They say that raising a child takes a village. Well, we recently had our first child – a baby boy – and we have felt so supported by our village during this postpartum period. Friends and family locally and across the country reached out with offers to help or send gifts. In some cases, I found myself becoming stressed by offers that required more brainpower than I was capable of at that moment. Other offers were exactly what I needed but would have never thought of. Since it may have been a few years since you endured those newborn days – and you may have blocked it out of your memory – I decided to jot down some of my fresh thoughts on postpartum gifts and favors. Below are ways to support that first-time parent whether it is through your wallet, your time, or your knowledge.
Generic gift cards. Normally, a generic gift card would not be considered a thoughtful gift. But having to open boxes, take tags off clothes, wash new items, and find a place for them are things that take time. Spare time is virtually non-existent with a newborn. Plus, I had the entire first 6-months of baby clothing already acquired before my son was even born. A Target or Amazon gift card is likely to be used by most parents. They will thank you for saving them time as they order exactly what they need.
Food delivery gift cards. Send a gift card for GrubHub, DoorDash, UberEats, or other food delivery services. This was one of the most thoughtful gifts I didn’t know I’d love until my friends gave it to me. It was nice to have hot meals at home without the headache of someone leaving the house or feeling guilty for spending too much money on delivery costs.
Send tasty reinforcements. One of the things that is most critical during the newborn phase is food (ideally, nutritional) that can be quickly consumed, especially for breastfeeding mothers who need that extra caloric intake. A friend sent us a snack box from Amazon before our baby arrived. It proved very useful for both packing our hospital bag and after coming home with baby.
Other ideas include:
- Pre-made salad mixes or fresh fruit
- Naked smoothie juices or Protein shakes
- Their favorite coffee order
- Sweet treats, like a Nightlight doughnut or Crumbl cookie
Postpartum recovery items for Mom. Postpartum recovery is truly miserable. The reality is that you can’t have too many pairs of disposable underwear or boobie pads. Consider sending Mom any items you found super useful in healing your body after delivery.
No-entry favors. While offers to “watch the baby” are sweet, a new parent’s life is so chaotic in those first few weeks that having someone set foot in their house may be a net-negative. Favors that don’t require Mom and Dad to put on real clothes and open the door will be much appreciated.
You can offer to:
- Deliver any items they are running low on (e.g. diapers, wipes, snacks)
- Pick-up their curbside grocery order and drop it off in their garage
- Drop off a restaurant meal on their door step (Ideally, ask their food preferences before the baby arrives to minimize stressful questions)
- Put out their garbage cans so they don’t miss trash day
In-home favors: This is one of those “know your friend” suggestions. If they are a Type A kind of person who will be more stressed out by having to walk you through their whole system, then this idea may not be for them. Or maybe they find having someone in their messy house so anxiety-inducing that they would rather just not have the help. However, as someone who resonates with both of these situations, there came a time where the sleep deprivation outweighed my standards for how things are done. When my mom visited, she folded a basket of clean laundry and I nearly cried happy tears for the task simply feeling “done”.
In-home favors might include:
- Tending to baby so parent can get a nap, go for a walk, or take a shower
- Helping with chores like dishes, vacuuming, or laundry
- Taking the dog for a walk or feeding their pets (if their pets are friendly with you)
Give the gift of knowledge: This is the type of gift that, when done carefully, can be so helpful. As a first-time parent, you are inundated with advice from every corner of the globe. And every piece of advice comes with a tone of “do it my way or you will be judged as a horrible person”. That being said, I truly believe that knowledge is power. If I have information that I know will improve someone’s day, I want to spread that gospel.
For all of the suggestions below, I recommend prefacing it with: “When I first become a parent, I struggled with XYZ. It was so frustrating, but I found a few things that helped along the way. If you’re interested, I’m happy to share. But there are no hard feelings if you’re feeling overloaded by advice or tips at the moment. Just let me know!” Also, I think it’s best not to offer unless the parent implies they are asking for advice.
If your friend is interested, here are some ways you can support them without it seeming like you are pushing your philosophy on them:
- Send them your favorite social media accounts for parenting topics, getting baby to sleep better, breastfeeding and nutrition, etc.
- Recommend any local professionals or experts who helped you
- Let them know which daycares or pediatricians you trust
- Tell them about your favorite local baby-friendly places to visit
- Share products with them that helped you through postpartum recovery or were lifesavers with your newborn. Example: A friend who went through THREE C-sections sent me her tips and favorite products to help with incision healing. It was a big money saver to not try all the lousy products before finding the good ones!
Last, but not least: Be a shoulder to cry on, a friend to vent to, or someone to get them out of the house. If your friend’s partner is on board, plan an outing so they can get a break from baby. A few weeks after our son was born, my husband could see that my mental health was deteriorating. He said “I think you should get out of the house this weekend.” This was all the permission I needed to reach out to friends to get together for lunch. Also keep in mind that sometimes, you’re not looking for a solution to your problem. You’ve already read seven different takes on the issue and having to explain everything you have tried to someone else is exhausting. A friend who will just let you vent or hug you while you have a good cry is invaluable, especially over a delicious cookie.