8 Ways You Can Help Overwhelmed New Parents

published Mar 31, 2022
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Mother holding newborn baby in kitchen while making tea
Credit: Getty Images/Westend61

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The first weeks home with a new baby are a beautiful time, meant for cozy, cuddly family nesting. But the phrase “it takes a village” takes on new meaning in those early days, when just finding a few hours to sleep can seem impossible. 

These precious days are the perfect time to show love and share support for the new parents in your life, and while gifts of adorable baby PJs are always appreciated, what parents really need is practical, tangible help. 

Here are eight meaningful ways to show you care.

Run errands.

Whether you pick up groceries or return library books, running a few errands for new parents can be a huge relief. Ask the parents what errands they need help with, and then let them know you’ve got it taken care of. 

Sometimes it can be hard for people to articulate exactly what help they need, so if they don’t come up with ideas, volunteer some suggestions of your own. And keep asking — you never know when the timing will be right for them to take you up on your offer.

Help with chores.

When a new baby comes, the chores don’t stop, they multiply. Folding laundry, emptying the dishwasher, and taking out the trash are easy tasks you can take off the shoulders of your friends. If you have older kids, consider bringing them along to help too. Doing so models thoughtfulness and shows kids how to be supportive friends. 

If your new parent friends aren’t local, consider hiring a housekeeper for them to help keep things tidy.

Credit: Getty Images/Oscar Wong

Hold that baby!

When I had my first baby, what I wanted most in the world was someone I could trust to hold her for a bit while I hopped in the shower, made a sandwich, or above all, took a nap. Simply offering to hold the baby for an hour or so can be a huge gift for tired parents. 

Make sure you’re healthy and wash your hands before holding a newborn. If you’re going to offer hands-on help, ask your doctor about a DTaP booster.

Share resources, not advice.

It can be tempting for veteran parents to bombard new parents with advice, but advice coming from every angle can actually be counterproductive and contribute to feelings of overwhelm and confusion. 

Instead, share the resources that helped when you were in this stage. Night doulas, pediatricians, parenting coaches, sleep coaches, and reliable childcare providers are examples of resources that will be greatly appreciated.

Pet sit.

Don’t forget the fur babies! Offer to take the dog on a walk, scoop the litter box (that’s extra friend points, in my book), or pet sit the cockatoo. Pick up a few pet treats or a bag of food, and give those furry family members some extra pats whenever you drop by (but wash your hands afterwards!).

Host a playdate for siblings.

As parents adjust to the newest addition to their family, it can be harder to manage the needs of older siblings. Offer to pick up siblings from school or other activities and host them for playdates at your house. This can be an emotional time for siblings, whose worlds have just changed radically, so hold space for big feelings and let the older kids know that they’re special, too. 

For long-distance friends, consider sending a care package with age-appropriate activities to keep siblings occupied while the parents are tending to the baby.

Take pictures.

Because this time is such a blur, new parents often find that they don’t have many photos of the early days, so snap a few pics when you visit. You can share them digitally or have them printed and framed. 

If you’re not particularly handy with the camera, consider hiring a photographer for a photo session to capture these sweet moments. 

Organize a meal train.

Bringing food is one of the most obvious ways to help new parents. Meals, snacks, morning coffee, trust me, they will all be welcome. But to step up in an even more impactful way, organize a meal train so that meal delivery doesn’t become another chore for new parents. 

Ask the parents what days and times of day work for them, and then use a meal planning website to request meals from friends and family. Some parents will welcome visitors, and some will prefer for food to be dropped on the porch (put a cooler and some ice packs out, if so). Offer to return all those casserole dishes and Tupperware for your friends as an extra touch to simplify the experience.