40 ways to accept and offer support after birth

Weekend meal prep

One of the most significant acts of human bravery, aside from becoming a parent, is to ask for and accept help.

As Americans, we seem to artificially value independence, competence and strength, often failing to realize that there is, indeed, strength in numbers. We are infinitely more competent when we are able to work together, when we are able to stay sane, well-rested and cared for.

Of course, there is no time riper with the need for help than when you’ve just welcomed a new baby into your home.

Here’s the thing. Nine times out of ten, “help” will come in the form of an offer to hold your baby. This can be great if you are desperate for a shower or a nap, but there are also other needs and tasks that will free up even more time for rest and hygiene. Besides, in 2020 and the era of COVID, holding the baby really takes on a different significance.

Here are 40 ways to ask for help or (for grandparents, friends and neighbors) to offer help during the postpartum period.

  1. Walk the dog.
  2. Make lunch.
  3. Prepare and freeze meals.
  4. Go grocery shopping.
  5. Sanitize the breast pump.
  6. Wash, fold and put away the laundry.
  7. Be a sounding board. (Ahem — that means listen.)
  8. Be a Google auditor — research, avoid sinkholes and provide the best info.
  9. Schedule appointments.
  10. Write thank you notes.
  11. Exchange gifts and postpartum clothing.
  12. Be the “middle of the night” point of contact — make a calendar of those willing to be on call.
  13. Sew, wash or provide PPE for family visits to the doctor or store.
  14. Bring laughter.
  15. Hold space for tears and secrets.
  16. Get the car washed.
  17. Install the car seat.
  18. Mow the lawn.
  19. Bring ice cream.
  20. Offer all your best resources (gently and without expectation) — pediatricians, doulas, postnatal yoga instructors, postpartum counselors, lactation consultants …
  21. Sweep, dust and mop.
  22. Organize snack and hydration stations for the nursing mom.
  23. Organize a Zoom coffee talk with Mom’s closest friends.
  24. Be an energy vampire slayer and help the new family establish boundaries.
  25. Give a foot rub.
  26. Make some soothing tea.
  27. Take lovely photos of the newly expanded family.
  28. Give advice only when asked.
  29. Figure out the dang baby wrap.
  30. Organize the endless array of onesies by age.
  31. Take out the trash.
  32. Leave inspirational Post-It note “Easter eggs” for the new parents to find.
  33. Clean the toilets.
  34. Clean the litter box.
  35. Tell Mom she looks beautiful.
  36. Run a bubble bath.
  37. If the family is in need, organize a donation.
  38. Clean and organize the diaper station. Empty that nasty pail, too.
  39. Entertain older siblings.
  40. If the baby is fussy and you’re a world-class burping specialist, by all means … hold the baby.

Maybe it’s not so easy to ask your fellow book club members for confidence-boosting Post-Its. However, you can and should ask for what you need. Your tribe loves you and are waiting to hear that you’re craving brownies, could use a trashy magazine distraction or that you might lose your mind if you have to look at your overgrown lawn for one more minute.

With your basic needs met, your creature comforts in check and your feet propped up (as well they should be — you’re a new parent), you can do what you do best. Hold your baby. And enjoy it.

Jen Wittes is a marketing director, writer, certified postpartum doula and mom of two living in St. Paul.