After all the waiting, your precious new baby is born and finally arrives.
For you, those first few weeks after you get home are incredibly overwhelming. Whether it’s your first child or your fifth, whether you’re in a partnership or parenting alone, a new baby changes everything. It’s a massive adjustment to make.
For your family and friends, it’s a magical and exciting time. Everyone wants to meet the baby and be involved. They’re desperate to help and do what they can to make life easier for you – and whether you want to admit it or not, you need all the support you can get.
Even if you’re someone who doesn’t like asking for help, remember that by leaning on your family and letting them take care of you, you’re not just looking after yourself and your baby – you’re making them feel special and included.
And once you start to think about it, there’s sooooo much that they can do. Here are the top 10 ways your family can help when you bring that baby home.
1. Do The Chores
You’re exhausted and overwhelmed. All you want to do is rest and cuddle your new baby. And while you’re coming to terms with the enormity of your new responsibilities, even watering the plants can feel like an impossible burden. But the house won’t clean itself. Meals still have to be made. And if you have other children or pets they still need to be fed, walked, and entertained…
In the first weeks after you bring home your baby, the very best way your family can help you is to take care of everything else, so you can concentrate on nurturing your newborn. Ask them to cook meals. Do some housework. Mow the lawn. Take the toddler – or the dog – to the park. Over time it gets easier to take those things back on, but having people on hand to manage them for you can make a huge difference during the ‘babymoon’ phase.
2. Hold The Baby
At first, all you may want to do is sit and snuggle with your precious miracle. But there will come a time when you desperately want to put her down and do something else. Sleep for a bit, maybe. Get your body moving with a brisk walk in the fresh air. Just take a long hot shower. But all that can become incredibly stressful, or even unreachable, if your baby doesn’t like to be put down.
Asking a family member to hold your baby for a while lets you rest and recharge. Whatever it is you need to do to get your mind back in balance, having a bit of time to yourself without worrying about your baby can do wonders for your sanity. Try to use that time – your time – to do whatever YOU want, without guilt. Whether that’s a long nap and a yoga session, hanging out with your partner or other children, doing some household chores (because, bless them, your family just don’t quite do things to your standards), or just staring into space and eating biscuits.
3. Pamper You While You’re Feeding
If you’re breastfeeding your new baby, there are lots of ways family, including older siblings, can help. Newborns take a long time to feed, so you can find yourself anchored to the sofa for several hours each day. But breastfeeding makes you thirsty. And hungry. You forgot to bring a glass of water. Your feet are cold but you can’t quite reach a blanket. You left your book on the other side of the room but you just got settled and attached…
So if you have keen helpers on hand, give someone the job of taking care of you whenever you’re feeding. Get them to bring you drinks and snacks. To make sure you’re comfortable and have everything you need. And if you don’t just want to close your eyes and rest or take time out for yourself, get them to sit with you and keep you company.
4. Listen To You
Having a baby is a huge deal. The birth itself. The enormous responsibility. The raging hormones. In the first few weeks after your baby arrives, the chances are you’re going to have some pretty strong emotions to process. Having someone you trust to talk to about your birth experience, what you’re going through and how you’re feeling is really important. The baby blues can be tough – but they’re much easier to bear if they’re shared.
5. Answer Your Questions
If this is your first baby, you’re going to have A LOT of questions. It’s terrifying, being responsible for such a tiny, vulnerable being. Is he feeding enough? Should she be awake for this long? That rattling noise he makes when he breathes – is that normal?! WHY IS SHE CRYING?
All new parents have those questions, and obsess over every detail of everything their baby does. If you have experienced family members with children of their own, their advice and reassurance that everything is normal can be sanity saving.
6. Play The Chauffeur
If you’ve had a C-section, you won’t be able to drive for several weeks after the birth. A natural birth can leave you physically shattered too. And the fact is, it’s very, very hard to concentrate on driving safely when you’re emotional, and sleep deprived, and your baby is screaming blue murder from their capsule in the back seat. Whenever you need to leave the house during those first few weeks, it’s so much easier if someone else can take care of the driving.
7. Make A Fuss Of Big Brother Or Sister
No one has to make a bigger adjustment to the new baby than your existing children. No matter how hard you try to include them and give them attention, your focus will inevitably be on the needs of your helpless new arrival. When you’re feeling that tired, it’s hard to stay patient and engaged with young children – and some games and activities just simply won’t be possible for a while, especially if you’ve had a C-section.
If you have someone who can give your other children some undivided attention during that time, it can really help to keep a lid on any jealousy issues – and make life happier for everyone in your young family. Whether it’s playing, reading and having fun with them at home, or taking them out somewhere special, making siblings the focus of attention is an awesome way your family can help.
8. Keep Records For You
When you look back on this time, it will probably be a total blur. Some things will stand out vividly, but many of the details will just be lost in the haze. If this is your first baby you’ll probably find yourself taking photos of everything and recording every detail. But as families grow it can be harder and harder to document the milestones of your new baby.
Ask people to take lots of photos – not just of the baby, but also of you all as a family. To take care of filling in the baby book. To make notes of the funny moments and the hilarious things your toddler said about the new baby. Those records are precious and wonderful to look back on, and giving that responsibility to another family member helps them feel involved, while giving you one less thing to worry about.
9. Do Things With You
Getting out and about with a new baby can be really scary. There’s so much STUFF to take. You have to contend with the mysteries and horrors of the capsule, the buggy or sling, public changing facilities. How will you carry everything? What will you do if the baby cries? Sometimes it can seem like so much effort that even going to the shops or out for a coffee is just more trouble than it’s worth.
But you’ve not left the house in weeks either. There’s a long list of things you badly need to buy, and you really want a change of scene. Rather than asking someone to run errands for you, ask them to come with you. A trip to the mall is far less daunting – and much more fun – if you have someone to help you cope, come with you to the Parents’ Room, keep you calm when your baby’s cries can be heard from one end of Wallmart to the other.
10. Remember You’re Still You
So yeah, you’re a parent now. Your primary topic of conversation is your new son’s sleep habits. You’re obsessed with diaper rash, and whether you last fed from the left side or the right.
But you’re still YOU. Just because you’re a parent, it doesn’t mean you don’t still need to laugh, hear the latest gossip, be a part of adult life. It’s all too easy to feel like you’ve lost your identity when everyone’s focus is squarely on the baby. Remind your family to talk to YOU sometimes – and not just about the baby.
So when your baby arrives and those offers of help come flooding in, hand your family this article and embrace their support. Good luck!