Now that we’re getting ready to welcome kiddo #2 into the world, I thought it might be helpful to recap some of the things we really appreciated after the birth of our son.
It’s vital to have support as you enter parenthood. The saying “it takes a village to raise a child” has historical roots. In the past, new parents had their families nearby, their neighbors, and many hands willing to help in the rearing of their child. Today, though, that sense of community isn’t a given. New parents can face raising a child completely on their own, without the support of nearby relatives or friends. It’s really important to avoid becoming isolated.
1. Fellowship/Support Groups
There are a lot of options when it comes to fellowship and support groups. You’ll find there are local groups that meet weekly or monthly — these are a great opportunity to get out of the house and feel like a person again. Not sure where to find any such groups? A number of international groups such as La Leche League, Mothers of Preschoolers, and Babywearing International have listings of local chapters near you.
Once my husband went back to work and I was at home with our infant all day long, I found these support groups invaluable. It was nice to get out of the house, to sit and talk with other moms who were going through the same things I was going through, and just to be someplace where no one cared if I was dressed in sweatpants and a t-shirt.
2. Homemade Meals
When you have a new baby, there is nothing better than having people deliver homemade meals to your front door just before dinnertime. Having a meal registry really takes the stress of “what’s for dinner” out of the picture. Plus, it’s a great way for your friends and family to have a chance to meet the new baby when they stop by. We were blessed to receive meals from a number of local moms and our relatives too. The moms typically dropped off the meal, said hi to baby, then left. Our relatives would bring over enough food to feed both us and them, so we had time to relax and let someone else hold the baby for a while (and usually take care of dishes for us afterwards too!).
If you’re thinking about delivering a meal to new parents, keep in mind — any meal is appreciated, no matter how simple. It’s never a bad idea to have leftovers either — so don’t worry about making too much… it won’t go to waste. One of our favorite meals we received was pepperoni cheese bread and salad. Simple, but good. Make sure to ask about any food intolerances or allergies — I know some nursing moms who’ve had to cut out dairy for their baby’s sake. Freezer meals may be an option to consider too.
3. Offering/Receiving Help
Some new parents are really reluctant to ask for help, but are more than willing to accept help if offered. Trust me on this one, I am stubborn and don’t like to ask for help. With my first, I had a particularly difficult recovery (cesarean *after* 24 hours of labor), and learned that I really did have to ask for (and accept) help. My mother and mother-in-law were such a blessing to my husband and me during the postpartum weeks.
After the hubbub of the first week or so, life started to settle into a routine for us, but we had some friends who would regularly touch base just to see how we were doing and to ask whether we needed anything. Remember to reach out not just immediately following the birth, but in the weeks, or even months after as well. Some couples take longer than others to adjust to the new demands of parenting, so they may be appreciative of your staying in touch.
Sometimes the best help is offering to hold the baby so that mom can get a shower or nap; other times it might be to take care of the dishes overflowing from the kitchen sink. Really, the most important thing is just letting new parents know that you’re there for them.
4. A Break (Date Night)
As the days and weeks fly by, new parents can get caught up in diapers, feeding, and all things baby — neglecting themselves and their relationship in the process. Some say “baby comes first,” but do you remember how in airplanes you’re told to put on your own oxygen mask so you can then be able assist others around you? Make sure to keep your marriage, your relationship, a priority. By nurturing yourself, you will be better energized to care for your child.
But how to do things as a couple when baby makes three? It can be tough, particularly if your infant doesn’t take to being left with others. Fortunately, in the newborn stage, babies are pretty portable. You can take them out with you for dinner at a restaurant, or go on a walk together with baby in tow. Once you have a general idea of when your baby naps and sleeps, it may be possible to plan a date night “in” at home — even if it’s just a movie.
5. Experience (It Takes Time!)
As with any new thing, adjusting to parenthood takes time. Don’t worry about parenting perfectly — there is no such thing. You’ll do the best you can with what you’ve got. And yes, you WILL make mistakes. Everyone does. But, the great thing about parenting is …it’s a learning process. We learn through experience, by listening to the experiences of others, and by remembering to be flexible. You don’t have to set your parenting rules in stone, you can change and adapt along the way. Take what works, and toss the rest.
What are some good sources of advice? Well, those who’ve been there, done that… parents and in-laws, for starters. We have a bunch of parenting books, but most of them I haven’t read, to be honest. The best sources of advice are really tidbits gleaned here and there, through conversation with other parents.
One tip we received from good friends of ours? Parenthood will only change you as much as you let it.
You don’t have to lose yourself in parenthood. You can keep your identity, expanding it to include parenthood. Being a parent is an addition to your life, a new phase of life — not separate or compartmentalized. You are still yourself, so don’t forget to keep on doing what gives you energy, what revitalizes you and makes you feel excited about life.
BONUS Item: Photos of Baby
Sometimes new parents get so caught up in “surviving” they forget to take snapshots and have professional portraits of baby taken. Despite our plethora of photos from my son’s first year, I just realized that aside from our professional newborn session, we have no photos of the three of us. There are plenty of dad with baby, mom with baby, and baby all by himself, but the three of us? Not so much. I am so glad that we have the portraits from our session (thanks Liz of Oh Baby Photography for visiting us in the hospital and creating lovely newborn memories for us). Here’s my favorite of all of us from her session:
Resources on Taking Care of New Parents
Ultimate Guide to Taking Care of New Parents ~ Lemon Lime Adventures
Taking Time For Mom
- 5 Things New Parents Really Need ~ BPhotoArt
- Ways to Reset When Suffering From Postpartum Depression ~ Trust Me, I’m a Mom
- Ways to sneak in me-time when you have a new baby ~ Mom Favorites
Look Better Feel Better ~ Plain Vanilla Mom
- 5 Fast Ways to Refresh as a Mom ~ Peace but Not Quiet
- How to be Supportive When Birth Doesn’t Go as Planned ~ The Realistic Mama
- Getting Through the First Months: 5 Golden Rules for New Parents ~ Let the Journey Begin
- 10 Post Baby Must-Haves That No One Talks About ~ Pink Oatmeal
Gift Ideas For New Parents
- Gift Ideas for Parents of a Newborn Baby ~ Powerful Mothering
- Mother Blessing for Expecting Moms ~ All Done Monkey
- Little Mommy Luxuries – Must Haves for Every New Mom ~ The Eyes of a Boy
- Tips for Newborn clothes~ La Cité des Vents
- How to Plan a Meal Rotation for New Parents ~ Still Playing School
- Hand the Baby Over to Dad: Fun Bonding Activities for Dads and Babies ~ The Jenny Evolution
- What is a Mother’s Helper and What to Look For ~ Lalymom
Frugal Tips for Parents
- 6 Tips for Getting Dinner on the Table After Having a Baby (or babies!) ~ The Stay-at-Home-Mom Survival Guide
- Frugal Living: Our Tip Five Tips for Saving Money with a Baby ~ Bare Feet on the Dashboard
Tips for Parents of Multiples/Preemies
- taking care of new parents
- feeding baby
- taking care of baby
- baby’s milestones
- baby play
- baby spaces
- celebrating baby
Check out the The Ultimate Guide to Baby’s First Year for a list of all the posts on each topic.