About a month ago I received an email from one of our expecting mothers, her message exuded stress because her new baby was born too early and now was in the NICU. Knowing that she needed comfort and support I turned to my business Facebook account and asked what advice could mothers give to another mother when their baby is born too early and now in the care of the local NICU.
The responses were heartfelt, well written and beautiful. I did not want those sweet words of encouragement to get lost among the daily posts of social media and decided to share their messages here. The next time a mother messages, I can send her here, to read the words of other mother’s who have stood in her very shoes. In the hope’s she receives the comfort she needs during that time.
A special thank you to these wonderful mothers who took the time to give hope, advice, and reassurance. I appreciate you all reaching out!
Two months for baby pictures is quite different from a newborn session. Still small and new but they are so aware of what is going on! When you move a two month old they will stare because they know you are not their loved one, they are not as flexible when fresh from the womb and they are very, very curious!
Two months is amazing for personality! Big smiles and smirks, belly laughs and giggles.
This sweet girl wasn’t too happy about her session in the beginning but had a little nap and then woke up in the happiest mood!
We first met Declan when he was only a few days old at his newborn session and his Mom signed him for to capture her baby’s first year with our Baby Plan.
This round Declan was full of sweet smiles as he watched his crazy photographer make funny noises to capture his attention.
He was sitting up somewhat steady (with Mom super close to help him if he lost his balance). It was a bit chilly but we were done within a very short time period because he was such a happy baby!
My favourite image is him in his little lion costume, he was all set for Hallowe’en!
It isn’t very often when you receive a message asking if you would be interested in helping another photographer with a session and even rarer to hear it will be for triplets! Miranda O’Leary messaged and asked if I was interested and was I EVER! We spent time coordinating and planning the session, knowing they would be older and have a few health challenges. We knew that three little babies meant there were no guarantees and our goal was ONE picture for Mom and Dad. Between Miranda, myself, Miranda’s sister, Mom and Dad and great aunt and grandma…yes it took a crew…but we worked HARD and between the two of us were able to give them a full session. This was by far the most challenging session to date.
Miranda and I had to pull out every trick in our books. We worked as a team and both shot these amazing little babies. The craziest part? Two photographer shooting the SAME set ups (because we realized very quickly that changing them around was NOT going to be possible, they were very alert, very touchy and very easily disturbed), with the SAME props…NOT the same pictures. They were completely different looking due to camera’s, lighting, lenses, editing…it was a great learning experience for the both of us and we enjoyed working together so much!
Working with triplets was on my bucket list for photography and although it was the most challenging session to date it was also one of the most gratifying of my career.
Sessions with little babies can be a challenge because you are trying to make them smile….but this music loving baby was the exception! He smiled sweetly for the first part of his session and when our animal sounds started to wear thin his smart mama brought out a ukulele.
I first I thought she wanted to use it as a prop but NO! The moment she strummed her fingers along the strings he burst into smiles and belly laughs! His giggles were contagious and soon we were all laughing and giggling with him!
His milestone baby session was in classic neutral colours and with a touch of fun with red suspenders!
How can you really help new parents? It doesn’t matter if they are the first baby or the fourth, those tiny people come with big personalities and sometimes their wants and needs are hard to understand and meet. Friends and family want to be able to pitch in to make it a bit easier for Mom and Dad…but time to time they can unknowingly can add to the stress.
After having five babies of my own and realizing that every baby comes with new challenges and needs. I also have the chance to talk with new parents at my studio I could give some solid advice on how to really help new parents!
1. Bring Food
Sleep deprivation is the biggest challenge with all new families and spending the time to create yummy and nutritious meals may not be high on the priority list. Giving them the gift of not having to leave for the grocery store (those first trips out with a new baby and figuring out where the car seat goes in a grocery cart can be harrowing!), the gift of time not spent preparing and the feeling of taken care of in a way that is thoughtful and meaningful is AMAZING!
Not sure where to find a good recipe? Check to see if they have a Pinterest account and possibly a Food Board! AllRecipes.com is another great place to check for yummy dishes (they also have great reviews from others who have prepared the dish beforehand!).
When choosing a dish consider any dietary requirement (lactose or gluten friendly?), something that can freeze well (just in case your friends all read this blog too and had the same idea…but trust me, you can never have enough prepared meals!) and use a disposable dish so that the new Mom doesn’t need to wash and return (or forget to return like me and feel guilt for a few months).
Hate cooking? Buy some fresh fruit and vegetables (enough for one week), packaged salads, pre cooked meat, etc. Think healthy, fast and convenient. It doesn’t need to be fancy!
2. Offer Your Laundry Service
Many new Moms do not want someone going through their own dirty clothes but offering to wash baby’s clothes and towels would be lovely (but if you can convince Mom to allow you to wash hers too more the better!).
Grab the hampers and take them home, wash, dry and return folded. You will be forever remembered in the first days of baby’s life!
Be aware that baby clothes may need a gentler soap like Ivory Snow or Tide Clear and Gentle.
If Mom hands you cloth diapers…please pay attention and write down her washing routine ( the wrong washing routine with cloth diapers can cause damage or additional work for mom). If unsure possible use Mom’s machine just in case.
3. Offer Babysitting
Not of new baby but rather of the siblings. Bringing home new baby and having young toddlers at home can be daunting. Ask Mom if you could take them for an hour in the morning to give her a break (or a nap if she has had a long night). Stick to the toddlers own napping schedule to keep them happy and their return will be easier on Mom.
Little ones will enjoy some one on one time and attention and Mom can have a few hours to nap or relax.
4. Doggie Care
Do they have a much-loved pooch who is now feeling a bit displaced? Offer dog walking for a few weeks. Puppy gets some pent-up energy burned off, you get some exercise and new parents can relax knowing that while they adjust to their new life that puppy will mentally and physically taken care of.
Take your kindness a step further by doing some or the puppy potty spots in the yard.
5. Sick? Stay Away
You have been waiting MONTHS to see this new baby! You have seen every picture on Facebook and Instagram and cannot WAIT to hold the little one!! The day arrives and you have a bad cold but you will wash your hands and will take some decongestants.
Don’t. Stay home. Babies are so vulnerable the first few months. Mom has just given birth and is healing. They do not need to be sick and you can prevent it.
Give the gift of good health and stay home.
6. You May Know the Best Way…so Zip Your Lips
Our studio sees over one hundred babies and children a year and we chat with parents every time. Every child is different and every parent is different. There are thousands of books and millions of opinions on how to parent best. You may know a few guaranteed ways…but zip your lips. Parents really want to know they are doing a good job. They do not need to know there was a better way….yours.
Instead, if a new Mom tells you have baby will only fall asleep nursing and you feel the best way is to fall asleep in their crib…don’t tell them that. Recognize, acknowledge and compliment that Mom found how her baby, who is completely difference from every other baby in the world, falls asleep!
If Moms asks for advice offer what you know…but remind her this, ‘You do what works’.
7. Watch The Clock
She may have been your best friend/sister before and you may be over the moon and want to absorb those baby cuddles as much as you can…but she is now a mother, and may have been woken hourly for 3 days straight. She may be so exhausted and wants you to keep worshipping this new little love but please watch your time…because while baby sleeps so could she.
Come back often and use good common sense that when they say they had a good night stay a bit longer…but if she looks tired and swears she isn’t, you know the truth.
Going from a working woman to caring for a newborn is hard! Having a set routine with older siblings and mobility (play groups, trips to grocery store) and now changing to being home 24/7 is difficult on new parents and often when Dad leaves, it is very isolating.
Motherhood can be very, very lonely. Harder when baby has high needs.
Call and visit. Find out the best time to drop by, bring conversation and laughs. Come in comfy clothes and hang out. This can be the greatest gift to new mothers!
Even with a busy work schedule, if you lunch hour at work will allow it, pop by for a quick-lunch.
Call them often and even if the trials of diaper rash and late nights is out of your realm, just the simple act of listening is one of the dearest and kindest gifts you can give your friend.
Ask if you can run some errands for them. Need a few things at the grocery store? Need something from the pharmacy? Ask if you can offer this service to them. In the day of Paypal and emailing money from bank to bank, there is no need for them to run out and give you cash. They can simply send you the money at a later time.
Bringing home a new baby is a surreal experience. They left with expectations and excitement and the rawness of reality is immense. There will be the adjustment for some families with pets and older siblings. Mothers may struggle with the healing. As adrenalin wears off and sleep deprivation sets in, parents fully feel the exhaustion hit their bodies.
Well meaning families, friends and neighbours may begin to arrive. Proud of their new little one, parents will entertain. Feeling the need to clean, feed and show off their baby…when all the desire is to be alone. To be able to sleep when baby sleep, to be able to hold their baby, to just stare in silence. To enjoy their ‘Baby Moon’.
Give them space, respect those who request it.
I hope these little tips may help you give new parents what they really want and to solidify that your (non) gift is truly one that made this magic and amazing time in their lives even better!