A Mom With a New Baby Needs Your Help!

Take it from me:  we mothers find it very difficult to ask for help!   When my son was born, I found myself entertaining guests even though I had a grueling delivery, suffered from undiagnosed post-partum depression and could barely walk (I’ll spare you the gory details of why).  The fact that I could not articulate my needs or felt uncomfortable assigning specific tasks to my friends just worsened my already fragile state of mind.   Being in my late 30s and having enjoyed a successful career, I was used to being in control of my life, so the more my house became unkempt, and the less I was able to accomplish, the more I spiraled into a dark place.  Many moms today are living apart from their families and are extremely independent and self-sufficient, so bringing home baby and adjusting to the new realities as a family, including relying on others for help, can extra be challenging.  Not preparing properly (expecting? see our ultimate checklist) or not knowing how to ask for help is a big “Booby Trap!”

But there is a better way.   If you have read The Red Tent, or had the chance to live in or observe cultures that protect the mother-baby dyad, you will already know that taking care of the mother is the best way to take care of the baby.   Julie Hamilton, Mrs. Nashville 2010, a mother of 3 including exclusively breastfed twins (read how she did it) and a blogger at memoirsofabreastfeeder.wordpress.com knows just how important it is to ask for help, and worked with us to create a tool that can go a long way in making sure that a mother of a new baby is being cared for.   The best gift you can give any new mother is to nurture the nurterer! So yes, pick out that cute outfit for the new baby, but also make sure you sign up to deliver some TLC in the form of a meal, some grocery shopping, laundry folding or other errand.    Many moms need more help with tasks; having a clean & organized house makes it easier to relax, turn off the brain, and sleep when the baby sleeps.  Especially for breastfeeding moms, who need to master the learning curve of breastfeeding during the first few weeks, getting help can make or break her success.   If you are an experienced mom, then you already know just how welcome your efforts are.   If you are not a mom, then consider it part of the “what goes around comes around” cycle that will be paid back to you some day, in some form or another!  If you are expecting your first, it is the best internship you could have to learn the ropes.

Here are the new tools Julie developed with us.  Please let us know if you have suggestions to make them more useful to ALL moms who just had a baby.  As a non-profit our goal we rely on volunteers and feedback so we can provide more free resources to moms!

BfB Help Sheet: A  fill-in sheet to help new mothers or a mother of a new baby (baby #2, or #3, or #4 . . . ) enlist friends and family members to take care of errands and everyday household chores.    There is space to add other things you need help with.   Don’t be shy!   The point is to ensure your success as a new mother so these first few weeks can be as enjoyable and rewarding as possible.  If you are sunk in a pit of laundry, grocery shopping and cleaning up, you are no good to anyone.  Here’s how to use it:  Fill out one sheet for each friend.  Record who is doing what accordingly on the master sheet, and give the help sheet to the person assigned to the task(s).   If you have a home print/scan/copy machine, you can also make a copy of the help sheet to keep for yourself, if that makes it easier for you to keep track.

BfB Help Sheet–Master: This is a chart to help you keep track of who is doing what.   It is to be filled out by the mom, her partner or a friend or family member who is helping the mom every week.    Write the person’s name & phone number if necessary in the appropriate square, for example, “Amy S.: 212-999-9999″ in Dinner row, Tuesday column.  If you have a really super organized friend who wants to coordinate this, even better!  You may want to keep phone numbers of friends and relatives on a separate sheet that you can refer to, or that your partner, a relative or your best friend can use to contact anyone if there is a change in plans.  Put it on the fridge, by the phone or by your bedside where you know you will see it.

We’re also compiling a list of helpful information and best resources on the ‘net on this topic.  Any suggestions?  Let us know, and we’ll add it to this list!   All we ask is that the information be mom-friendly:  non-judgmental, evidence-based, positive and encouraging, and not undermining of breastfeeding moms.

Tips for New Moms from About.com by Robin Elise Weiss

10 Tips to Help You Cope with New Mom Exhaustion from ivillage.com

How to Help a New Mom from Ehow.com

Just Had a Baby?  A Six-Week Survival Guide from Fit Pregnancy

What did we miss?   How did you ask for help when you had a new baby?



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9 Comments | Last revised on 02/17/2010


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9 Responses to A Mom With a New Baby Needs Your Help!

  1. Melodie says:

    My friends pitched in and bought me four hours worth of housekeeping. It was a Godsend. Within our circle of friends we always help each other cover the first week or two of meals and babysit the new moms older kids so she can get that much needed rest and bonding time. We all find that this is much better than having a baby shower for someone because every second of our time is so much more appreciated. This is a great idea! Thanks Julie and Bettina!

  2. Nancy Kleinfeld says:

    I just finished reading ” The hidden Feelings of Motherhood” by Kathleen A. Kendall-Tackett, PH.D., IBCLC, 2005. I would have liked to have read it in 1989 when I had my first.

  3. Kelly says:

    I just wrote about this because we found that food was one of the best baby gifts people could bring. We didn’t ask for it so much as did it for others and hoped that they would return the favour when the time came (and they did). I have to admit that I found it extremely difficult to ask for help in the early days because I actually preferred being left alone to give my husband and I time to bond unobserved with our baby. Admittedly, our baby was a prem and was in the NICU for a week and we are both at home so we weren’t so overwhelmed, but had I been home alone this job chart would’ve been great.

    I’ll be sending this on to a few new moms I know.

  4. Ruth Rooke says:

    I have to say I think this is a great idea! I live in Ireland and unfortunately most people equate giving a new mother ‘help’ with taking baby away from the mother so that the mother can rest as they don’t realise the importance of giving mother & baby(& dad of course)time together to bond and to establish breastfeeding(the breastfeeding rate is very low here). Clothes and blankets are lovely gifts to receive but I think that having friends help you out with day to day issues such as laundry, cooking etc. is invaluable especially in the early days! Well done with the charts.

  5. Kimberly B says:

    Thank you for compiling such helpful info for new mamas (and those that love them!).
    What a great resource; for postpartum doulas too!

  6. Laurie says:

    For your “list of resources” for helping new moms…
    My-Newborn-Baby-Care.com is dedicated to instructing and encouraging first-time moms on caring for their newborn babies (and themselves). We try to help them remember to savor every moment with that precious little one, because all too soon, they grow up!

  7. Cassaundra says:

    This is a GREAT idea, one of your best actually. There’s a small cultural problem though if you want this to be international. I don’t know about within America, but I can tell you that here in Canada at least, and possibly elsewhere, the first sheet to be handed out to individuals would be considered extremely rude. It may be that it can be written differently or that a different system of organisation may be better rather than having slots on the sheet for times etc, but as it is now, I think anyone Canadian who received that from a new Mom would be deeply offended. It treats a friend like a servant or employee by demanding that they commit to a time and task and method and doesn’t even ask nicely. I realise that we are more formal here, but an awful lot of places are more formal. Many things that are considered common practice and acceptable down there are considered very bad form up here. When a dear American friend of mine was visiting my Mother with myself and both our kids, my Mom was deeply hurt because one of my friend’s sons said “would you mind getting me a drink”. My poor friend had no idea that this phrase was so very rude and had taught it to the boys rather than simply saying “May I please have a drink”. My poor Mother was so floored she couldn’t even speak and I ended up getting the poor kid a drink.
    I think this sheet would get a similar response here and I’m sure that was NOT the intent. Since we really do want this idea to take off, it might be worthwhile re-considering the format in order to avoid creating a booby-trap while trying to help avoid one. Maybe a polite note, without lists of times and duties, simply saying something like:
    “When new babies come, everyone wants to help and help is very much appreciated. What few people know is that, particularly when a Mom is breastfeeding, help holding the baby is not the most helpful. New Moms really need help with tidying and tasks round the house. If you would please ask ____________, they would be glad to let you know what you can help with. Thank You so much for your love and time”.

    Thanks for trying to be the intermediary in a tricky situation guys, culture can just be a really tricky minefield to navigate, especially when it’s a slightly different culture than your own, as even the other english speaking countries are rather different from the U.S.

  8. April says:

    Cassaundra, I am from the Midwest U.S. and honestly if this form were given to me by a friend or family member without me asking for exactly what they needed me to do I would probably tell them that I just want to help and this makes me feel like I have to take care of it as if I were a servant and then probably just stop by with some food when they baby comes and leave, probably before they are all home, and then come back after the mother is ready to be friendly again. It would be terribly rude to just hand this over to someone, but I could see it as helpful for me to be able to fill out once a week and put on my refrigerator so that my husband can direct anyone who begged to help to the list. Another idea for the sheet would be to have it at the baby shower (I never really got one but I know a lot of women do) and have it more as a sign up sheet for them to decide the times and days that they would be able to help out with the items on it.
    Especially after the birth of my last child being an emergency cesarean I would have loved to have a sheet like this for my parents and my mother in law to use as a reference on the fridge so they wouldn’t be bothering me during a nap or while I was just laying in pain trying to recoup while still providing most of the care for the new baby and her older sister and brother (who were 17 months old and 4 years old respectively) while my husband was a full time student and worked full time so he was home a whole two nights a week to help out. When you get to those final weeks of pregnancy and in those first few weeks after birth you don’t always think of what needs done clearly and this form can help you remember. I still would prefer a check list or sign up sheet style because this seems almost like a demand for what you want when you want it where as when someone is offering help you should be nice enough to work around their schedule, not them around yours. Not everyone has a group of stay at home moms as friends with flexible schedules that can work their world around yours with you returning that favor when they have a child or need for help.

  9. Susan says:

    I live in a neighborhood where we have new babies a few times a year. We used to designate a “captain” to coordinate meals for the new parents. About a year ago we discovered a website- http://www.carecalendar.org. It’s wonderful. The new parents can let folks know when they’d like meals, food allergies, food dislikes, and also if they need other things to be done (run errands, etc.) If someone says that they’d like to do something for them, they just log on to their secure, personalized web page and sign up for what they’d like to do. It’s a great organizational tool that lets needs be known without family/friends feel pressure that they have to participate!
    PS I’m also an RN, IBCLC at a Baby Friendly hospital who teaches prenatal classes which is where I share this information too!

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