So you hosted/attended the baby shower and your friend/cousin/coworker/acquaintance just had her baby. You're excited for her and you're happy that she has all she needs for the new little bundle of joy. She couldn't possibly need anything now that she's on maternity leave, right? Her husband is at home with her and she probably has plenty of help from her parents...
This seems to be a common misconception when a new baby comes along. Either that or friends/family of the new mom just don't think anything of it. I never gave it a second thought until I became a mom myself. But even if the mom is the most organized woman and has her act together pre-baby, she still has needs when the baby arrives.
You may be thinking "I already bought her clothes/diapers, etc." or asking, "what can I do?" and that is what this post is for. There's always something you can do to make the mom's life a little easier. Here are just a few ideas:
Send a Text
If you don't live nearby and don't have time to pay the new mom a visit, send a text of encouragement. Something as simple as "thinking of you", "you're doing great!", etc. does more than you might think. Life for a new mom is hard. Her whole world has turned upside-down and she is focused only on the baby. On top of that, her postpartum hormones are rearing their ugly head and if she's breastfeeding she is probably on the edge of a breakdown any given minute of the day. Hearing words of encouragement can be just what she needs to hear to get her through the next feeding/diaper change/crying fit.
Make a Meal
As a pregnant woman, one of the things I've had on the top of my "nesting list" is to pre-make meals to freeze so that when the baby arrives, we can just pull one out of the freezer and pop it in the oven, avoiding most of the prep and cleanup altogether. But if a mom doesn't think of doing that or if the baby decides to arrive sooner than expected, the parents are going to be left with the extra burden of preparing meals. This might not sound overly difficult, but trust me... when there's a newborn baby demanding all of your time and attention, the last thing you want to do is take the time to prepare a meal. Also, most times the mom is so overwhelmed with taking care of the baby that she can forget to feed herself (and especially if she's breastfeeding, eating regular meals is extremely important!). This is where you can help. Make a casserole or something that they can just pop into the oven. I usually try to add a loaf of poppy seed bread or banana bread/muffins, which they can eat for snacks or breakfast. If you're not confident in your meal-making abilities, read on to the next tip.
Buy a Gift Card
If you can't or don't want to make a meal, buy the new parents a gift card to a nearby restaurant, pizza joint, or even grocery store. That way they can use it on a day that's especially tiring or stressful and they can buy exactly what they want. Also, it can take a little of the stress of buying groceries off their shoulders. Even something as small as $10 or $20 can buy multiple necessities (bread, milk, eggs, juice, etc.).
Offer to Visit (to clean, cook, or even just sit and talk)
Even when my son was around a month old, I still struggled with time management. I tried keeping up with chores around the house such as laundry and washing the dishes but there were days when I was doing good just to feed myself a piece of toast in-between feedings and diaper changes. I learned to not be shy about asking my friends or mother-in-law to come by for a couple hours so that I could take a shower (oh, the things we take for granted). New moms still want to feel like they're alive and a shower can have that effect on someone who has been pooped, peed, and puked on all within a matter of hours. Send the mom a message and let her know that you're available to come sit with the baby if she ever needs an hour to herself.
One of the nicest things a coworker/friend did for me after Logan was born was to come over and do the dishes and straighten up the kitchen. When she did this, I immediately felt like I should get off the couch and help. I started a load of laundry only to be told by her to go sit down and rest. I really appreciated everything that she did and took the time to relax and not worry about the mess that had been in the kitchen before her arrival.
Finally, offer to come sit and talk. As mentioned earlier, a new mom's life is consumed by her baby. Her brain is full of new information such as the last time the baby ate, the last time his/her diaper was changed, and she has probably already done her fair share of googling for information about baby poop, colic, and 'how to get baby to sleep through the night' (good luck with that one). Trust me when I say she will welcome a normal conversation with an adult friend. She will most likely spend most of the time talking about the baby but sit and listen anyway. Offer a shoulder to cry on. Ask how she's really doing and let her know you're there if she needs anything. The fact that someone is thinking of her will really mean a lot to her. Just be her friend :).
I hope these are helpful to anyone who knows someone who has recently had a baby or who is currently expecting. These are the things that helped me most as a new mom and I'm sure will be greatly appreciated when I'm juggling a newborn and a rambunctious toddler in a couple of months :). If anything, just ask the mom what she needs and try to do what you can to take care of them. Of course, "sanity" is not something you can give to her but choosing one or more of the items above will go a long way in helping restore it :).