A woman holds a newborn baby at the hospital. She shows her baby to two visitors.
Errands, food prep and housecleaning are all great ways your family and friends can help when the new baby comes. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

Having a baby is about as significant as it gets in the realm of life-changing events.

It’s rather surprising how many things an 8-or-so-pound bundle of joy needs during those first days and weeks and months—car seat, changing table, clothes, diapers, wipes, pacifier, diaper bag, strollers. The list goes on.

Some people are amazed at the amount of stuff a baby needs. Not all of it is necessary, of course, although some items really do come in handy.

Need help?

What do parents truly need when a baby is born?

It depends on who you ask, but many parents will quickly admit that a pair of helping hands is the No. 1 item on their list of needs.

And there are certainly many things family and friends can do to help new parents.

One of my patients once made a simple suggestion that I often now share with others: Make a list of all the things others can do for you.

The mom who made the suggestion didn’t want to tell someone what to do if they came over and wanted to help. “What if I ask them to wash the dishes, and they hate that?” she said.

By creating a list and leaving it somewhere where friends and family can easily access it, they can choose the very item on the list that appeals to them most. Where some people may enjoy cooking to help out, others might enjoy assembling a kid’s toy or a piece of equipment.

Some possible items for the “House Help” list:

  • Laundry
  • Housecleaning
  • Vacuuming
  • Running errands
  • Picking up groceries
  • Organizing hospital items and papers
  • Yard work (depending on the season)

Food networking

Food is probably one of the most significant items on the list, because we all need to eat.

One thing you can do before the baby comes, however, is prepare extra meals. You want to prepare and place into the freezer any foods you think will be easy and delicious after baby is born.

This could include:

  • Soups
  • Chili
  • Enchiladas
  • Lasagna
  • Baked ziti
  • Meatballs
  • Breakfast burritos

Once again, the list could go on.

Now, you might say you don’t cook. That’s OK—but you still eat. So try to think ahead and ready some easy meals that are freezer-friendly.

If you’re breastfeeding, remember that you may have a larger appetite as you continue to lose pregnancy weight. Think of quick and easy snacks to help.

If you love salads, for instance, this is the time to buy clean vegetables and cut them up so they’re salad-ready. This will give you more time to care for your new baby when that time comes.

You may also want to buy extra juice boxes, as the calories from these will meet your growing nutritional needs for milk production during breastfeeding. (If you have other children, make sure you buy enough juices boxes for yourself and for them because it’s inevitable they’ll want some.)

In planning meals, organization is key. Hopefully, a few friends or relatives will see what your needs are and they’ll step in to fill in the gaps.

If you’re a new mom and you find that no one is volunteering to help, I’d encourage you to ask a friend to coordinate meals for you. This can provide some much-needed relief from figuring out a food schedule and coordinating everything.

This is a wonderful thing a friend or family member can do to help. (Don’t forget to find out if anyone has allergies!)

Friends and family

Friends and relatives don’t necessarily have to prepare food or offer favors to help a new mom. Sometimes, a simple visit or a phone call can work wonders.

Some possible tips for those who’d like to encourage a new mom:

  • Stop by for a visit. Check ahead to make sure the time works. For many moms, it’s a change being home so much in the first few weeks after having a baby. It can be encouraging just to have another adult to talk to. Remember to listen—a new mom is still processing much from the labor, delivery and her newfound role.
  • Call or send a text. If you live a distance away, call or text the new mom to let her know you’re thinking about her.
  • Hold the baby. This can be helpful for mom to know that baby is OK while she takes a moment to shower, eat, nap or enjoy a few quiet minutes alone.
  • Ask how you can help. I’ve offered lots of suggestions, but there’s always one surefire way to know what a new mom needs: Just ask! Maybe it’s something you never would have thought of.