How to Be a Good Friend When Your Friend Has a Baby
Caring for a baby truly takes a village. The support of community, friends, and family can make those early weeks and months feel so much less overwhelming and exhausting. I’ve had five children, and every time our family has grown, the love and care I’ve received from those around me is wrapped up in my memories of some of the most precious days of our lives.
While every new parent will have their own set of needs that can shift with each new addition, here are a few ways to bolster a friend as they’re just beginning to navigate a whole new world—whether it’s the first baby or the fifth:
Give them space
A person who has just had a baby needs time to process what they’ve been through and time to get to know their child. Your friend may want to be alone or with just those who are absolutely closest to them. Give them the freedom to choose who to draw into their circle at this delicate time, and when. Check in, by all means, but do it from a respectful distance (texting is great) and try not to put your friend in an awkward social spot of having to reject visitors—or in a self-effacing position where they have to stretch their capacity by seeing people before they’re ready.
Feeding a newly-grown family will help them immensely. The easier the meal is to heat up and portion out, the better. Frozen meals are sometimes best, especially if your friend has many people bringing food. This way, there’s no pressure to finish something before it spoils while there are four other meals in the queue. Plus, it gives them something to eat after the initial influx of meals has passed. A gift card for takeout is also a thoughtful gift if you aren’t able to prepare a meal. However, be mindful of not expecting a visit with a new parent when you hand off the food. Consider offering to leave the meal on the porch if your friend isn’t ready to receive visitors. There will be plenty of time to see the baby later.
Offer to bring groceries or have them delivered
Let me tell you something very few people who have just had a baby want to do: go grocery shopping. But inevitably, household items and food staples run out. Ask for a list of things you could pick up and drop off at your friend’s house, or offer to have them delivered, and you could be a huge help.
Clean or straighten up clutter for them
This depends on your relationship, so gauge whether and how to do this carefully. Babies come with a lot of stuff, and your friend who has just had one probably hasn’t been doing much cleaning or picking up around the house. If you’ve been invited in, ask if you can help by running the vacuum over the floors, doing the dishes that have piled up in the sink, or straightening up paper piles and corralling out-of-place items. The more specific your offer, the more likely it is to be accepted, but try not to turn a kind favor into a judgement of their space. Another option is a gift card for a professional cleaning service that your friend can use whenever they prefer.
Watch other children in the family
Adding a baby to a family who already has children comes with its own set of adjustments, and even less opportunity for a new parent to take care of themselves. Again, depending on your relationship to the family, offer to take the older kids out for ice cream or to the park so your friend can have time with the baby in the relative quiet.
Watch the baby so your friend can can take a nap or a shower
There are some simple things in life that anyone with a baby no longer takes for granted, chief among them sleep and showers! Both can make you feel like a new person and ready to take on the world. Give a new parent the gift of that feeling by offering to watch their baby so they can get some rest or take a shower and even do some skincare (if they want).
Do a load of laundry
Laundry is another of those household tasks that piles up quickly if it’s neglected even just a little bit. No one would fault a household with a newborn for getting behind on laundry, but helping a new parent catch up on it will prevent the dreaded digging through piles for clean undies and such, especially since babies generate a hefty amount of laundry.
Listen to your friend and validate all of their feelings
While giving someone who has just had a baby their space is important, be sensitive to the fact that they may want some adult company. Not the kind that requires them to offer drinks and appetizers or even get dressed and get off the couch, but the kind where they can confide in a trusted friend and unravel their feelings. This can be extremely important, especially for a single parent or a first-time parent who’s experiencing a particular kind of tidal wave of new emotions for the first time. This is another kind of gift of space: creating and holding a safe space for your friend to talk, to listen to them without inserting yourself by fixing or explaining anything, and to validate all the extreme and tumultuous feelings they may be trying to explore.
CDC research states that in the US, about 1 in 9 women experience symptoms of postpartum depression, and statewide estimates can be as high as 1 in 5. Check out these guidelines if you’re worried your friend could be struggling with postpartum depression. Remember that not just a baby was born, but a parent was, too.