14 Ways To Support A Loved One Who Is A New Parent

Welcoming a new baby into a family is one of the most fulfilling and joyful experiences life has to offer. But it's also incredibly difficult, especially the very first time. No matter how much parents prepare during pregnancy, there's no way to actually prepare for the responsibility and pressure of keeping a tiny human alive.


As several new moms told What to Expect, a newborn changes everything about a family's dynamics. The whole household revolves around the new baby, who only knows how to communicate its needs by crying. And sometimes it feels impossible to figure out what those needs are, making it seem like the crying will never end. On top of that, newborns have no concept of time or schedules, so parents have to adjust everything about their own schedules and timetables to accommodate. Nobody gets much sleep, nerves are constantly frayed, and everyone is overwhelmed.

That's why, as the saying goes, every new parent needs a village to support them. So when your BFF brings home a new baby, you're probably eager to help in any way you can. But it's often really hard to know how you can actually give them the support they need, especially if you don't have kids of your own. Unintentionally, the way you try to help may not actually be what they need. Want to make sure you're not that friend? These are some things that are actually helpful that you can do to support your friends who are new parents.


Respect their boundaries

With a newborn at home, your friends will need to prioritize themselves and their family. They may do this by deciding to set boundaries that some people won't like, as clinical licensed clinical social worker Veronica Eyo points out in Hello Postpartum. The most important thing you can do to support them is to respect those boundaries.


Each family will set different boundaries based on their beliefs, values, parenting styles, and needs. Your friends may decide that they don't want anyone but immediate family members to meet the baby until they're a few weeks old. Or they may decide that they don't want people to hold the baby in those first few weeks. If they set these boundaries, don't show your disappointment or make a snarky comment. Say you're excited to see or hold the baby whenever they're ready!

Your BFF may be obsessed with handwashing or not let you visit if you've even seen someone sneeze recently. Or they might not let you visit if you're not up to date on your vaccinations. Even if you think they're being neurotic, do whatever they ask of you or forfeit your baby privileges. A baby's immune system is extremely fragile for several months after birth, so there's no such thing as being too protective of a newborn's health.


Even if you don't agree with the boundaries your new parent friends are setting, respecting their boundaries shows your friends how much you love them.

Don't ask what they need

This seems totally counterintuitive, right? But "What do you need?" and "How can I help?" are two of the most overwhelming questions you can ask a new parent. They're so overwhelmed and sleep-deprived they usually have no idea what they need or what would be helpful. Asking them to figure it out is actually putting more pressure on them at a time when they do not have the capacity to figure out yet another thing.


In a blog post for New Orleans Mom, mother of five Jennifer Gonzales revealed that her "heroes" during the newborn phase were the friends and family who just did helpful things. Of course, there are some things your friends won't want you to do without running it by them first, like dropping in unannounced to clean the kitchen. But there are plenty of things you can do, like ordering DoorDash from their favorite restaurant or Instacarting diapers and having things delivered to their doorstep.

If you're not comfortable doing something on a whim, or if you know your friend wouldn't appreciate not being consulted, suggest something specific that you're willing to do. Not sure what that could be? Here are some great suggestions.


Feed them

Many of us have trouble feeding ourselves on a daily basis when we're not trying to keep a tiny human alive, so it becomes exponentially harder when we are. New parents don't have the mental or emotional energy to plan meals, grocery shop, and then cook; so they eat a lot more microwaveable meals, sandwiches, and cereal than they'd like to admit. So, a delicious, home-cooked meal feels like a legit gift from the universe.


Lindsay Ostrom, a mom and cooking blogger, has been both the new mom and the best friend trying to help, so she knows how valuable a good meal is during those first months postpartum. In a post for her blog Pinch of Yum, she explains that the ideal home-cooked meal for a new parent is one that's easy to prepare and freeze. So, casseroles and hearty soups or stews are a perfect choice. They can be made in big batches that can be cooked immediately or tossed in the freezer. And when it's time to reheat, casseroles can usually go right in the oven and soups or stews can go right in the crockpot, even if they're still frozen. Most casseroles and soups are pretty easy to make too; just cut up some easy ingredients, toss them in a pot or casserole dish, and heat.


If cooking isn't your thing, offer to order them takeout. It's still a delicious, hot meal, which is more than they're putting together at home!

Take over the shopping list

Grocery shopping while sleep-deprived, and with a newborn in tow, is a special kind of difficulty. Getting the baby ready to go out of the house is a complex process that new parents need to undertake before they even get to the store. Then there's the chance that at any moment, the baby will start screaming, and they'll just need to abandon their cart to hurry home. Or that they'll have to deal with the dreaded poop-pocalypse that always seems to be triggered by the baby being in the car seat or in public.


Yes, Instacart has made postpartum grocery shopping much easier, but the delivery costs can make it hard to swing, especially with the rising prices of groceries. And if Instacart still isn't a thing in your area, your new parent friends don't have many options. Until you step in!

If your friends have the mental and emotional capacity to make a shopping list, have them text it to you or have them use a service like Google Keep to share a list with you. If they just can't make a list (totally possible), the experts at Happiest Baby suggest stocking up on nutrient-dense snacks like fruits, nuts, yogurt, pretzels, and protein shakes. And do not forget the coffee or your friend's preferred caffeine fix. Caffeine is literally life when you're a new parent. You can ask them to Venmo you once they see the receipt, or, even better, make groceries a gift.


Offer to do chores

With a new baby at home, there's barely any time to eat or shower, let alone get chores done. Even when there is time, new parents are so exhausted that dishes, laundry, and house cleaning definitely aren't a priority, especially if that time could be spent napping.


So, if your BFF's house looks like they're living their best goblin life, don't judge! Offer to clean up, and tell them to go lie down. You don't have to do a whole house deep clean to be helpful. Just do a load of dishes, wipe down some counters, do a load of laundry, or run the vacuum through the house. Just make sure you don't vacuum when the baby's sleeping! If you're feeling generous, you could do more than one of these tasks, but even one chore out of the way is a big deal when all the housework is piled up. If your friends have pets, you can also offer to take the dog for a walk or to the dog park, clean the litter box (major points for this one), or just make sure the pets are getting all the cuddles they need.


Help with chores can be a tough thing for people to accept. They may be embarrassed by the state of their house or the fact that they can't keep up with the housework. When you make the offer, be as tactful as possible, and make sure they know you're not judging.

Watch the baby for a bit

At times, having a newborn feels like being caught in a three-legged race that never ends. Suddenly, you're never alone, you have to negotiate everything you do around this other person who's literally attached to you because newborns like to be carried all the time, and your entire day is dictated by this little being who needs you to respond to their every whim. Sometimes, the thing a new parent wants more than anything in the world is 10 minutes alone to do whatever they want. If you can give them that by watching the baby for a bit, you'll be their hero!


If you're too intimidated to be left alone with the baby, you can still help. Watching the baby doesn't have to mean that the parents leave the house. It can mean you holding or keeping an eye on a sleeping baby or bouncing a baby on your lap for 20 minutes while the parents lie down in another room, take a shower, or just zone out staring at their bedroom wall. Newborns really don't do that much, so as long as they're changed and fed when you show up, you shouldn't have to do much to keep them occupied while your friends take a break. Most new parents won't want to be away from their babies for too long anyway, so even just half an hour of baby care will go a long way.

Visit them, not just the baby

This weird thing happens to new parents when they bring home a newborn. Suddenly, no one really cares about them. Everyone just wants to see the baby, talk about the baby, and help them with the baby. Rebecca Nicholes, a school counselor and mother of two, nails it in an article for Baby Chick when she writes, "New mothers everywhere experience knowing what being invisible feels like."


We get it. Babies are super cute and we all want our share of cuddles. But make sure that you're giving your new parent friends as much attention as you're giving their baby when you visit. It's really common for new parents to feel like they're losing themselves and just becoming "baby's parents." Help them remember that they're not just a parent by devoting your time and attention to them too when you come around. Talk to them about non-baby things, plan some time when they can be an adult with you in the near future, and find ways to bring their hobbies to them so they can do something that reminds them of who they were before the baby.

Ask them how they're doing and really listen

In those first few months after a baby is born, everyone asks endless questions about the baby. But not many people ask how the parents are doing, and they really wish you would.

The newborn phase is hard and it takes a lot out of the parents, but, as Dr. Juli Fraga writes in HuffPost, we don't give new parents a lot of space to talk about how much they might be struggling. Many of the conversations new parents have center on what a magical time this is supposed to be, how they should be enjoying their new baby and family, and what a blessing it is to have a baby.


While new parents may agree with these sentiments sometimes, they're probably not enjoying every minute of the newborn phase. They may even hate it, or be scared that they made a big mistake having kids. But the pressure to appear like they're in the happiest time of their lives is always looming. When you talk to your new parent friends, take the time to ask how they're really doing, and listen without judgment. And if they do say they are struggling, here's what to do next.

Validate that parenting is hard

If your new parent friends are struggling through the newborn stage, let them know that it's safe for them to talk to you about how hard it is and all the doubts they're probably having. Encourage them to go beyond the surface-level answers and get truly vulnerable. Though this might be uncomfortable for both of you, it's important that they get these feelings out. And it's even more important that they hear it's okay to struggle with parenting.


If you have kids of your own, share how you felt during this stage. In a post on her blog, licensed clinical social worker Jessica Fowler writes about how therapeutic it can be for new parents to hear that their friends struggle with parenting too. So, get vulnerable. Tell your friends exactly how you felt during the first few months of your kiddo's life, what you were thinking, and what you did to get through it. Let them know that they're far from the only people to feel this way and that it's actually really normal.

If you don't have kids, actively listen, reflect their experiences back to them, and try to envision what it would be like to be where they are. Validate their feelings, and remind them of all the things they are doing right.


Be on the lookout for postpartum depression and anxiety

Most new parents get the "baby blues" at some point during those first few months. But postpartum depression (PPD) and postpartum anxiety (PPA) are different from the baby blues.

According to The Bump, the symptoms of PPA and PPD are often mistaken for the normal mood changes that come with having a new baby. Everyone gets burnt out, irritable, sad, and weepy sometimes when they're sleep-deprived and constantly taking care of someone else, so it can be difficult to spot the signs of PPD and PPA, especially for the people experiencing the symptoms. That's why it's so important for friends and family to be on the lookout for signs of these disorders.


If your friend can't sleep, even when the baby is with someone else, that's a big red flag. So is lack of motivation, isolation from friends and family, and distress over feelings of not being good enough. PPA and other postpartum mood disorders, like postpartum OCD and postpartum psychosis, typically manifest as intense fear, intrusive thoughts, and hyperfocus on parenting tasks. If your friend is terrified to let the baby out of their sight, admits to thoughts of hurting their baby or themselves, or has taken to obsessively cleaning, these are signs of a serious postpartum mood disorder. If your friend isn't willing to get help, you may need to intervene by talking to their partner or calling emergency services, depending on the severity of their symptoms.


Don't give unsolicited advice

Honestly, if you're still giving unsolicited advice at all, take this as your sign from the universe to stop. When your friends want your advice, they'll ask because they trust you and value your opinion.


Unsolicited advice about parenting isn't just annoying, though. It can be downright harmful. A study conducted by Australian researchers found that 44% of new parents get stressed by all the parenting advice they're given postpartum, KidSpot reported. About 40% of new parents in the study reported that unsolicited advice made them feel like they weren't good enough at parenting. During a time when worry, stress, and feelings of inadequacy are at their peak, the last thing new parents need is to hear how they should be doing something differently.

As ScaryMommy points out, parenting advice new parents get might not even be helpful because everyone has their own opinions, beliefs, and values. This means that new parents often get advice that directly conflicts with something else they've heard. And because neither piece of advice is wrong, per se, it can be tough to decide which advice to act on or ignore.


Additionally, parenting best practices dictated by medical organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics change all the time. So, people are often getting outdated advice. Any new parent who's argued with their own parents about tummy sleeping knows how infuriating this is. Even if you're an experienced parent, it's better not to give advice unless asked directly.

Be careful what you say about the baby

New parents worry about everything. Even the smallest comment about their baby can set off a full-blown anxiety spiral. Or worse, a shame spiral of parental guilt about their choices.

In an article for Today, Jen Schwartz, the founder of Motherhood Understood, explains that comments about the baby's size and weight can be particularly distressing for new parents. In the first few months of the baby's life, weight gain is a crucial sign that the baby is getting enough nourishment and growing properly. If the newborn isn't gaining weight at the expected rate, it can cause a lot of stress for the parents, especially because breastfeeding and chestfeeding can be extremely difficult. This stress can be compounded by judgment about breastfeeding/chestfeeding versus bottle feeding and breast milk versus formula. So, you might think a comment like "Oh he's just so tiny!" is harmless, but it might be a huge trigger for your friends.


Comments about the baby's temperament also aren't as harmless as they seem. Some newborns are easygoing and generally happy unless they need something, while others are more easily upset. This has nothing to do with parenting; it's just the baby's natural temperament. You might think you're sympathizing when you say something like "Wow, I don't know how you handle all this crying!" but your friend probably won't hear it that way. Just to be safe, keep comments about the baby complimentary.

Ask before you post pics

Before you upload that super cute selfie you took of you snuggling your BFF's adorable newborn to all your socials, definitely ask your friends if it's okay to post pictures of their baby. This may seem like a no-brainer, but you'd be surprised how many people just post pictures of other people's kids without asking.


And some parents really aren't okay with having pictures of their baby online, and as experts told HuffPost, there are good reasons for this sentiment. As technology advances at light speed, a simple picture can be used to track down personal information, and that data can be sold for all sorts of purposes. For some parents, it's less about the risks to their personal data and more about their children's future mental health. Embarrassing photos posted online could lead to bullying. And since babies can't consent to have their pictures posted online, many parents focused on their children's autonomy see posting pictures as a consent violation.

You might not think twice before posting a cute pic, but when it's got your friend's baby's face in it, you need to ask permission first. No exceptions.


Tell them they're doing a great job

In an open letter to new moms published in HuffPost, Ann Marie Gardinier Halstead, a professor and mom, illustrates how important it is for new parents to hear that they're doing a great job and that they're great parents. There are few other times in life when people feel as incompetent as when they're new parents. Every aspect of life changes literally overnight, and no matter how many parenting classes expectant parents take, nothing can actually prepare them for the long, sleepless nights, the crying, and the constant worry.


At some point, maybe even frequently, every single new parent feels like they're doing something wrong, like they have no idea what they're doing, or like they're a really bad parent. Unfortunately, it comes with the territory.

That's why it's so crucial that people who love new parents tell them what a great job they're actually doing. They won't be able to see it for themselves, so it's your job as their BFF to make sure they know that you see it. It's hands down the best thing you can do to support them.