June 21st, 2024

Tips for supporting new families

By Submitted Article on March 30, 2020.

Christy Martens


Babies tend to bring lots of joy and excitement when they arrive. It is so much fun to cradle their soft little bodies, and to marvel at their cute little noises and movements.

It can be easy to forget that the baby isn’t the only newbie on the scene. The parents are also adjusting to a new identity and role, and they may be overwhelmed, exhausted, or stressed over a difficulty pregnancy and birth. There may be medical problems or mental health concerns as they adjust to the many changes that a new baby brings.

So how can we help?

1) Don’t assume anything. Every family, parent and baby is unique. Some love visitors, some just want to hide away for a few weeks while they figure things out. Many people are ecstatic about their babies, but some may struggle with the added pressure or a past hurt that becomes more painful during this big change. Some babies love the social scene, others cry for hours after being passed around to caring visitors. Check in with the parents.

2) Respect the choices and wishes of the new parents. Ask them what they want or like. Leave lots of room for them to change their mind, or make requests, and say No. Keep advice to yourself unless parents specifically ask. Give them space to find their own style of parenting.

3) Call ahead before visiting. Ask if they want visitors – some don’t! Again, respect the No. If they say yes, ask when it best suits them, and don’t expect them to adjust to your schedule. If you do visit, provide some practical help such as folding laundry, cleaning, vacuuming, or bringing groceries. It’s OK if you don’t get to hold the baby. Some babies are fussy, and some parents just want to soak up the cuddles themselves. Remember that there is plenty of time to make friends with baby as they grow and settle into a routine.

4) Stay home if you are sick. This is so important at any time, especially with any respiratory illness. If you have a fever, cough, runny nose, sore throat, upset stomach, rashes or anything at all, wait until you are fully recovered before visiting. Even if you feel it is a minor illness, it can make a baby sick. It is OK if the parents are germophobes at the newborn stage. The baby will have plenty of time to build a good immune system as they get older.

5) Practise good hygiene. Wash your hands! Wash them when you arrive, before holding the baby, if you touch anything dirty, if you sneeze or if you touch your face. You get the idea! And make sure it is a good, long wash with the full 20 seconds recommended for proper hygiene.

6) Do something nice for the parents. Help abounds in the first few weeks, but then support often decreases. Letting parents have a nap while you rock baby might be very helpful, especially around 4-12 weeks when they tend to cry more. Again, household help or a meal is often much appreciated.

There are so many ways to support new families. Hopefully you can find a few practical tips to enrich the lives of new parents in your social circle.

Christy Martens is a Public Health Nurse with Alberta Health Services, and can be reached by e-mail – christy.martens2@ahs.ca.

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