7 Ways To Support A New Mom That Don't Cost A Dime

Gifts are great, but lending a hand can be even better.

December 26, 2017
newborn baby sleeping
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When a baby comes into the world, it’s ever so tempting to shower the mom with adorable clothes and toys. New parents certainly appreciate gifts, but sometimes the most valuable ones won’t be found in the baby section. Recovering from childbirth paired with lack of sleep and the stress of caring for (and worrying about) a newborn too often distract mothers from the basics of self-care.

“A lot of the time mothers focus on the baby and don’t take care of themselves, especially moms who don’t have enough support,” says Samina Makani, MD, of Women's Integrative Health in Encinitas, CA. “And part of getting the postpartum blues can be due to fatigue and feeling overwhelmed.”

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Help from family and friends has never been more important once a new baby is on the set. If you’re there to offer a hand, try out these small but meaningful ways to support new mamas.

woman holding baby
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Hold the baby

A newborn can start to feel like a new limb. Though the amount of time a baby needs to be held will vary from child to child, many new moms spend the bulk of those early days wearing, cuddling, feeding, changing, and acting as a pillow to their little ones. This constant contact means lots of bonding, but can also leave moms feeling touched out, the sensation of needing physical space as a result of being overly touched. Here’s where you come in. Make a show of washing your hands (she’ll be relieved she doesn’t have to ask you) and offer to take the baby off mom’s chest for a bit. It’s as simple as that. If the little one starts fussing, your instinct might be to abandon the mission. Instead, try different holds and bounces or ask mama for tips.

Related: 5 Good Reasons To Massage Your Baby—And How To Do It Safely

woman holding baby in park
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Learn how to use her new baby gear together

Did you know there are over 500,000 videos on YouTube demonstrating how to put on a baby sling? Baby gear isn’t exactly intuitive, so having a buddy to take that initial step of learning what to do with it will lessen its intimidation. Ask if she needs help with her baby sling, breast pump, baby food steamer, or bottle warmer, and read the instructions or watch a video together. And if they’re collecting dust in a corner, helping assemble high chairs, bouncers, or other new products will also be a relief.

Related: Why I Struggled To Find The Right Stroller—Plus 5 Eco Friendly Strollers To Try

woman washing dishes
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Offer to do the dishes

Or the laundry. Or anything housework-related that's driving her nuts. Though she’s become a master at completing as much as she can one-handed, this mama needs time and two hands to get so much done. Caregivers are often left staring hour after hour at the little everyday messes that somehow became overwhelming mountains. But broach the topic with care—many people wouldn’t let someone step foot inside their home when it’s messy. You can make it less awkward by offering to come help in advance, and share how someone helped tidy up your life when you needed it most. If she’s not comfortable with someone else helping out around the house, you can always offer to watch the baby while she attacks her to do list.

Want to make your mom friend a meal? Try this easy roast salmon and veggies sheet pan recipe:

woman on couch with baby toys
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Give her some time alone

Taking a shower. Going for a walk or to the gym. Answering emails. Writing thank you notes. These are just a few of the million everyday activities first-time parents never knew would become luxuries. Having a mental and physical break from the kids will do wonders for the new mama, especially when she knows someone dependable will be there while she enjoys some well-deserved downtime.

Related: 5 Things Pediatricians Want New Moms To Know But Would Never Tell Them

woman texting
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Send her a text

Despite the fact that another human just entered her life, caring for a newborn can also feel lonely. The days are long, the company is very demanding, and leaving the house is a chore. A quick text breaks the monotony of a day spent in babyland and can truly feel like a lifeline. Knowing someone is thinking of her goes a long way. Send a meme that will take her mind off of infant stuff, request to see the latest photo of her little one, or simply ask how she’s doing.

Related: 20 Things You Really Don't Need To Buy For A New Baby

child on swing
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Spend a little QT with the rest of her brood

If there are more kids in the mix, a healthy helping of guilt usually comes along with having less time to shower them with attention. Keeping older kids occupied and entertained with one-on-one attention will be a big relief to the overextended parent. Get on the floor with them and play games that would be trickier for someone attached to a baby most of the day to take part in, like puzzles or Legos.

Related: 8 Games Your Grandparents Used To Play That Even Tech-Addicted Kids Will Love

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Lend an ear

Hanging out all day with an infant leaves very little in the way of interesting conversation. Sit down and let this new mama pour her heart out. Maybe it’s all baby talk—an outpouring of epic poop stories, a play-by-play of her sleepless week, or more than you ever needed to know about her achy boobs. Listen, and though you might be tempted to offer advice, withhold it unless she asks. Your job here is to empathize. On the flip side, some moms are desperate for a break from all things infant. Catch her up on non-baby things, bring up some fun memories, or suggest your top television shows that are great to binge when you’re pinned to the couch. If you become concerned that she’s worn down, depressed, or anxious during your catchup, don’t hesitate to dig deeper if it’s appropriate or alert her partner. Many moms don’t recognize the symptoms of postpartum depression, so your conversation could literally help save her life.