Everyone’s heard how difficult the first few weeks with a newborn usually are. The sleepless nights, constant feeds, and overall turmoil in the house as you get used to being a newly-expanded family of 3 or 4 or more. And as a result, the advice to “accept help from friends and family” is always thrown around.
I had a helper coming in two days a week to clean, so that was one big thing off my list of to-dos. And my husband’s commute is so short he’s usually home from work by 4:30pm, so I knew I could rely on his help with shopping for dinner in the evenings. Already I was at an advantage over friends overseas who don’t have this sort of support.
New mums hear all the same advice: sleep when the baby sleeps, eat healthy recovery foods, take it easy on yourself, and accept all the help you can. While some women (like me) struggle to let go of the “I can do it myself” mentality, I think many new mums go into the postpartum period actually open to asking for help and willing to accept it.
Fast forward to when I came home from hospital with my Little Lamb. I realised I wasn’t sure what kind of help I needed, and there were times when the help that was offered actually caused me more stress than it was meant to relieve.
I think that new mums are so distracted with taking care of their new babies that they aren’t able to check in with themselves emotionally and ask: what would really help and nourish me right now?
If we don’t ask ourselves what we need, we’ll never know. And if we never know what we need, how can we ask for help?
With 5 weeks to go until Baby #2 arrives, I’m already prepared for what the baby will need. The hospital bag is packed, the baby clothes are cleaned and pressed, and the basinette is by the bed. Now it’s time to turn my thoughts to what I’ll need because I know I’ll struggle to think about myself once the new baby’s home.
Fortunately I’ve got friends who have recently had babies and I’ve been able to see how they’re handling those first weeks. And It’s only been 18 months since I brought Little Lamb home, so the memory of what I needed or most appreciated is pretty fresh in my mind!
Here are some ideas for how to help a new mother beyond the usual advice like having someone come over and clean or deliver a ready-made dinner (not that that’s not appreciated… I’ll never forget how good Heather’s pork & apple stew was)!
1. What’s (Not) For Dinner?
My hunger was out of control when I was nursing so I was grateful that I’d prepped freezer meals before the birth. But there were countless days where I’d get Little Lamb down for a sleep, walk to the pantry to get something for lunch or a snack, and stand in front of the open door completely lost. Even heating up a bowl of soup or making a fresh sandwich seemed like such an effort. I wanted something I could grab with one hand, take with me to the sofa, and devour. Simple as.
If you’re asking for help for yourself or looking for ideas of what to take to a new mum, consider delivering a grocery bag of healthy snacks for your new mum friend to have during the day.
Go to Woolworths and buy some easy and nourishing snacks like granola bars, string cheese, and nuts. Add a fresh cut fruit salad, and maybe cookies or a frozen pizza for fun. If you’ve got time to bake, blueberry or marrow muffins are a hit; they’re on my go-to list of things to make for new mums who have older children as well since they can be kept in the freezer then popped into the microwave for 10 seconds when you need one.
2. “I’m at Sebele – what do you need?”
There’s a big difference between asking someone, “is there anything I can do for you?” and a more direct offer. I never want to impose on people or run the risk of asking for more than the offering friend intended, so I shy away from the general offer. But if a friend calls or texts and says, “I’m at Sebele right now. Need anything?” I’m much more likely to take her up on the offer.
This is the sort of help that’s super easy to offer since you’re already there. Your new mum friend might really need bread from Woolies or shampoo from Pick ’n Pay. Calling while you’re already out is a very convenient way of offering immediate help.
3. “Can I Stop By In About 20 Minutes?”
Most mums feel lonely and isolated when they come home with their new baby. But planning a coffee morning with a friend can be a surprising amount of pressure on a new mum. Is the house clean enough? Have you showered? Do you look as though you’ve got it all together?
One of the best mornings I had after Little Lamb came home was when a friend called and said, “I’ve got something to drop off quickly… can I come by in about 20 minutes?” She arrived with an amazing care package of unexpected items: ginger tea and arnica tablets to help my recovery, the biggest maxi pads ever, and some baby bum cream that I didn’t know would turn out to be the best on Little Lamb. And she came with watermelon smoothies for us both so I didn’t have to even put the kettle on when she got here.
There was no pressure at all because I had a built in excuse that I didn’t know she was stopping by. She was the first person to ask me more questions about how I was doing than she asked about the baby. I was so grateful for the catch-up and found the whole visit (and the care package) rejuvenating – exactly what I needed.
Life in Botswana is a bit different. We have sunny days that do wonders for the spirit, and many of us are fortunate to have help around the house with the cleaning. Those of us venturing into life as a mum of 2 (or more) likely have a nanny to help with the older children. These ideas come from my personal experience of what we need as new mums despite having that help. As well as the kind I’ve realised that I’m good at giving.
What other ways have you discovered to help out a mum with a new baby? We’d love to hear your suggestions and add them to this list!
SensoBaby has nurturing classes for mums and their newborns (a first for Botswana!) If you are an new mother and ready for the support and friendship that baby classes can offer, check out the upcoming SensoNana classes.