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08th Jun 2017

Visiting a new mum? 8 brilliant ways to support her the RIGHT way

Sylda Dwyer

Welcoming a new baby into the family is such an exciting time, particularly when it’s a grandchild, niece or nephew. You get all of the fun and cuddles, but then you get to hand them back at the end of the day.

You’re also in a great position to really make a difference to help the new parents have the smoothest and most positive transition into parenthood possible.

Here are 8 simple tips:

1. Listen and empathise

Whether you have children yourself or not, it’s good to remember that every parent is on their own personal journey. You might hear some parenting ideas and birth plans that sound absolutely crazy to you! If you find yourself raising an eyebrow, cast your mind back to a time in your life where there were big changes and think about how you were feeling then – your concerns and anxieties, and how you coped with them – and then put yourself in the new parent’s place.

Their new ideas and practices are their way of best preparing and coping with their own worries. Empathise with where they are on their journey to parenthood and listen to what they are planning or trying. You might like it!

2. Take a deep breath and pause…

… before you share your thoughts. This is not to suggest that your opinion is not welcome. Of course it is. However, many new parents find that sometimes strong opinions, particularly from close family members and friends, are particularly stressful when they’re trying to find their way with their new baby.

It might be helpful to ask yourself if the thought you want to share will support or discourage the new parents. If it doesn’t support them, take a breath and offer it up! New parents really do have their baby’s best interests at heart, and your support and confidence in their parenting skills will give them more confidence.

3. Support, from a distance

Everyone is just dying for a cuddle and a hold of the new baby. Who wouldn’t? They smell delicious, and they’re so gorgeous. But in the first few weeks, and months even, it’s important to give the new family their space together to get to know each other and settle into their new life. This is especially true for the new mum. This is her special time to bond with her baby and to establish breastfeeding, if that’s what she’s chosen to do. Check in with Dad as to what the new family needs and when.

If you’re visiting and you find yourself being offered tea or something to eat by the new parents, it’s probably time you handed the baby back! Support networks have a very special role at this precious time, and it’s to…

4. Nourish

Make sure their house is choc-full of food that is healthy, nourishing and delicious. It should be easy to prepare, and when I say easy to prepare, I mean already prepared! If you’re bringing dinner, have it ready just to heat up so that the exhausted new parents don’t have to peel potatoes or try to figure out where the rice is through the haze of tiredness. Include lots of nutritious snacks that they can just grab from the fridge or press, and ideally eat with one hand!

5. Do the dirty jobs

While you’re dropping over the yummy food, stick on a load of washing while you’re there. There will always be plenty with a new baby in the house, and you’ll be doing the new parents a huge favour. Run a brush over the floor, wash a few dishes, wipe down the counters, change the bedsheets, take away some ironing with you or if you’re feeling super-helpful, run a cloth around the bathroom.

Yes, they are the dirty jobs but you might find that it pays off in spades. I don’t know any new parents who’d prefer to spend more time cleaning their house and less time with their new baby, so gratitude will be coming your way. And remember, don’t ask – just do it. If you ask, you’re likely to get a polite refusal even though they’d probably absolutely love you to wash the mugs.

6. Schedule

The clock has just gone out the window in the baby’s house! Night is day and day is night. It might have been a rough one last night, or maybe the new parents have had visitors already today but do check in with them in advance before calling over. They might be sneaking in a nap or just enjoying some quiet time together so making sure you’re picking a good time will help them.

Another great idea, particularly if you’re free during the day, is to link in with the new mum when she’s at home alone to see if she might fancy a shower or a nap. You could hold the baby or take them for a walk around the block while mum gets that coveted “me” time, while also reassured that the baby isn’t too far away. Scheduling how long you stay is also important. Keep visits short in the first few weeks, unless you’ve been asked to stay a little longer.

7. Hold the baby

Wait, we just did this one. But there’s an important bit to add: hold the baby… but only when you’re asked or offered. As we covered above, sometimes mums prefer to hold their baby themselves and would prefer not to pass them around, and that’s okay. She’ll be more than happy for you to hold the baby when she’s ready and on those days where she hasn’t washed for three days, or has baby puke in her hair, she’ll be only delighted to pass you the baby for cuddles.

8. Praise and encourage

It might seem like an obvious one, but you’ll be surprised how little new parents hear this and the really powerful, affirming benefits it has. Tell them they’re doing a great job. Every day is a brand new one for them and sometimes being a new parent can be very daunting. Praise and encourage them and let them know they’re fantastic parents.

Sylda Dwyer is a GentleBirth birth preparation instructor and Doula. She teaches workshops in Dublin and provides support and advice to women and their partners in pregnancy, birth and early parenting. For more, find her at AlphaBirth or catch up with her at @birth_rocks.