Did your friends or family just have a baby? Don’t believe any of those perfectly crafted Instagram and Facebook posts from your new parent friends. You know the ones. They post a photo of an infant, and the caption reads:
“We’ve been awake for six weeks, and we’re tired, but we’re so in love. The baby is perfect.”
Translation: They’re so fucking sleep deprived that they can’t think straight.
Or: “On October 17th, we welcomed our newest family member. Everyone is adjusting and figuring out our new routine.”
Translation: Holy shit, why didn’t anyone tell me about the first few weeks? I’m starving and I can’t stop crying, why isn’t anyone coming over to help?
The first few weeks of becoming a new parent can be really, really hard. Let me say that again, but more clearly: the first YEAR of bringing a new baby into the world can be one of the most overwhelming, exhausting, sleep-depriving, sanity-snatching, challenging things to do.
New parents need help—lots of it—and they’re likely struggling with how to form the words to ask for help.
For me, when people would say, “Let me know when I can come over and hold the baby,” I would stare at the text (or phone) in disbelief and think to myself, “Hold the baby? I need you to change the baby, bounce her for one hundred hours, cook food for me, bring groceries, and bring more lanolin for these nipples that have been rubbed raw.”
Then people would show up just as I’d put the baby down for sleep, and I’d be crawling desperately into bed to try to get one 90-minute nap in, and they’d want to.. Talk. Be entertained. Sit there.
Seriously: When people would show up empty-handed, I’d feel myself start to cry.
But don’t despair. If your friends or relatives have just had a new baby, here’s a handy guide to help you help them, because helping new parents is one of the kindest things you can do.
Here’s a secret trick that I think I’m almost afraid to share with the internet.
If you have friends that are becoming new parents and you truly dig in and help them, you will now forever be seen in adoring light forevermore.
If you want to hack connection, be kind to new parents. It’s like when ducklings imprint on whoever they see first when they’re born—when new parents are hatched, those that show up in these early months will forever be seen in a halo of good intentions. Thou can do no wrong if you help me. (I don’t actually have verification that this is true for all parents, but I know for me, I can remember every person that showed up with food and helping hands, and they are forever bonded to my heart and in my life and I will do so much for them.) Heed this advice wisely, friends.
Here’s what to get new parents who have their hands full with newborns.
As it turns out, the list of what new parents need is practically endless. From help with the baby to covering dinners or a pillowcase-sized bag of coffee beans, here is a list of things new parents everywhere would love to receive. Remember that while things and stuff are important, just as important is pitching in and lending hands to help.
House cleaning. There’s nothing as maddening and relentless as the constant cycle of things that need to be cleaned. Babies go through clothes, diapers, and feeding supplies faster than you can sneeze, and there’s seemingly nothing to show for a freshly washed batch of laundry, because in thirty minutes, you’ll be running another load.
Offer to help them with overlooked cleaning and household chores while they take naps. Insist on it, in fact, even if they demure. The first thing when you walk in the house is full hands: fill your hands with dishes, quickly wash the things in the sink, or start and empty a load in the dishwasher. Then, start folding clothes and run a load of laundry.
Or, you could splurge on a cleaning service to help bring their home back to life. A quick Google search will pull up an array of options in your area, some that offer discounted monthly or bi-monthly rates. For one parent friend of mine, we pooled our resources and purchased six months of diaper cleaning service.
Check the baby registry. It might be super-boring, but if they need diapers, they need diapers. Get them diapers. Look at what’s on the registry and get them the most boring thing.
Here’s an important PSA: DO NOT GET THEM A CUTE OUTFIT FOR THE BABY UNLESS CLOTHES HAVE SPECIFICALLY BEEN REQUESTED.
Food delivery. New parents are sleep-deprived and not sitting down to regularly cooked meals. Have dinner delivered! Bring your favorite family recipe or set this new family up for mealtime success with a meal subscription service like Splendid Spoon or Blue Apron. Know their local takeout spot? Tell them you’ll buy them dinner on Friday and send their favorite dishes right to their door.
[New Parents: Have a list of your favorite groceries, restaurants, and shops in one easy-to-find place so that people can better help you. Here are my favorite lists to have ready for when you are postpartum.]
Some fun items if you want to splurge
Here are a few items that could be fun to get if you want to go for something unexpected and with a high probability of being useful.
A portable phone charger. New parents are focused on their new baby, but also need to stay in touch with the outside world: work, friends, family, asking for help, you name it. Keep their phone charged with this sleek mobile charger by Jackery Bolt. Just make sure you know what kind of phone they have so you get the right charge adaptor.
Wireless earphones. When I was breastfeeding my first kid, I didn’t realize that breastfeeding took eight to twelve hours per day. It was nothing like the pictures looked. Yes, it was sweet and yes, his head smelled delicious, but it was also a huge day-and-night shift of work, physically and mentally. I ended up reading lots of books on my phone and decided to finally watch The West Wing, and used wireless earphones and a Jackery charger to keep my phone juiced up so that I could stick to it with breastfeeding. Win.
A lot of wireless earphones can have a high price tag, but here are some more affordable ones that also have good reviews: Skullcandy Sesh Wireless Ear Buds. Send it with a gift receipt so they can exchange for what they need most, or, better yet, text them and ask “Do you have wireless earphones? Can I splurge and get you some while you’re navigating the next year with your baby, or would you rather I buy you a big box of diapers? I’d love to help!”
This handy night light. This anti-blue light LED night light by Vava is customizable, rechargeable and comes with a convenient charging base. You can easily adjust the dimness to keep the light at a soothing level during late night feedings. It also has a built-in timer to turn off after your baby goes back to sleep. I loved just how low the light was—when we were co-sleeping with the baby, we could tap it on a tiny amount and it let me see in the dark without waking the baby—which was great, because in the pitch black, I’d go crashing around the room and end up with a stubbed toe and a crying newborn. It also was so dim that we didn’t blast ourselves awake, helping us stay asleep longer.
Or this handy sound machine. This sound machine night light combo lets you customize color, brightness, sound, and volume level, all of which can be adjusted as your child grows. This light was perfect for our toddler and now almost-four year old: he knows that nighttime or nap time is over when the green light comes on, and even if he wakes up early, doesn’t get out of bed until the light switches to let him know nighttime is over. This has been our sanity in teaching our kids to stay in bed until 6AM.
New sheets or a weighted blanket. Sleep? What is sleep? Sleep will be a long-lost sanctuary for new parents. A few months after our first, my husband and I upgraded to a king sized bed and vowed to do whatever we could to help us get more of that precious sleep we so desperately needed. Text your parent friends and ask, “How’s your bed? Comfy enough? Can I send you a set of new sheets or my favorite weighted blanket for deeper relaxation?”
A memory foam mattress topper. We also loved this memory foam topper ($67 for a Queen). It seemed someone was always getting out of bed to help the baby go back to sleep, and the extra foam topper helped us stop bouncing each other awake every 90 minutes. The two-inch foam has been one of our greatest sleep investments.
Room-darkening curtains. Most curtains say they are room darkening and are laughably bad. These panels by Moondream are both sound-blocking and room-darkening and are weighty and thick, and cut both the noise and light down considerably for our house. When you’re sleeping however you can, getting your bedroom right is important.
Want to splurge on a bigger item? While a top-of-the-line stroller, car seat, or crib might be too much for you to gift on your own, consider gifting cash towards a higher-priced gift, or go in with friends to buy one big present.
[Struggling with the early days of parenting? You’re not alone. Listen to Kimberly Ann Johnson explain The Fourth Trimester and how hard it can be to nourish a new parent in today’s culture.]
New parents gifts for every day help and kindness
Coffee (or tea). Another cup of whatever-you-prefer is going to help these new parents get through the day. Keep the good stuff coming with a subscription service. Here’s a good one for coffee and a good one for tea.
A good (and helpful) read. For new parents to really tackle all of the changes coming their way, some inside information is key. Parent Hacks by Asha Dornfest offers “134 genius hacks for life with kids” and is often on sale for $6-$9 for a copy. Perfect!
A self care minute (or thirty). From lack of sleep to adjusting to a whole new lifestyle to recovering from birth, a massage for a new mom (or any new parent) is a perfect gift. Send her away for the afternoon, offer to babysit, or schedule an in-house massage with a traveling pre-and post-natal massage therapist. Come clean the house while she takes a bath. Just remember that some parents don’t feel comfortable leaving the house (or their baby) for the first six months or even the first year, so offering to babysit may feel challenging or uncomfortable. If you can come help around the house and give parents a moment to nap, read books, or watch TV in the bedroom together alone-ish, that can be a huge kindness. Don’t take the baby away from mom or dad until they are ready, and be flexible about how you give help.
Fitness—what fitness? Ha! Some parents love exercising and will miss it—I did. It’s hard to find time for yourself when a baby needs your attention constantly. If your friends loved exercising and have talked about wanting to get back into it, ask them if they’d like a membership to an in-home routine, like Aaptiv or Peloton or something else. Better yet, research and find a parent’s walking group for them and send options. Tread lightly with this one (pun intended), because it can take a while for people to feel ready and able to be active again, and our culture is not kind to new moms about how quickly they should look and feel better. This is a gift best given if you know your friend really well, and/or they’ve been talking about wanting to exercise and you send them these links as research you found.
Above all, be there. Offer to bring by snacks or a listening ear. Help prepare some food or do a few loads of laundry. Pick up the phone and ask what they need (mid-day Target run? Diapers? Someone to bounce and feed the baby while they nap?) Be prepared to jump in and also be ready to tap out when the new parents need some alone time or don’t feel like having people over, even if it is to help.
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