When Kallie Branciforte gave birth to her son a year ago, baby gifts poured in: burp cloths and onesies, even flowers. The latter were a sweet gesture, but in her new-mom haze, she forgot to place them in water.
“We got a couple of flowers sent to the house and it felt really special, but I was so consumed with newborn life I forgot to put one of them in water and they died 24 hours later,” Branciforte, who runs the YouTube channel But First, Coffee, told HuffPost. “The last thing we need is something else to take care of.”
Branciforte’s experience highlights something most new moms won’t tell you: While physical gifts are thoughtful, if you’re a close friend or relative, what a new mom will really appreciate are small acts of encouragement and kindness in the days after delivery.
“It’s not just taking care of a new baby that makes being a new mom hard. It’s the complete shift in your life that happens so suddenly,” Branciforte said. “As new moms we’re going through so much, from recovering from delivery to dealing with hormone shifts, issues with breastfeeding, navigating their relationship with their spouse with a new baby, body image and anxiety. It’s a lot.”
So what can you do, personally, to relieve some of that stress? Below, Branciforte and other moms think back on what would have made their lives a little less overwhelming post-pregnancy.
Cook dinner for them.
“I appreciated every home-cooked meal and baked good delivered to our home. Getting three meals a day on the table in a home with a new baby is basically impossible, so dropping off anything nourishing is such a welcome gift. I don’t remember exactly who purchased what off of our registry, but I remember every meal delivered for each of my two kids. Everyone always says, ‘Let me know if I can help,’ but what’s truly helpful are those who just show up and help. For example, if you’re going to drop off a meal, don’t send a million texts asking about ideal menu or time of delivery, just figure it out and drop it off!” ―Marion Haberman, a writer and content creator for the YouTube channel My Jewish Mommy Life and a mother to two sons
Not the cooking type? Get her a membership to a grocery delivery service.
“The nicest thing my husband did for me when we brought home baby number three was to get a membership to a grocery delivery service. It’s been such a lifesaver to select what I want on an app, and a few hours later, all the grocery shopping is done and delivered. It’s heaven-sent for a mom who would rather spend time with her kiddos (or resting for a few minutes) then corralling kids to go food shopping.” ―Suzi Whitford, a content creator who runs Start A Mom Blog and has three kids
Verbally acknowledge that she’s doing a great job.
“Honestly, patience and compassion are huge! I remember running super late to a doctor’s appointment. I had a newborn and two toddlers in tow. I was frazzled and stressed and embarrassed to be running late. I got some frustrated looks from the ladies at the front desk, but then my doctor came in and, after hearing my apologies and excuses, said, ‘I don’t mind one bit. You are doing great, and I’m just glad you were able to make it. You should be proud of yourself for getting out of the house ― it’s hard work!’ I wanted to cry! At the grocery store, save the sidelong looks or huffy comments when a mom is struggling with her kids. Just have some compassion because it’s hard raising little humans!” ―Jordan Page, CEO of FunCheapOrFree.com and mom to six kids under nine and a set of newborn twins due in March
Don’t ask, do.
“Use less open-ended questions. Often, new moms get asked things like, ‘What can I do?’ or ‘What can I bring?’ With all the things going on in mom’s head, making another decision is hard. So, use more focused questions like ‘Is it OK if I do the dishes?’ or ‘I made you cookies, when can I drop them off?’ or ‘Where’s the diaper bag, I’ll change him.’” —Branciforte
If you’ve had a baby yourself, get specific when you ask how they’re doing.
“When I was still in the hospital having just delivered my boys, my favorite text messages were from my girlfriends who asked about the tearing, the first time going to the bathroom, the first shower — because yes, all the love that pours in for the baby is essential and uplifting, but sometimes it takes those raw and honest ‘How are you, really?’ messages to make a new mom feel human again.” ―Haberman
“Everyone always says, ‘Let me know if I can help,’ but what’s truly helpful are those who just show up and help.”
And now, a few things that definitely aren’t helpful:
A Peloton Bike or a gym membership.
“A Peloton Bike (if you’ve seen the recent advertisement, you’ll understand the criticism), or as a matter of fact, any type of exercise equipment or DVD or gym membership.” ―Whitford
A drop-in visit.
“It is so thoughtful and well-intended when people visit you after having a baby. But let’s be honest: A new mom doesn’t need visitors! A new mom needs a nap, and to not feel the need to get dressed and tidy up in order to entertain guests! I remember when I had my fourth baby, I had several drop-in visitors from the neighborhood. I knew it was well-meaning, but it interrupted my only opportunities to nap or get things done. One day I was so overwhelmed by it all, I burst into tears when someone rang my doorbell. I ended up putting an apologetic note on the doorbell, signed ‘sleep-deprived mama’ and pretended I wasn’t home for a few days. Dropping off gifts or meals are so appreciated! But I would hold off on ‘visiting the baby’ since it’s rarely of benefit for a new mom.” ―Page
A welcoming party for the new baby.
“Another well-meaning gift that is not at all helpful is throwing a welcoming party for the new baby. As a mom with a newborn, the last thing you want is to dress up or clean the house to host other people. The best thing you can do for a new mother is allowing her to bond with her newborn. Any normal life task such as laundry, cooking, cleaning or taking care of the older children would be an amazing and very helpful gift.” ―Whitford
A super personalized gift.
“Personalized gifts are lovely, but sometimes they are highly taste-specific. If someone is having their first child or can’t afford the things left on their registry, make sure to cover those bases first before thinking about a whimsical personalized piece of baby art they may not even like.” ―Haberman
“Mom advice! Unless a new mom is specifically asking for advice, it might be best to keep your advice to yourself. It’s always well-intended! And sometimes even super helpful! But it’s overwhelming enough for a new mom; let’s avoid dumping unsolicited advice on her until she asks. On the flip-side, new moms: If you need help or advice, ask! Don’t be too proud to ask for help or advice!” ―Page
Responses have been edited for style and clarity.