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New moms are in strange territory. An adorable little parasite takes over her body for about 40 weeks, then, when she decides she’s over that whole being inside her thing, the baby makes a sudden exit—and everything changes. Her time is not her own, her body is not her own (particularly if she is breastfeeding), her brain is not your own. Also, while her body might have changed, she still only has two hands.
This is where you come in. If your friend, cousin or sister just had a baby, she needs you—and for a lot more than cooing at the cuteness.

Kenrya Rankin is a Washington, DC-area based doula who also offers lactation services and works with new mothers to empower them as they get on their parenting path. Here, she answers questions that will help you to figure out how to get your friend some much needed help (and maybe a shower!).

What do you think is the very best thing a woman can do for her friend when her friend has just had a baby?

Offer very specific help. So often we say, “Let me know if you need anything!” There are two problems with this. One, moms might not know exactly what help they need. Two, your homegirl could suffer from an ailment that’s common among women who are used to doing it all: She has real trouble asking for help. Either way, a blanket offer for assistance is rarely called in. Here are some concrete things you can offer to do:

• Watch the baby while she showers.

• Go grocery shopping.

• Walk her dog on a regular schedule.

• Coordinate meal delivery from your group of friends.

• Take her older children for an outing.

• Do laundry.

• Cook a meal or prep snacks that she can eat with one hand.

What is the very worst thing a friend could say (or do) to her new mom girlfriend?

The worst thing is anything that feeds into her fears as a new mom. Every new mother I’ve ever met—including myself—spends an inordinate about of time doubting her ability to fill these new, massive, poopy, exhausting shoes. So don’t tell her she’s not swaddling the baby the way her perfect frenemy does, or hint that she needs to start working out if she wants to lose all of that baby weight, or tell her stories about horrible moms you read about online. Oh, and don’t tell her that she should sleep when the baby sleeps—it will just piss her off, I promise.

What can exhausted, overwhelmed new moms do to ask their friends for help in a constructive way that will really get them what they need?

First, speak up. Closed mouths don’t get fed, so if you need help, you have to request it. Now is not the time for keeping up illusions—in fact, it’s detrimental to being your best, most supported self in a time when support is everything.Next, be specific. If you just want someone to make sure your kid is breathing while you handle wash day duties, say so. Have no energy to stand at the stove? Ask your girl who makes the bomb lasagna to bake one for your house, then reward her with baby time when she comes to drop it off. I promise that your friends are itching to both help you and get some time with your baby. Two birds, one stone.

What if she is too tired to know what she needs done?When you first wake up tomorrow morning, after the baby has nursed and passed back out and you are feeling your most awake, sit down and make a list of the things that perpetually need to be done in your house. These are the tasks that it never feels like you can quite check off, because the moment they are done, you have to do them again. Write those things down and stick the list on the refrigerator so that if someone pops over for a visit, you can direct them to pick an item. Tasks to consider adding: Load or unload the dishwasher. Vacuum. Empty the trashcans. Take the dog for a walk.

What are some of the things you’ve done to help your new mom friend out—from errands to catering? Let us know below.

Baby Talk: How To Be A Great Friend To A New Mom  was originally published on hellobeautiful.com

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