Image by Alexandria Mooney Photography
To the family and friends that make up a new parents’ village,
There are few things that are more exciting than when one of your loved ones grows a new family member. There is a special responsibility that comes with being close to new parents, and ones that may well bring a shift in your relationship. You are entrusted to listen without judgement, to love them through their transformation into parenthood, and to pursue them through it. You are part of their village, and whether it’s their first baby or their thirteenth, there are lots of ways you can help. If you are new to the village (or a village veteran!) and want some tips, know that your thoughtfulness has already brought you halfway there! See below for more great ways to love on new parents.
Villager Tip #1 – Ask. And keep asking.
The needs of every new parent will be different. The best way to know how to help them is to ask, and offer. It can be hard as a new parent to reach out and ask for help, so keep being willing and taking that step for them.
Being specific in your offers lets them know what you are willing to do and makes your offers easier to accept – e.g. “Can I make you a meal this week” rather than “Let me know if I can help”.
And don’t just ask once! A meal can be just as appreciated two months postpartum as it is after two weeks. Make it clear that your offers for help do not have to be reciprocated with a visit or a baby cuddle.
Villager Tip #2 – Don’t show up empty handed.
If you have the privilege of being invited over to visit their new baby (and it is a privilege, not a right), don’t make them be a host.
Ask in advance if you can bring a meal, so you have time to shop and cook. Before you go, ask if you can pick up any staples – a little grocery shop, a nappy run, some toilet paper – it might save them a trip! If you are turning up at a meal time or snack time, bring the required food so they don’t need to think about it.
Villager Tip #3 – Be a great guest.
Don’t expect to be offered a cuddle with their baby, everyone has different boundaries, or it just might not be a great day. Focus on them more than the baby.
Use your visit as an opportunity to love them. Again, this might mean something different to everyone, and it will depend on how close you are to the parents, but this may include things like: “Would you like me to sit with your baby while you shower/clean/cook/nap etc.?” “Can I make you a cup of tea?” “Is there anything I can do to help while I’m here?”
Villager Tip #4 – Be flexible.
Babies make their own rules and reserve their right to change them at any time. That means that the plans may need to change with them.
Expect that your plans together may be changed, postponed or cancelled last minute. In fact, it can be gracious to check-in the morning of your scheduled catch up, and confirm it’s still a good day, and offer them an opportunity to reschedule if they need to. Keep the pressure low and the love high.
Villager Tip #5 – Listen.
Unless they ask for advice, chances are they don’t want it. But they may be feeling a whole lot of new feelings and having a whole lot of new experiences, and it is a true gift to them if you give them the space to talk to someone who will listen without judgement, criticism or expectation.
Ask “How are you?” and mean it. Listen to the answer. Reassure them. Tell them they are doing a brilliant job, without dismissing or minimising their struggles.
Villager Tip #6 – If you are a gift-giver, consider upping your game.
Hint: The baby probably doesn’t need anything. The parents however, may be a different story.
Here are some ideas: Nutritious one-handed snacks. Luxurious little treats they won’t get themselves (e.g. candle, beautiful moisturiser, soft pyjamas) Vouchers for meals (e.g. uber eats) Products specific to recovering from the birth they had (particularly if it was different to what they expected)
Final practical ideas for an A+ Villager
- Offer to organise a meal train for them, so they get all the hand-delivered, nutritious food without the admin effort. Get them to leave an esky at the front door so they don’t feel pressured to interact with every person.
- Offer to take a load of dirty laundry home and return it clean, dry and folded the next day.
- If one parent has returned to work and you have time during their work hours, this is an especially great time to offer a short visit to allow them to shower and eat while you watch the baby.
- If it is not their first baby, offer to hang out with the older kids to give them a break, or help out with a school run.
A final note. (TW: Pregnancy Loss)
Postpartum after loss (miscarriage, stillbirth, newborn death) is still postpartum. These parents still need you. Their needs can be different, and complex, and they can be hard to reach, but they need to know you are there.
Meals are still helpful. Simple housework help can still be helpful. Listening is just as important. Ask gently how you can be there for them. Don’t minimise their loss or grief. Hold space for them.
Thank you for being willing to love on new parents.
Go forth and support! Chloe xx