on the way. Diapers? More onesies? No matter what you get, always be sure to include a gift receipt.
Every new parent is different, but bringing food and spending time with them is usually appreciated. Giving encouragement and just being there to listen is a good idea. Giving advice or feedback, not so much. As a new parent, they’re likely getting unsolicited opinions from every direction. You can be the one to give them a break from that.
Some parents aren’t into this idea, but you could also offer to clean up a bit while you’re there. Are there dishes in the sink you could wash? Could you mow the lawn or shovel for them? Of course, make sure to ask first and don’t be pushy. This kind of help isn’t helpful to everyone; it could end up being more stressful for them.
After more time has passed, you could offer to come over and hold baby so parents can get some free time. This could give parents time to take a nap, go for a run, catch up on laundry, clean, spend time together, anything. Just being available for parents helps. Some may not know how to ask for help so offering to come over and hold baby every so often can mean a lot.
When in Doubt, Just Ask
If you’re unsure of what to do, you can always send a quick message and ask. (Don’t be surprised if they don’t text back right away.) Offer ideas and suggestions for ways to help so they don’t have to come up with something on the spot. Saying, “Hey, could I bring over dinner this week?” or “I’m going to be out shoveling this morning, mind if I stop over and clear your sidewalk?” is better than, “How can I help?”