How to Help a New Mom (& how NOT to help)

So you have a new mom in your life. You want to help but you’re not exactly sure what’s helpful and what’s really NOT helpful.  

Having been a new mom before – for the first time ever and then four times after that – I’ve had five postpartum periods filled with people trying to be helpful. 

All of those people were well-meaning, and I don’t begrudge them their efforts to help at all. 

But some of those offerings ranged from vaguely annoying to the flat out OPPOSITE of helpful.  

So I’m sharing with you what you can do to help a new mom that is the MOST likely to be helpful. But first, a little caveat… 

The Most Important Thing to Keep in Mind About New Moms

This probably isn’t news to you, but every new mom is different.

Different personalities, different circumstances, different preferences. 

What might be the most helpful thing in the world for one mom might be the most annoying possible thing for another.

When I was a new mom, I just wanted to be able to clean my own house, to do all the normal things myself. For me, the hardest part about being a new mom was feeling held back by this new bundle of joy. 

And of course, I felt extremely guilty about that feeling. 

Still, what I wanted most as a new mom was for someone else to hold my baby, so I could do things in MY own house MY own way. 

Nothing drove me crazier then when people told me to “just rest and snuggle that baby,” right before they started cleaning my house and folding my laundry (which I ended up having to unfold and refold the “right” way). 

I had a right way for loading the dishwasher, and putting away the dishes, and… Well, you get the idea.

That might sound crazy, but it’s true of more new moms than you might think.

Be sure to ask before you jump in, and hopefully that new mom will know herself well enough and be brave enough to tell you what would truly be helpful. 

7 *Truly Best* Ways to Help a New Mom

I’m pretty sure that you can’t go wrong with this list. 

Clean, but do it in secret and without being asked if you possibly can.

The easiest room to accomplish this task would be the bathroom, especially since most people keep cleaning supplies underneath the bathroom sink. If you’re worried there won’t be cleaning supplies easily accessible, just stash a pack of cleaning wipes in your bag. 

Let’s be honest – no one really wants to ask you to clean the bathroom. Even your closest friend probably won’t. Yet it’s the room that most needs cleaning. 

You can quickly and easily clean the toilet and sink while using the bathroom. It takes five minutes. 

Beyond the bathroom, you can certainly offer direct help. But don’t force it. 

Bring restaurant gift cards or healthy snacks and treats.

We were on the receiving end of meals for all of our babies. And we genuinely appreciated the gesture.

But I’ll be frank: it is SO inconvenient to arrange drop-off times for food, to remember it’s coming (so you don’t order out), and to be sure it’s going to be something you like eating. 

Many churches setting up meal deliveries for new moms do ask for food likes, dislikes and allergies, but they can’t possibly know your in-depth preferences. 

As the years went on and we had more babies (and more picky eater kids), more and more meals went to waste. We would eat a serving or two, and have a ton leftover that no one wanted to finish.

When you have a new baby, you want comfort food, and you want YOUR kind of comfort food. You kind of want what you want. 

Restaurant gift cards to generic places like Chipotle or Panera lets new moms (and dads) choose their favorites. If you know of a favorite restaurant, that works, too. 

Choosing restaurants that deliver? Even better. 

If you’re set on bringing food and not gift cards, maybe stick to snacks – both healthy and not-so-healthy – and treats. 

Especially if mom is breastfeeding, having some quick and healthy breastfeeding snacks can be a life-saver! It’s pretty hard to mess up a ready-to-go fruit bowl, granola bars and some good dark chocolate.

Offer to hold the baby while she showers or sleeps.

This one is pretty obvious, but for most new moms it’s exhausting to be tied to a baby 24/7. Even when you lay that sweet babe down to sleep, there’s this constant, lingering anxiety because you never know exactly how long she’s going to sleep. 

When you offer to hold the baby for an hour after a feeding, she has a set amount of time. She knows exactly how long she has to do whatever she wants: shower, sleep, or even clean her bedroom. 

The anxiety doesn’t plague her because she is confident that someone else has got this. She can truly rest.

If you’re a mom, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Call from the grocery store and offer to pick up a few things.

If you ask before you’re actually at the grocery store, she might say no. On the other hand, if you’re literally standing in the grocery store with your cart and asking what she needs, most new moms will probably say yes.

Alternatively, grocery pick-up is pretty common these days. You could offer to pick up her grocery order for her on the way to a pre-scheduled date. 

That way, she can order as much as she wants/needs without the awkwardness of paying you back, AND she doesn’t need to leave the house with a baby. 

Offer to help her write thank you notes.

Depending on the timing of her baby shower, she may not have gotten to thank-you notes yet. And can I just say, writing thank-you notes is exhausting.

Bring thank-you notes just in case she doesn’t have any, and work from a simple template to get the job done. 

If she’s worried people won’t recognize the hand-writing, stick to extended family and friends who aren’t quite that close. Those notes are probably the ones she will have the most difficulty coming up with what to write anyway!

Bring diapers and wipes every time you visit. 

No sane mother will say no to diapers and wipes. Those things are expensive, y’all. 

But make sure to get the good ones. Stick to name brands and tape the receipt to the package, so they are easy to exchange if the baby develops a diaper allergy of some kind or they outgrow the size.

Speaking of size, when in doubt, buy the bigger size. Having a diaper stockpile never hurts!

You can bring other gifts, too, but consumables are always a winner. Sneaking a Starbucks gift card for mom into the bag wouldn’t hurt either.

Let her know how difficult being a new mom was for you. 

For this one, you need to know the new mom fairly well because it may or may not be helpful. 

Many moms need space to vent, to complain and to talk about negative feelings. You speaking up about how hard being a new mom was for you could give her the freedom to share exactly how she’s feeling, which could also help prevent postpartum depression. 

I know that when I was experiencing postpartum depression, I didn’t feel comfortable sharing because I thought the way I felt was ungrateful and not the way I “should” feel with a new baby. 

Making that space to share – and continuing to do so over the long haul – could be THE difference for a struggling new mom.

On the other hand, I’ve known new moms who have a positive, glass half-full kind of mentality to life, and expressing that being a new mom may simply not register at all OR rub her the wrong way.

When in doubt, err on the side of telling her how difficult it was for you, and what you did to get through those first few weeks and months. 

How NOT to Help a New Mom

The worst way to try to help a new mom is by telling her how to take care of her baby or what she’s doing wrong.

I would say this tactfully, but I can’t. Unless it’s endangering the baby’s safety, keep your mouth shut. 

You might have a strong opinion (like I could go on and on about how harmful the Babywise method was for me as a new mom, and for my baby), but that is NOT what she needs right now.

A new mom needs encouragement and she needs confidence. She needs the freedom to find her OWN way, not YOUR way. 

This world has enough voices telling moms how to be a mom, voices steering us away from our God-given mama intuition that we all need to discover on our own with time.

If she wants your opinion or advice, she’ll ask for it. And when she does, you can feel free to offer it in a non-judgmental, “this is what worked for me” kind of way. 

Otherwise, unsolicited advice is the farthest thing from helpful.

What A New Mom Needs Most

At the end of the day, just keep showing up. Maybe not literally show up unannounced (that might not be so helpful).

But show up in her LIFE. Send her a text to let her know you’re thinking about her and you’re available if she needs you. 

It’s not going to be perfect. You might not say the right thing or do the right thing. 

You don’t need to be perfect. In fact, don’t even try to be.

That gives HER room to not be perfect either. There’s room for her to snap one day because the baby was up crying all night, to forget to say, “thank you”, and a host of other mistakes I can’t think of right now. 

But new moms desperately need safe, consistent people in their lives. They need to know that you showed up once, and that you’re going to KEEP showing up when they need you, imperfections and all.

They say it takes a village to raise a child, and there’s a severe shortage of villages these days.

She needs you more than she knows. 

You might forget the snacks and the diapers and suck at cleaning bathrooms. But at the end of the day, a strong emotional support system is going to get her through the good mom times and the bad ones. 

So just show up. 

Author Bio: June could talk to you all day about homeschooling, parenting, and minimalism. When she’s not homeschooling or blogging, she loves to enjoy perfect silence and think uninterrupted thoughts while sipping a steaming hot cup of coffee —which, of course, with five kids under eleven, doesn’t happen very often. You can find her at Growing Serendipity 

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