How To Help New Parents

Rhona Maxwell

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There’s no doubt that becoming a new parent is a whirlwind of emotions, and no matter the circumstances - longed for or unplanned, doing it on their own or winging it with a partner – there are some things that unite them all.

Chances are they’re exhausted and filled with self doubt. I was busy learning the ropes, desperately trying to breastfeed and remember why I’d walked into a room, all the while feeling like a Mummypotamus.

Well meaning choruses of “let me know If you need anything!” were met with silence. I find it difficult to ask for help at the best of times, but in our current state of mind all the kind offers just made us go blank. A friend of mine recently had a baby, and it made me revisit that time, wishing there had been a list somewhere to give me inspiration, so here it is!

Snap Happy

How to Help

  • Ask the parents if they’d mind you taking photos, especially in the early days. It breaks my heart that there are virtually no pictures of me with Freya during those first few months – I took plenty of her with other people, but nobody took any of us, so please remember to do that, if they want you to.
  • Offer to take pics on their phone so they feel in control of where they end up.
  • If you really want to be a hero then take some pics and print them out – it’s one of the many things new parents never get around to doing!


Feed The Weary

How to Help

  • Make them a meal, drop off a pot of soup, fill tubs for the freezer with easy to heat and eat on the go, home cooked meals or prepay a Duo pizza delivery!
  • Doorstep deliveries; these can be a lifesaver – send a wee text to let them know their favourite fancy coffee is waiting for them outside, without the pressure of them having to entertain a visitor.
  • Combine the coffee with cake, chocolate or a 'Dine In for £10' deal to give someone a real treat!

Build Them Up

How to Help

  • Offer encouraging words - they mean the world. Most new parents are overwhelmed and over thinking everything. When you visit pick up on a few things you can see they are doing so well and make a point of recognising it – chances are it’s passed them by.
  • Be a shoulder to cry on. Every new mum needs someone outside of the house to be able to just sob and release all that emotion and know there’s no judgement! 
  • Be gentle when giving advice - most new parents will be super sensitive to criticism.
  • Plenty of the three R’s: reassurance, reassurance, reassurance.


The Power of Knowledge

Freya newborn mum kissBecoming a parent opens up a whole new world of services, classes and local groups that will have been invisible to them before.

How to Help

  • Help them learn from your experience e.g. if you know where to find out about baby classes send them a link!
  • Find a solution to their problem. If they can’t find a decent nursing bra, then track one down for them. The hours they would have spent Googling it before now seem like a former life.

Gift Giving

How to Help

  • Buy gifts for the parents – a bottle of gin, a gorgeous bath bomb, an aromatherapy candle or a massage voucher are all good ideas.
  • Go with homemade presents; a cross stitch, a personalised keepsake box or anything else that took a little time & effort.
  • Buy newborn clothes! Every mum I know tells the same story; they bought 0-3 clothes expecting to be given newborn ones as gifts. We had to do an emergency shop for things to actually fit Freya and she wasn’t exactly small at 9lb 2 ounces!

Visition Rights

Freya newborn Graeme milkHow to Help

  • Text or phone to make arrangements beforehand and stick to them.
  • Make them a cup of tea, offer to run them a bath, clean the kitchen (without mentioning it!), put a load of washing on (or take it away and return laundered).
  • Respect their routines and wishes. You might be desperate for a cuddle or to take the baby out in their shiny new pram but if they're asleep or mum needs to breastfeed them every 20mins that takes priority. Don't worry - there’s plenty of time for other things!
  • Talk to them about ‘normal’ things – they might just want to hear about what happened at work this week, see a pic of your new shoes, or chat about the football results, to give them a mental break.
  • Try not to ask about the birth. Not yet anyway. Follow their lead – for lots of new parents it’s a raw subject, both physically and emotionally. They may not be ready to discuss it, but one thing’s for sure; they don't want to hear the words “oh well, never mind, they’re here now, that’s all that matters”. I can assure you – if they’ve had a difficult experience, that is not all that matters.
  • Make yourself useful by offering to walk their dog, or take older kids out the house for a few hours.
  • Check in to see if they need anything first – a wee text to say you’re going into town and can pick something up from the chemist can save them a lot of hassle!

Top Tip

  • Don't just keep your visits to the first few weeks. Beyond that point is when new parents can become isolated. Often the dad has gone back to work and everyone else seems to be returning to their ‘normal’ lives, while you’re figuring out a whole new one.

Out & About

How to Help

  • Pay for lunch or coffee. Money is tight when on maternity leave and it’s a lovely thing to be able to do for someone.
  • Carry their bag, open doors, find a good table in a café, make space for the pram.
  • Invite them to things, even if you know they’ll probably say no. New parents don’t want to be forgotten about, and they will eventually start socialising again, but in the mean time, be patient.

Thanks to Gill Murray Photography for the beautiful pics of Freya at 3 weeks old!


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