Your best friend just had a baby. Awesome! You want to meet and snuggle the little one, maybe bring a gift... But when exactly is the right time to reach out? And how can you actually be helpful?
Here are some ideas of what she might actually need from you and some reminders of what not to do:
1. Give her space.
The first couple of weeks with a newborn can be overwhelming (to say the least). There’s a lot to figure out, emotions are high, her nipples may be sore, milk is all over the place... The best thing you can do? Be there but not there. Check in and let her know you’re there for her whenever she feels ready for a visitor, but understand it may be some time until she is.
2. Be her Task Rabbit.
When you do come over: Bring her food. Do her dishes. Walk her dog. Change her bedsheets. Do her laundry. Watch the baby while she takes a shower. Clean the bathroom. Basically, do everything she doesn’t have time to do. It may not be the fun time you're used to, but it will be immensely helpful for her. Homemade hearty food can make a whole lot of difference. Fill her fridge with delicious meals (you can even do it before she comes home from the hospital).
3. Hands off the baby.
Don’t expect to visit and get to hold the baby for long (or maybe at all). She might not be ready for it. She might be nervous about germs. She might just want to keep her little one close to her and not share. That’s OK and totally normal. She’ll get there; just give her some time. There’s a strong bond between a new mother and her baby and sometimes you don’t feel ready to share your little one with the world—think of a lioness in the wild; you wouldn’t want to get anywhere near her babe! No matter what the reason is, take her cues and let her know you’re OK just hanging with the two of them if that’s what she needs. There will plenty of times in the future when she will be glad to hand you her kid!
4. Let her feel all the feels.
Emotions are high postpartum. Hormones are going crazy; she’s sleep deprived, feeling like a feeding machine, and potentially physically sore from the birth. It’s normal for her to feel overwhelmed and a bit lost at times. Let her feel what she needs to feel and just listen. Being a good listener is paramount here. Reassure her and be there, but don’t try to fix it. This is part of the journey, and knowing that you're there for her will be of great comfort.
5. Keep that thought to yourself.
The impulse for many of us is to help by offering advice and sharing what has worked in our experience. She is going to be getting loads of "shoulds" and "shouldn'ts" from just about everyone. The truth is, what works for one family may not work for another—we are all very different. So the best thing you can do is support her in finding her own way. Let her figure things out. She can do it. She just needs the confidence to know she can.
While a lot of the focus tends to be on the first few weeks after the baby is born, new challenges are always arising. Partners may start going back to work, family may be leaving, an identity shift may be taking place… Don’t forget about her, and keep checking in!
Ashley Spivak is a Brooklyn-based certified doula. She is the co-creator of allbodies, a digital platform for modern health education, and the co-author of Why Did No One Tell Me This?. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, Forbes, Newsweek, and Teen Vogue.