1. Ask how you can be helpful, and MEAN IT. Be open to hearing what this new family might need-- it may or may not be what you had in mind. Perhaps you could prepare their favorite meals, go grocery shopping to stock the pantry for their arrival back home, cut and wash easy to grab snacks like fruit and veggies for nursing moms. Some families may have some organizing or nesting they didn't quite get too, or maybe they need help with lawn care or other household maintenance. If you can only be with them a short time, you could offer to organize an online meal calendar or house helper calendar with the various tasks that new families might become overwhelmed with.
2. Be positive and encouraging, and SAVE YOUR OPINION for when you are asked. Please hear what I'm saying here. Everyone has well meaning "advice" for new parents. Everyone does- the lady at the grocery store, the pediatrician, other parents, and their next door neighbor. Many parents have spent quite a bit of time educating themselves on different options for their pregnancy, birth and bringing home a newborn. They may or may not want your advice. Something that all new parents DO need (especially, especially coming from someone close like you) is your loving support. Remember when you were in their position and how scared you may have felt that you would do the "wrong" thing. Every parent needs to be reminded that they are very wise and capable as a mother or father and that they know their baby the best. That they can trust their intuition. When you can be positive and focus on encouraging them, they may be more eager to hear your words of parenting wisdom.
3. Be consistent. New families need support far beyond the days leading up to the birth and the week after birth. In fact, they may need even more support a few weeks after the baby is born. Other visitors and helpers may be dwindling, and babies will have growth spurts leaving both parents tired and needing more help and support. Checking in with them throughout the whole first year (and beyond!) and offering your support and encouragement at other transitions can also be so huge for new families as they navigate their own path of parenthood. They still will need your love and support as much as they ever have.
Your love and care for them is so special and needed during this tender transition. If you aren't sure how to help, just ask. You may be surprised at how much you can offer to nurture this growing family.
This post was written by Hope Lien, a birth doula with A Woman's Design- Doula and Childbirth Services in honor of doula week. Hope is certified as a Birth and Postpartum Doula through DONA International, certified as a Lactation Counselor through Healthy Children, and certified as a Breastfeeding Without Birthing instructor.
She lives in the Minneapolis area with her husband and 15 month old daughter, who came to them through the miracle of adoption. She was able to offer her support as a doula to her daughter’s birth mother and helped catch her as she was born. She is very proud that she was able to induce lactation in order to nurse her daughter for over a year now.