5 min read
by Aliya Bonar | December 16, 2021
When we introduced our baby to friends and family, one of the first questions was: “How’s he sleeping?” Older folks — especially our parents, aunts, uncles — had a hint of glee in their voice, like they were finally on the other side of some parental hazing ritual. “He’s keeping you up all night, right?”
On behalf of new parents everywhere, I'd like to formally ask you to please stop asking this question.
Yes, my baby is sleeping terribly. He is a baby. He literally has to learn how to do everything, including how to fall asleep and stay asleep for an entire night. It’s a very incremental process. Most babies don’t sleep six-hour stretches until they’re nine months old. So when I hear that question, I feel inadequate about my parenting, on top of being reminded I haven’t slept an uninterrupted night in a very long time.
Eventually it dawned on me: my friends and family weren’t hazing me, they just wanted to connect and weren't sure how. I get that — when someone you know has a baby, you're not sure how the relationship might change, what is really going on for them, or how you can support them in this new chapter.
Instead of asking about baby sleep, here are some other ways you can meaningfully reach out:
• Food is definitely appreciated. Don't worry about getting too fancy with it: crackers, cheese, hummus, fruit, or anything they can eat without prep is amazing. If you don’t live nearby, sending gift certificates for take-out nearby is so welcomed; making dinner is the last thing on a new parent’s mind.
• If you're nearby, offer to cover some of their errands: "Hey, I’m at the grocery store / pharmacy / drug store nearby — what can I pick up for you?”
• If you drop by, make sure you are respecting the family’s space. Do not show up sick, and definitely wash your hands when you arrive. *Bonus points* for washing their dishes, tidying, or doing a load of laundry without being asked.
• A new big brother or sister might love going on a walk or playing a game with you. They are also adjusting to a big life change, and may not be getting the attention they are used to.
• All parents need support in different ways — even non-birthing parents. Ask how they're feeling, physically or emotionally, and if there's anything they want to vent about or get off their chest.
• Ask the parents about their baby’s name and the story behind it, or about a favorite moment as a new family so far. This time of transition can be stressful, but it is also incredibly beautiful.
• Listen actively and make sure that any advice or stories you share are supportive to the new family without adding comparison or stress.
• Everything changes week-by-week for a baby developing and a new parent recovering. You reaching out with a text or a call reminds the new family that there’s a village out there to lean on, metaphorically or physically.
• Postpartum depression can show up months after a baby is born and can affect non-birthing parents too. It’s never too late to check in — plus, parents are usually eager to share recent baby pictures!
My baby just celebrated his first birthday. We’ve finally gotten into a good rhythm, but each night is a new adventure — you never know if he’ll sleep solidly ‘til 7am, wake up feverish and crabby three times, or randomly decide he’s ready to start the day at 4:45am. I'm no longer triggered by folks asking how he's sleeping, but honestly, there are way more fun things to talk about.
Pro tip: Thinx for postpartum bleeding. Yes, I work for Thinx, but no I’m not being paid for this opinion. It just was so comforting to wear “normal underwear” instead of gigantic pads or plastic undies from the hospital while I was adjusting to my new body and a new routine. So now I make sure all my pregnant friends have a couple pairs ready for them after birth — it’s just another way I reach out and support the new family.
How have you supported new parents in your life? For folks who are parents, how would you have loved to be supported during that time? Let us know in the comments!
Aliya Bonar is a Project Manager at Thinx.
by Aliya Bonar