My youngest boys are 17 months apart and we don't have any family here. We don't know a whole lot of people so here, so there were no baby showers or casserole trains. However, we did receive some gifts in the mail and some monetary gifts, for which I am SO appreciative. Those things are indeed nice, especially if it's your first child. However, in the wee hours of the night and during those sleepless early days of exhaustion what I really needed couldn't be bought at Target.
Even if you don't know a person that well, take the time to call her or send an email to see how they're holding up. Being in a place far from home, it was comforting when friends and family would call or someone would send me a message online but I still felt kind of lonely not knowing too many people here. It can be really isolating as a mom stuck in the house all day anywhere, let alone in a new place. It was nice to know someone was thinking about me and my family.
That being said, what tops a phone call? A small token, from one mother to another, acknowledging the difficulties faced in those early days. New moms don't always feel like it's okay to let go. It's okay for them to be exhausted. It's okay for them to cry and to be unsure. It's okay to just start crying out of the blue because you are so happy to be holding this baby. It's okay to ask visitors to wait before coming over. It's okay for your house to be messy and one of the most important things- It's okay to ask for help and to accept help from those who want to give it to you. It's a joyful time but it is also a time filled with lots of emotions and I truly think that it does indeed take a village to raise a child.
If you are so inclined to want to give something to a new mom home with baby, here are a few ideas that I would suggest. Some of the items could be put in a "care package" for a "special delivery". I'm going to try to list them in my own preference for importance.
Number One: House Cleaning
Because who has time to clean showers now? Seriously, this is not something that I would be able to spend money on as a regular thing, but if someone purchased this service for me, I would definitely be so thankful. When there is a new baby, all attention and focus is on caring for the baby. There is really no time for cleaning house and a messy house just adds stress to a new mom. This is definitely a gift that will be appreciated. You may want to give the gift before the baby comes as mom might want to use it before baby's arrival to keep minimal interruptions after baby comes.
As far as cost goes, I've seen deals on Groupon or Living Social for companies in my area significantly reducing the cost of these services. Watch for these to come up. For example, I just snagged 2 hours of cleaning for $50. If you are short on cash, another idea might be to clean her house yourself. She will probably never want to take you up on that offer so you may have to coordinate this with her significant other on how to do that.
Number Two: Food (because she is going to be ravenous)
Something to Drink/Snacks
I'm going to list this one first because honestly this is the area that did me in. I would be upstairs, nursing the baby and I would be SO thirsty and/or SO hungry. I would also get so unreasonable upset at my husband because I thought he should KNOW that I'm hungry and thirsty and bring me something. You know how we think they're supposed to read our brain waves.
My favorite snacks were KIND bars and coconut water. I did order these once through Amazon but they are so expensive....would have been a great gift.
Another idea, especially for nursing moms is a nice water bottle. Women need to drink lots of water when they are nursing and it's easy to forget. This might encourage moms to get in the habit of filling one of these up and leaving at their nursing station.
There is no time to think about what to cook for dinner after the baby comes home. Before my son was born I tried my best to stock my freezer with meals that could be popped in the oven. I had a decent amount of meals, but we went through them pretty fast. If you are preparing frozen meals, be sure to check with mom on any dietary restrictions she may have and you may also want to avoid foods that are typically avoided while nursing so as not to upset the baby if mom is nursing. Also remember to write down the meal and instructions on the packaging so mom and dad don't have to guess how to cook the meal.
Homemade Meals and/or Finger Foods
If you want to bring something fresh, I would say that's okay too. One thing that I would suggest would be anything that mom can eat with one hand. There will not be many hours in the day where mom will be without baby. It seems to me that by the time I would get the baby to sleep and then down for a nap, he would be up again and ready to nurse. Mom is going to need food that can be eaten with one hand. One suggestion might be a sandwich, fruit, or vegetable tray....dessert tray optional.
Gift Certificate for Grocery To Go or Delivery Service
Many grocery store chains now offer online ordering and curb side pick up. If this is something available in your area, a month or two paid in advance may be welcomed by the family.
Grocery delivery is something else to consider. I know that may larger cities have this now. Where I'm at there is also a service that specializes in local and organic foods. Again, this is not something that I would be able to justify as a regular thing, but something that would be fun and definitely helpful to have.
Gift certificates for restaurants that offer healthy options for delivery or take out might be another option to consider.
Offer to Take Older Children
I was so blessed to have my mother in law here to help me after the new baby arrived. Her main role was to take care of my toddler. There was no way I was up to the task of chasing him around and it was so nice to know that his needs were being met as our family adjusted to the new baby.
If a mom you know just had a new baby, offer to take her other children as a play date or take them to the park for a couple of hours. You may offer to pick up or take older children to their extra curricular activities. Make sure you make it as easy for mom as possible.
Number Three: Care Package
Now you can add some of the above items to a care package if you want but a nice welcome home gift might be to combine some of the following small items in a basket:
Bottle of Wine
Gift Certificates (maybe to one of the above ideas)
Hand and Face Wipes
Nipple Cream (appreciated if she's breastfeeding)