Let’s just start this off with a general disclaimer, shall we? Two things absolutely need to be said before we go any further with this blog post.
- I love babies. Particularly newborns, but really any baby is absolutely divine.
- Sisters are a gift from God and I don’t know what I would do without mine.
Now that you know that about me, you will understand the absolutely heaven-on-earth I recently experienced when I got to travel up to Indiana to help my sister welcome her newest baby girl.
Me + my sister + adorable 18 month old + delectable 6 week old = LOVE to the nth degree
Yep. I left my wild and crazy bunch at home (thanks to a very understanding husband and a great sport of a mother-in-law) and went “back home again” to Indiana. For 5 glorious days, I got to hang out with my sister, snuggle a sweet nugget of newborn, play Instagram filters with a toddler, and sleep in a bed by myself.
While those things were great and all, they weren’t the real intention of my trip. More like really awesome side effects. My true purpose was to give my sister a break, a boost, and an extra pair of willing and able hands for a few days. While my babies weren’t as close together in age as hers are, I was a new mom 4 times. Having a new baby while trying to chase after, entertain, and nurture a toddler is a nearly superhuman feat! Having two babies in less than two years is only that much more draining. So, I longed to help her out as much as I could.
Looking back on our time together, Monica and I worked together to come up with this list of “most helpful things.” What were the things I did (or didn’t do!) that made her day easier? What meant the most to her and made her feel most special? That was our criteria.
So, whether she’s your sister or not, whether you live close together or far apart… The next time you feel the need to reach out to that special new mama in your life, take a look at this list and see what you can do!
#1 – Do the cooking and fill the freezer.
Breakfast for the toddler. Sandwiches and fruit for Mom for lunch. Hearty, healthy dinners for the whole family. These basic necessities seem like insurmountable tasks when you’ve got a hungry baby attached to your breast for the 100th time that day. But for a visiting sister/aunt/friend? Easy peasy! And while you’re making dinner, go ahead and double your recipe. Pack it away in the freezer, clearly marked with name and cooking instructions. That way, on another night when you aren’t there, Mom can have dinner ready to go in a snap. Two of my favorites for this are meatloaf and spaghetti sauce. It’s no more difficult to make two meatloafs than it is to make one. And making a big ol’ vat of sauce is just as easy as a smaller pot. For reference, 4 cups of sauce freezes beautifully laying flat in a quart-sized Ziploc baggie and is the perfect amount to use with a pound of pasta.
#2 – Pour some extra love on the big sister/brother.
Let’s be real. Mom and Dad aren’t the only ones adjusting to the new baby in the house! The former Focus of All Attention has suddenly found herself (sometimes quite literally) set aside because of the newer model. You are in a great position to pour some extra love and attention on Big Sister so that she feels special, too! Maybe you can bring a little present to win her over. A new puzzle, some crayons and paper, or a new book are all great choices. Read her favorite story to her, play with her big-kid toys in another room, let her do all of her awesome toddler tricks for your undivided attention. Not only will you make a super-cool new friend, but you’ll ease Mom’s burden a bit by allowing her to totally focus on the new little one, guilt-free!
#3 – Hold and comfort the fussy baby.
I don’t care how much a mom loves her precious newborn, she can only handle just so much fussing, crying, spitting up, and pacing the floor. Give her back and her nerves a break! Grab that baby and comfort her yourself! Take a turn walking the floors, rocking in the rocker, patting a teeny tiny tushy. Sometimes it’s hard for a mama to hear her baby fussing and not be the one to calm it. So, if need be, take the baby to another room or outside (weather permitting). You might just get rewarded with some extra sweet snuggles if baby finally falls asleep! Or you might be the recipient of the mega poo-pocalypse she’s been working on. Either way, it’s a win for Mom!
#4 – Tell Mom to get outta there!
This is a great way to get some extra cuddle time with the baby. First, wait until the toddler is down for her afternoon nap or in bed for the night. Then, right after a feeding, take the baby and tell Mom to vamoose! Let her go take a shower or a bath by herself. Maybe even bribe her with some new smelly soaps or a bath bomb. Suggest a nap or an early bedtime for her while you care for baby until the next feeding. As little as 20 minutes in the tub or cat-napping in her own bed can make her feel like a new woman for a while. Bonus points for you if you work out a way to babysit for a date night that early on!
#5 – Let Mom know all the things she’s doing right.
One afternoon last week, I was in the kitchen making dinner with my 18 month-old niece playing close by on the floor. My sister walked in and saw her little girl pick up the baby doll she was playing with, kiss it on its head, and cover it with a blanket. I looked up to see Monica with tears in her eyes. I told her, “She does that because of you! She knows to take good care of her baby by watching you! You are doing the right things!” Sometimes, just that simple message…you are doing the right things…can lift someone’s spirits and give them the strength to keep fighting the good fight. Encourage, encourage, encourage. It’s the name of the game.
#6 – Give suggestions only when they’re asked for.
Yeah. This one seems so simple, but is actually kind of hard. It’s so easy to insert, “Well, when my kids were little, I…” into just about any conversation. But think before you speak. What you think of as a suggestion to make life easier can actually be seen as a criticism of how Mom is currently doing things. Nobody wants or needs that! If Mom says, “When did you?…How did you?…What could I?…” that’s your sign to offer suggestions. Any other time? Keep your trap shut, friend. Save your suggestions for when they’re truly wanted.
#7 – Be at Mom’s beck and call during the day.
Nights are difficult with new babies. There’s no way around that. For the first few nights I was at my sister’s house, I kept offering to keep the baby with me so she and her husband could get some sleep. They didn’t take advantage of the offer, though, even thought they knew it was sincere. One day, I mentioned it again and Monica told me, “No way! You are too precious to me during the day! That’s when I need you on your A-game.” See, she can handle the night. What she needs is for you to be able to keep her company during the long days, do the manual labor around the house, and generally ask how high when she says to jump. It’s truly an honor and a privilege to be able to do that for someone because we, as more seasoned moms, know how precious (or how missed) it was in our own experience.
So there you have it! Beth & Monica’s top tips for pampering a new mom. Use one, use them all. However you can show love, compassion, and mercy will be a huge blessing!
Maybe you have some of your own ideas you’d like to share in the comments?