In my last post, I talked about what NOT to do when your friend becomes a new mother. This time around, I’m flipping the script and diving into the five best ways you can be the ultimate support system for that new mama in your life.
Having been through the newborn phase myself 3 times in the past 4 years, I have both very fresh memories and very strong opinions. The first few months of becoming a new parent are both physically and emotionally exhausting, but having a village - a good support system - can make a world of difference.
If you’ve got a friend with a newborn, and you’re wondering how to best support them, here’s my personal top 5 tips on what I've found most helpful during this time:
1. Message Them to Chat
Parenthood can be horribly isolating. With all the feeds and the diaper changes and the naps and the night wakes, not to mention health scares, feeding troubles, and the fact that because you’re confined to the home and not at work, you’ve got much less adult interaction than you’re used to, it can feel like you’re the only one struggling.
Sometimes, all it takes is a simple text or a quick message to let them know you're there for them. Ask how they're doing, share a funny story, or just send a virtual hug. Your message can brighten their day and make them feel less alone in the chaos of parenthood.
2. Encourage Them with Words
Don’t underestimate the power of kind words. New mums need LOTS of reassurance. A heartfelt compliment or a few encouraging words can boost a new mum's confidence and make her day a whole lot better. Tell her she's doing an amazing job, praise her strength, and remind her that she's the best mum that her baby could have. Trust me; it means the world to her.
Examples on how to encourage a new mum with specific words of affirmation:
- I really like the colours you chose for the baby’s cot sheets.
- These baby clothes are so soft!
- You’ve organised the changing area so efficiently.
- I can tell you put a lot of thought into this.
- What a great choice!
- I would never have thought of that, but your decision makes so much sense.
- Your baby is so well cared for.
#protip: Avoid saying “you have such a well-behaved baby” or similar compliments. There’s nothing a parent can do to make a newborn well-behaved, so they will recognise this as false flattery. Also, it’s quite common for children to appear angelic in front of guests and only reveal their crying selves to the parents at 11pm, so it’s not a particularly helpful compliment anyway.
Reminder from last week’s post: Even the most gentle of remarks or the most well-meaning of suggestions/advice can hurt badly, so if you can't be positive, say nothing.
3. Arrange to Visit
Caveat: Do NOT drop by unannounced.
As mentioned earlier, lots of new mums are starved for adult interaction. Especially friendly, non-judgemental adult interaction (aka not a confinement nanny or hovering grandmother). Many new mums are ready to receive visitors earlier than you might expect.
You can make it a super low-stress visit by doing the following:
Message to arrange a time & date to visit beforehand.
(Unannounced visitors are the WORST. Please don’t. Just don’t.)
(Also, if you are even the slightest bit sick, or have come into to contact with someone who is sick, please inform her beforehand, and offer to postpone or mask up.)
Be flexible in your visiting timing.
Ideally, make sure you have a couple of hours free. You don’t have to stay the whole time. But it helps if you aren’t just dropping by for a specific 1h slot, simply because the new mum never knows when she’ll need to disappear for 30 minutes to feed the baby, and she’ll feel really bad if it’s supposed to be ‘your time’ but she has to do other things.
Be self-sufficient during your visit.
Bring a book or some work to do, so that if she needs to go settle the newborn, you can point to your ipad and say, “Don’t worry about me, I’ve got some work to do!” This way, there’s clear evidence that she doesn’t have to feel bad about you sitting outside on the couch waiting for her to come back out.
4. Help Run an Errand
New mothers are time- and energy- poor, so offering to run an errand or two can be a game-changer. Whether it's picking up groceries, dropping off a package at the post office, or fetching something from the pharmacy, these little tasks can feel like monumental challenges to a new mum. Your assistance can ease her load and allow her to focus on her baby.
Reminder: Don’t ask, “How can I help?”
- I’m heading to the supermarket - can I pick up some groceries for you?
- What’s your favourite snack/drink from [shop/mall]?
- I will be passing [specific mall near her house], can I dapao dinner for you or your husband?
5. Send a Thoughtful Gift
What? Doesn’t this contradict my previous post of what NOT to do? :p
Well, there’s a small but crucial difference. In my last post, I explained why it’s a bad idea to send a gift without checking with her first.
But thoughtful, useful, high-quality gifts can be a great blessing to a new mum. The key is to make sure that you have a good understanding of that mum’s preferences, and that you have checked to ensure that this is something she does not already have (or at least, something that she will find useful even if she has multiple).
You can easily ensure that you giving a gift that the mum will enjoy by asking these simple questions:
- Do you enjoy [food/drink/experience]? I would like to get you some.
- I would love to gift you with a [baby product]. Is this something that you would find useful, or is there something else that would be better?
Asking these questions does not reduce the thoughtfulness of your gift. On the contrary, it shows additional care and love to the new mum because you are going the extra mile ensure that she gets what she actually wants.
And as you can see, you can still preserve an element of surprise (if that is important to you), while making sure that your gift will be something truly valuable.
If you need gift ideas, I’ve written posts about gifts that new parents will actually use, and true essentials for a newborn baby. But if you’d like to give your friend the freedom to choose exactly what she wants, you can also give gift cards, or an angbao.
So there you have it, folks – the top five ways to be an incredible friend to a new mum.
If you made it to the end, you are an absolute rockstar for wanting to be the best support that you can be for your new mum friends.
We’ve all heard that ‘it takes a village’. In this fast-paced, easily distracted society, villages can be harder to come by than we think. But even one good friend can make a world of difference, and I want to applaud you for supporting your friends even though you likely have many other demands on your time, energy, and resources. Together, we can make the journey of motherhood a little less daunting and a lot more beautiful.
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