Monday, August 26, 2013

How NOT to Help a New Mother!

by Glenni Lorick, IBCLC
You'll find some constructive ways to help a new mom here!
A few days ago I was helping a new mother nurse her baby as she recounted how a friend had come by her house while she was still in the hospital and "cleaned up." She expressed her aggravation that her friend had moved important papers, misplaced things she needed, and totally rearranged stacks of baby clothes that she had carefully organized. She never asked her friend to clean up for her; in fact, if her friend had simply taken a moment to ask if it was all right to straighten up, the new mother would have said, "No, thank you."

She isn't the only ANM mother who has experienced the frustration of "Help" that causes problems.  One mother said,  " I had a friend come and help clean up my house right after my baby was born and 'file away' in the closet the only card I had with the pediatrician's phone number. I went into hyper panic mode when I went to find it and couldn't."

Another mother relates what happened to her this way:  "When our son arrived at not quite 38 weeks, we were in the middle of cleaning and organizing so hubby's  family came to 'help' while we were in the hospital. Yeah, the living room, kitchen and bedrooms were 'clear' but no one dusted or actually cleaned, and they merely moved everything into our guest room which was piled up with whatever 'didn't have a place' to them. And paint cans, shoes and a few other items were just put outside on our July. Ruined a pair of shoes my late mother gave me...ruined leftover paint...Took us over a year to 'fix' the mess and find things. Over two years later I still find things shoved places and I fuss at my dh who reminds me who the REAL culprits were. This time I am making sure everything is spic and span, and if they want to help, then they can actually CLEAN, not move our stuff to 'help'! They also helped with stocking the fridge, but this time I will also have a detailed 'what we keep or need in the house' list since hubby is gluten-free, and last time we ended up with foods that neither of us ate." She adds that no one actually came to help AFTER their son was born, and it would have been nice to have some help then!

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It seems that grandmothers are the worst offenders (Note to self, remember the Grandma Rules at all times). You won't believe some of the problems grandmothers have caused: "My mother washed all our kids' laundry while we were away on a weekend trip...she was so proud that she "finished off" the small bag of ecosprouts we had hanging out in the laundry room(she had no idea we only used it to launder cloth diapers)! The only problem was we then had nothing to wash the dirty diapers we brought home from the trip!"

Another grandmother offered kitchen help that wasn't so helpful: "My mother kept unloading my
dishwasher and if she didn't know where something belonged, she would just pick a place that made sense to her. Took us FOREVER to find the colander!"

A third mom wrote that " My mom does this every time she visits. The worst thing she ever misplaced was the week before Christmas. I had bought my husband a new wedding band and had it engraved. She 'put it somewhere safe' without telling me and couldn't remember where she put it! Thank goodness I found it on Christmas Eve buried in my HUSBAND'S underwear drawer!"

How CAN You Help?

Obviously with so many moms expressing frustration caused by well-intentioned helpers, we need to figure out what you CAN do to help a new mom. Some safe options include food preparation (be sure you know if there are dietary restrictions), child care for older children, and running errands. The key is to ask the new mother exactly WHAT she would like  you to do. Remember that this isn't about you, it's about her and her needs.

La Leche League leader Stephanie Stenmark offers excellent advice to anyone who wants to help out: "Never move paper work, and always ask if you don't know for sure where they put something. Really just stick to laundry, wiping counter surfaces, bathrooms, vacuuming and mopping. Never try to organize someone else's belongings!"  

What is the best thing someone could do to help you with a new baby?


  1. Deep cleaning would have been wonderful: cleaning off cabinets, really scrubbing out the fridge, wiping down walls, washing all the windows and blinds, cleaning my floors. There's no way I want to do more than the necessary for the first six months.

  2. And please don't have a few glasses of wine and then try to carry the newborn or complain about not having enough to do! :/

  3. The best help I got was when people would hold DS long enough for me to take a shower. I never appreciated the healing properties of a nice hot shower more than when I was a new mom with no sleep!