If you ask someone what they need, it might sound like this: What would lighten your load right away? What are some tasks I can take on today? Would you rather me help with the baby’s needs or the chores?
Met with a response that the parent in need doesn’t need anything? That brings us to our next point…
4. Don’t wait on them to ask for help.
It’s a well-meaning statement: “Let me know if you need anything!” But too often, it’s met with silence from those who, well, need things. That’s why many new parenthood experts suggest simply doing without asking. “Drop off a meal or two, ask them what diapers and wipes they use and drop those off, make them a gift or goodie basket of things you think they could use or need,” says Dr. Kaeni. This helps relieve the pressure on the person receiving the gift and provides assistance.
“When we say ‘childcare is infrastructure,’ this is what’s meant: Every basic need is stressed under the weight of parenting young children, so parents need scaffolding to get through the day,” Erin Erenberg, the executive director of The Chamber of Mothers, tells SELF. “A simple gesture like covering a meal can sister a weak joist and keep the house from collapsing.”
5. You can hold space without any expectation or advice.
New parents need social support. They need to know that others care about them, and not be under any pressure or advice.
“Text them just to say you’re thinking about them, but preface it with ‘no pressure to respond,’” suggests Lexi Tabor, a certified postpartum doula, certified lactation support counselor, and virtual doula with Major CareBased in Ohio. “Those messages sent on the regular can really boost moods and make someone feel loved,” she tells SELF. They make someone feel less alone, and they can also help with guilt if a parent is unable to respond due to sleep deprivation.
Refrain from giving advice. “New parents are so used to being inundated with unsolicited advice that oftentimes they hesitate reaching out to people because reiterating boundaries gets exhausting,” says Tabor. “Many times we respond by sharing a story of our own experience in order to try to connect, but that can feel invalidating to the other person or turn it around to be about you.”
The solution: Just be there. Ask questions unrelated to the baby’s sleep, eating, or development, and really listen. If you’re not sure what they want, ask them if they would like feedback or just need someone to hear them. Most of the time it’s the latter, says Tabor.
Remember, though, that parenthood can make people different, but your new parent friends can still be called people. And as much as they want to talk about their new baby, they might also want to joke about that viral TikTok or that new show they’ve been able to catch one or two episodes of. Talk to them about the things you would have pre-baby—whether that was politics, pop culture, or hearing some juicy gossip about an ex. In fact, they’ll probably appreciate the no-baby talk.
6. Honor cultural postpartum rituals.
New parents in the United States are severely under-supported. The United States is one of very few countries in the world that does not have a federal paid family-leave program. one in four momsTwo weeks after giving birth, you can return to work; it takes only about 23% of peopleIn the USA, you have access to paid leave for your family. But that’s not the way things are in other parts of the world. Many cultures, including many Asian cultures and those from Latin America, Indian culture, value and respect the postpartum period.