Asking someone what they need might sound something like this, she says: What would help lighten your load right now? What kind of tasks can I take off of your hands today? Would you rather I help with the baby or help with 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 takes the pressure off the person on the receiving end and provides help.
“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. Hold space without expectation or advice.
New parents need social support and to know that those around them care about them without being on the receiving end of advice or pressure to respond.
“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 Care based in Ohio. “Those messages sent on the regular can really boost moods and make someone feel loved,” she tells SELF. They help someone feel less alone and do away with any feelings of guilt if a new parent forgets to respond in a sleep-deprived haze.
Resist the urge to give advice, too. “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 fix: Simply 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, too: Parenthood changes people but your new parent friends are still 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.
In the United States, new parents are woefully under supported. The US is one of only a few countries around the world without a federal paid family leave program, and by some counts, one in four moms return to work just two weeks after giving birth; only about 23% of people in the US have access to paid family leave. But that’s not the way things are in other parts of the world. Many cultures, including Latin American culture, Indian culture, and many Asian cultures, honor and respect the postpartum period.