Tips for Supporting New Parents with Lizzie Williams: Podcast Episode #239
May 22, 2024

Tips for Supporting New Parents with Lizzie Williams: Podcast Episode #239

Tips for supporting your friends who just had a baby with former Gold Coast Doulas client, Lizzie Williams.  Kristin and Lizzie chat about everything from creating an intentional baby registry to her top tips for supporting new parents in the latest episode of Ask the Doulas.  Lizzie contributed to our new book, Supported: Your Guide to Birth and Baby. 

Hello, hello!  This is Kristin with Ask the Doulas, and I am thrilled to chat with my friend Lizzie Williams.  Lizzie has a background in marketing and communications and lives in Grand Rapids with her husband, two teenage stepsons, and their two-year-old daughter.  Lizzie was a student in the Becoming A Mother course and also utilized our postpartum doula services.

Hey, Lizzie!

Hey, Kristin!

I am so excited to chat with you.  You have been such a wealth of knowledge when it comes to spreading the word about support options, and you were recently featured in a local magazine with tips on supporting parents and friends and had so much helpful advice that I asked you to hop on Ask the Doulas.

Yeah, I’m excited to be on.  I’ve been what they call a long time listener, first time caller.

I love it!  Thanks for listening.  So what are some of your tips?  I know in both the Becoming A Mother course and just sharing in our group and also in your article and in the contribution to our upcoming book, Supported, you had talked a lot about how before you had kids, you didn’t really know how to support friends who were expecting or new parents.

Yeah, totally.  I felt like when I had my daughter, Betty, it was like people came out of the woodwork with support and love and were pouring into me and my husband and our kids in ways that I was blown away by.  And I’m like, how do you guys know how to do this?  How did you know that I would need that thing, or that this little moment would mean so much to me?  So I was talking, actually, with a coworker about it at the time who didn’t have kids herself, and she was just like, can you just give me some info on – now that you know how people can show up for you, can you share that with others so that the rest of us can be better friends and better family members?  And I was like yeah, I’m going to take some notes!  So I’ve actually been thinking about this for almost two years because of that, because of my friend Andrea kind of asking those questions.

So I did take some notes and tried to really pay attention to the things that people did for us that were really helpful and just made that transition into being a parent of a newborn a little bit easier.  Of course, my Becoming course crew was also, I would say, a critical little group of people.  I was thinking about it last night because my daughter is having some leap regression as a toddler, and I was in her bedroom at 1:00 in the morning, and I was having flashbacks to late night feedings where you’re just scrolling your phone.  And I would post sometimes on a private social media channel for the students that were in your Becoming course, and I would post on there, does anybody know anything about this?  Whatever it was.  Almost inevitably, somebody by 8:00 a.m., by the morning, would have responded to me, like, “Reaching out!  Here’s a couple things I’ve thought about!”  So I guess I would say my first note is finding a community and being a community.  Whether you’ve had kids already or not, new parents need community and need the classic village to support them and love them, and as a new parent, you also need to accept that.

Absolutely.  Whether it’s a new parent support group or a breastfeeding group or something virtual like the Becoming A Mother course, people who are going through the same thing at the same time.  It’s so important because, again, whether it’s teething or sleep regressions or baby proofing your house, things come up.  I know with my kids, being preteens, so much has changed since I was in the early parenting phase that my advice, if I wasn’t a doula and working with newborns and pregnant individuals, I wouldn’t have that ability to give good advice.

Oh, my gosh, yes.  My husband has two older kids, so I have teenagers that I live with, as you mentioned, so 18 and 14.  And I would say to him, Steve, what’s going on here?  What is this thing that this baby is doing?  What do we need to know?  And he’s like, I can’t even remember, both because it had been a while, and it’s such a blur when you’re in it.  And things change.  Recommendations change.  He was like, I have to relearn all this stuff right along with you.

Absolutely.  Things from safe sleep to just feeding options.  Bottles are so different.  Pumps are so different.  It all changes constantly, and technology being involved in parenting, whether it’s the monitors and things that are just beyond what I had as a new parent.

Yes.  I guess within that vein is helping people, if they don’t have that network of others, whether it’s moms or dads or support people – helping them find that can be really critical.  Recently, I started a little new moms group for people specifically who are new to West Michigan, which is where I live.  And it was mostly because if you’re new to the area and you also don’t have anyone in your life that’s got a baby, it can be super isolating.  That was a space that I knew I could help a few people find connection in.  And I love seeing the texts like, okay, can somebody help me with this one thing?  It is walking along the path with people who are at the same stage as you.  It can be hugely impactful.

Exactly.  That is so beautiful, and especially if they don’t have friends or family nearby.  We have so many people moving to West Michigan for work, and no matter where you are in the country, people are moving more than ever.  But I also find that many clients have lived in other cities and states and then end up moving back before their baby is born to get that support from family.  So it goes kind of both ways, either moving here for work, or moving back and not having friends or that support network, other than the grandparents. 

Totally.  And even in that regard, my mom was so sweet.  My mom lives in the area, and I was again thinking about it in prep for this podcast, but it’s like, I think my mom called me every single day for the first four months that my daughter was here, and it was such a gift to have that, knowing that she was going to call and knowing that I was going to have somebody to be able to talk to.  But even that, again, she didn’t – she wasn’t the person I was going to for specifics.  She was just showing me love.  And you need both.  I needed to just know that I was loved and cared for and could tell somebody a stupid story, but then I also needed other mom friends who I could ask those more specific questions for the people who are in the weeds with you.  Like, I’m six and a half weeks.  What am I looking for?  What is my baby going to do tomorrow?  And these other parents kind of show up and say, okay, I’m at seven and a half weeks, and here’s what I’m seeing.  You kind of need both, people in the trenches with you and then people just loving on you, checking in on you, asking how you’re doing.  It’s definitely a combo, I would say.

Absolutely.  And yeah, we have a grandparents class just for that reason, to try to get grandparents who want to help up to speed on everything from car seats to childproofing their home.  Many grandparents are now caregivers when maternity and paternity leave ends just because we’re in a childcare crisis right now.  It’s almost forced on grandparents, and they don’t know all of the changes in feeding and sleep.  So that’s been utilized more recently than even when we started Gold Coast and introduced it.

That’s a great idea.  I didn’t know that you did that, but I can totally imagine how it helps sort of neutralize some of those conversations as well, instead of as a mom or dad, that you’re like asking your parents to do something differently than how they did it, having a neutral party like Gold Coast coming in and just providing up to date information.  It would be super helpful.

Right.  Those conversations can be awkward.


So what are your tips for friends who maybe haven’t had kids to support their friends and family members who are going through a major life change, whether it’s baby number one or baby number three?  There are still a lot of care that’s needed in this isolating time.

Totally.  I think for me, and maybe this is because I’m not someone that loves to cook, and cooking always feel kind of like a chore at our house between my husband and I, but the meal train was an absolute gift.  I think my sister was the one who set it up, but we had people dropping off meals probably three times a week for the first couple months.  And it was amazing.  And some days, I was feeling like I wanted to hide and I was not prepared to see anyone, and I remember one of my friends dropped off something on the porch, and I literally – she almost saw me, and I crawled into my office so she wouldn’t see me because I was just like, I do not have the energy to talk.  I can’t do this right now.  And then other days when somebody would be dropping something off, I would have a jolt of energy, or I’d just want to talk.  And so the meal train was nourishing for our bodies, and it took something huge off our plate, which was meal prep, but it also allowed an opportunity to either see people if you wanted to.  Even just a couple minute conversation when you’re in the trenches can be a real life saver at times, and it can give you kind of a perspective shift if you’re feeling a little off, which you do feel off.

You do, absolutely.  And to have adult company even for a few minutes can make a big difference.  The days can be really long when partners are going back to work and you’re in an empty house with this baby and exhausted and feeling like you’re constantly feeding.  No matter how you feed, there’s still that feeling like it never ends. 

Yes.  So I would say that was my number one biggest thing, help with some meals.  There’s an online website called Meal Train where people can actually put in if you’ve got dietary restrictions or how many kids are in the home.  You can kind of customize to what your own family’s needs are, which can be really helpful because then it doesn’t leave people wondering, oh, I don’t know if she eats dairy.  You know, it just allows you to put all that information out there, and then your friends are able to support you in a way that feels good to you.  That was great.  And it’s funny; I had met a friend recently who moved from Chicago, and she had her third baby.  We set up a meal train for her, and she was like, what is this?  This is amazing.  I’ve never felt so cared for.  And I’m like, yeah.  You need it not just for the first kid.  You need it for any kid, or even major surgery.  It’s just such a good way to support people with whatever challenge they’re going through in life.  It just takes such a big burden off their plate.

Absolutely.  And I feel like there’s so much more attention spent on the first baby, but you often need that support more when you have other kids at home.  You even mentioned the teenagers that need to eat all of the time.  It’s so important.

Yes.  So that’s my number one is help nourish people because your body – especially if somebody’s breastfeeding, their body is just going through a lot.  Another thing that a couple of my girlfriends did that I was not aware of was they made little lactation cookies or even these little lactation muffin bites that were just packed with veggies and healthy grains and low on sugar, and they were for those late nights when you need a nibble.  For me, having never done this before, I was not prepared for how often I was finding myself hungry, as somebody who was breastfeeding.  I need a lot of snacks!

Absolutely.  And to keep up supply requires a lot of hydration.  Sometimes the extra like you mentioned, the teas and cookies, can make a big difference.

Yes.  Even a delicious drink was so thoughtful and so nice.  One of my girlfriends works around my house, and she would drop off a little coffee for me.  It’s such a little thing, but it was so thoughtful.  Or a little kombucha, just something to serve as a little delight in your day.  It can feel so profound in these moments when you’re just really beat, really tired, and really overwhelmed.  Those little moments of love that people have the opportunity to show you are both easy for them and very meaningful for you.

Yes.  And food is such an act of service and love, whether you make it yourself for someone or you utilize a catering or delivery service.


I know for friends of mine out of town, I will utilize a service.  A friend had twins, and I had food delivered for her and her husband after that first night.

Totally.  The same for me.  One of my girlfriends, after I had my daughter – she had a little boy – and she lives in a different state.  And so I’m like, oh, man, I wish I could help her in this way that others have been helping me.  But I just ended up sending her a Door Dash gift card, and I could just text it to her, and maybe it’s not as amazing, but if it made her life just a little bit easier, then it’s worth it.

Yes, absolutely.  So, Lizzie, outside of gift cards and meals, what are your other tips for supporting new parents?

I think inviting them on a walk can be a really nice way to both help them kind of get outside, get some fresh air, and also just sort of meet them where they are.  That was something helpful for me, at least, because it meant that they were coming to me, so I didn’t have to load the baby up in the car seat and sort of go somewhere.  It could be as simple as just walking down your street, or you could go for a longer cruise.  For me, when I would go with some of my friends who were already parents, it was an opportunity for me to pepper them with questions, basically, and say what about this?  What about this?  What about this?  And that was very helpful.  It was just like dedicated time together, but I felt like I wasn’t having to step away from my baby to get it, if that makes sense.

It does!  It’s hard to find a sitter.  You often don’t want to leave your baby as an early parent, and so it’s nice to have that community and also be able to get some vitamin D and do some light exercise.  It’s so important.

So that was a really helpful one for me.  Sometimes one of my friends would offer to run an errand with me, which was, again, so helpful.  If you’re just popping in to a couple little places – for me, there’s a bakery nearby that I love to go to – and it’s like, cool, if she can just hop in the car with me – again, so I don’t have to be unloading the car seat and putting it back in, because that is heavy.  Much heavier than I anticipated.

And you’re not supposed to be lifting after delivery, so it’s like you want to avoid some of that, and to have a friend in the car to help is huge, or a doula!

Exactly.  Those little things – that’s for your super close kind of besties that you’re like, get in the car.  We’re running errands, you know?  But that can be anyone.  And I also actually found that specifically for my friends who didn’t have kids yet, one thing that was really nice is that they could come over after my daughter was asleep, and that was such a gift because my sister, for example, who had an 18-month-old when my daughter was born – we really couldn’t see each other in the evenings because we were both kind of doing nighttime routines, whereas my brother and his girlfriend, now his wife, they could pop over and come over at 8:00.  They could bring some snacks or we could play a game and kind of feel back to normal a little bit because they had the flexibility around time.  It was so nice having a blend of friends who didn’t have kids and friends who do have kids so that you can kind of balance out your world a little bit.

Yeah, it is helpful to have family at a similar stage.  I have a lot of siblings, and I was pregnant at the same time as two of my sisters-in-law, so going through all of those life stages at the same time was very helpful, and dealing with holidays and family meals and so on – it made it so much easier to have family with babies a similar age.

Definitely.  A couple other things that came to my mind: one is so simple, but I really noticed it when I went back to work.  When people asked about my daughter by her name, it just – I don’t know, it kind of shifted something in my heart, I guess, where I’d be like, oh, this person really cares about me.  They’re really listening and they’re really paying attention and they’re not just asking about like, oh, how’s the baby?  They’re saying, how’s Betty?  It was like, I’m listening.  I care about you.  And just hearing that when you’re on a work call or in a board room or whatever, it can just soften your whole approach in a way that I felt was really meaningful to me.  That’s just a simple one that I think that anybody could kind of take note of, I guess.

So what are your other tips?  I know you have many!

I know, I’ve got so many different ways of thinking about things.  I think a couple things that I just didn’t think about how nice they would be – I did not expect how much clothes you would go through at the early stages.  Every time my aunt would come over, she would kind of casually leave behind a little PJ set or whatever, and I’m like, why does she keep leaving these pjs?  All of a sudden I’m like, oh, it’s because we’re going through a bazillion onesies.  Oh, because these are very helpful to have more of.  I would say even just leaving something little if you are stopping by was so sweet.  The board books – again, I kind of thought, okay, these are going to be just for the little babies, but my daughter is two, and she still loves looking through board books.  They last a while, and so anytime you can kind of think about something that’s related to maybe you and your friend or your family member that would make that board book a little special for the baby and for the parent.  For example, I worked in technology, so we would send out to all of our employees that had babies a little book about little baby technologists and first words in tech.  It’s something related to that, where even now that I don’t work there even now, but when I read that book to my daughter, I still have fond memories of my colleagues who sent that to me.  So put in a tiny little extra mental energy and try to think about something that relates to you or your relationship to your friend, family member, or coworker, whoever it is that added that little baby to their lives.

That’s so thoughtful.  And it is great when employers are able to put together care packages that sort of tie into the work that you do but also value you as a parent and want to support you in that journey.

Absolutely.  Yeah, it is so nice.  One of my other coworkers, she actually went online and found my baby registry.  I didn’t send it to her.  She just searched and found it, and then when my daughter was born, she shipped some items that hadn’t been purchased, and they showed up at my house.  It was so sweet, so thoughtful.  It didn’t take that much effort from her; it just took a little bit of intentionality.  And it really was just such a sweet surprise from her.  So that was another good one.  And then care packages that also focus on the parents or the other kids in the home, if there are other kids in the home, can be so sweet, just reminding them that they are human.  Any little treats for them can be really nice.  Like some cozy new slippers or a blanket.  My sister-in-law got me a little basket, and it had some lotions and lip gloss and things like that, not things I had ever bought myself recently, so it was just a little treat, you know?

That is so thoughtful, and I agree because sometimes after delivery, it becomes all about the baby, or if there are multiple, babies.  And the mother and the other parent often feel neglected.  It’s like, well, I went through this, and what about me?  So the fact that friends or employers are also focusing on the parent as well as gifts for baby.

Exactly.  And in that vein, another thing that can be so nice for the parents is taking a few pictures.  If you are over and visiting and you’re holding the baby, to just snap a few pictures of them.  I mentioned this in my article, but it’s like in the moment they might text you those photos and you might be like, what?  Why did you take that picture?  Because you’re exhausted and you have bags under your eyes and you’re wearing pajamas that you’ve been wearing for three days.  I get it.  But long term, that was you in the moment, and that is the special time that I think you can look back on later and be really grateful for those little kind of candid moments that some of your friends snap.  Again, that’s such a simple little thing, but it can be so sweet.

It’s all about the thought, just showing that you care.  That seems to be your major theme.

I think that is it, and trying to anticipate things that the parents might not be able to anticipate themselves right now.  Another big thing, which again, the doula support also helped me out with this, is helping around the house with little things.  Like when my postpartum doula would come over and I would be breastfeeding, that was a thing that I kind of had to do on my own.  So while I was doing that, she would say, hey, what can I do around here?  And of course, for so many of us, the answer is, oh, nothing.  Nothing.  It’s fine.  I’m fine.

It can be hard to ask for help, but that’s what we’re there for.

One of the suggestions that she gave me was, why don’t you write down a couple things before I come, and that way, you’ve already thought about it, and it’s written down, and then I can just come over and start doing those things.  So I had gotten a hand-me-down stroller, and it had lived in somebody’s garage for a while, so it had some cobwebs and things like that.  So that was on my little list of things that I was going to try to tackle over the next week or so.  And she was like, I’ve got this.  I can do it.  And so she just helped me out and started dusting it off, and by the time I was done breastfeeding – even that little amount of effort that she put made the stroller a thousand times better looking and ready to go.  She could help me tackle these little tasks that there’s just so many of.  There’s so many little tasks when you’re operating minute by minute.  So being able to ask your friends or family or people that you are letting into your home – let them do a couple things for you.  Let them load the dishwasher.  Let them throw something in the washing machine or fold something that’s in the dryer.  Let them do it.  I guess that would be a note for the parents themselves, but as the caregivers and the people that are showing love and support, just be ready to kind of jump up and start doing and let them kind of guide you on what they’re comfortable with.

Yeah, and depending on the parents’ personality, a list might be easier.  There are some of those printable checklists that you can put on your fridge if family or friends come in after a new baby.  You can list things like unloading the dishwasher, some simple things that can make a big difference.  Straightening up the living room, picking up toys if there are other small kids at home.

Yeah.  Something that I had never known about was sterilizing a lot of stuff.  You have to sterilize your bottles and all this stuff.  And it’s like, okay, the last thing you really want to do when you have a teeny tiny baby is boil water and sterilize stuff in boiling water.  So that was another thing.  If my mom was over or if my doula was there, I’d be like, do you mind?  And they never minded because it was a pretty simple task for them to do, but when you’re holding a little baby, it’s not as simple.  It’s just trickier.

It is tricky, yes.  And those dropped pacifiers.  All the pump parts.  Constant sterilizing.

I’m having PTSD flashbacks about pumping right now.

I know you mentioned the baby registry earlier and your colleague finding it, but you put a lot of intention into your registry and also when you were in the Becoming course, you had asked a lot of questions and really focused on sustainable and reused items for your personal registry and not wanting to be wasteful.  So we had you add a section about creating the registry to our Supported book because it was so thoughtful and helpful.  If you would like to elaborate just a bit on that, I would love for our listeners to hear some of your tips.

Yeah, I mean, my friends and family were putting together a shower, and they’re like, what’s on your registry?  And I’m like, wait, shouldn’t you guys be telling me what’s on my registry?  You all have done this, and I don’t know what I’m doing yet!  I did find myself doing a lot of research, and of course, reaching out to some of my good friends who have had babies.  I reached out to you and Alyssa, who were so thoughtful to give me some additional tips.  I remember Alyssa being like, I don’t think you need nine swaddles, Lizzie.  And I’m like, okay.  Okay.  I don’t know.  I’m just basing this off the internet.  I had a lot of good feedback.  But really for me, as you mentioned, I wanted to keep sustainability in mind and the amount of stuff that we were bringing into our house.  I think my big thing with creating a registry was to give yourself time at the front end to think about your values, which I think is an important thing to do when you’re making a lot of different decisions, but your registry is an opportunity to say, okay, how much stuff do I need, and if I’m going to be getting this, then what value lens am I looking at this through?  Do I want to be getting everything on Amazon?  Some people, that’s easy.  It’s convenient.  They have great return policies.  That may be in line with what their priorities are.  For me, I wanted to be trying to get more from local businesses where I could because that’s something that’s important to me, or finding used second-hand or even actual sustainably built products.  There’s different layers to that, of course, of where you get it, how you get it, and then what is it made of.

Right.  So a blend of supporting local and having eco-friendly items, whether it’s a toy or any products.  I know you were trying to avoid plastics and the waste that even comes with packaging sometimes.

Exactly.  I think giving yourself time to think through those things is helpful.  The other one that I didn’t really know a whole lot about at the time was the actual mechanics of some of the toys and things like that.  Some of my friends had said, oh, you’re going to love this baby jumper that kind of hooks up to your doorframe, and then as I learned a bit more about the Montessori approach, I was then less interested in kind of container-based toys.  Even learning about actual child development, it’s like, okay, well, I don’t think we do need that.  It’s fine that other people use that, but it’s just probably not going to be something that we need, you know?  But it was funny.  Even for my baby shower, for example, I had said, hey, I’m going to put these things on the registry so that you know what I’m thinking, but if you have this and you want to regift it or pass it along, that’s great.  We don’t need new items.  These are just some of the things that we’re looking for in general.  And we also said no packaging.  And some people – you know, you’ve got that great aunt who can’t comprehend that you wouldn’t want something wrapped with an amazing, beautiful bow, but amazingly, my friends and family all followed the directions.  Even simple things like that, like okay, I don’t need a thousand different gift bags, and I don’t need to waste even just trash in the packaging elements of the festivities around having a baby.

Right.  And then you just have to deal with all that waste when the shower is over and so much more cleanup.  It makes perfect sense. 

So what other tips do you have for new parents to really plan to get the support that they need and build their registry and communicate their needs to friends and family?

I think, again, start with sort of giving yourself space to think about, what does this look like for me.  One of my good friends said how you begin is how you go.  And that might be a real quote by somebody famous, but I don’t know.  That’s just what she said to me, and I thought it was an interesting thing to think about.  As I was setting up spaces for Betty and thinking about what we needed, it was like, okay, what kind of parent do I want to be, and what kind of kid do I want her to be?  I wanted her to be a kid that could make a rocket ship out of blocks.  And I wanted her to be a kid that helped whip up some muffins in the kitchen with me.  I don’t know, I just wanted her to be hands-on, creative, problem solving, comfortable outdoors.  So I think just giving yourself space to think about, like, who do you see this kid becoming, and then how do you set up your systems and support to allow for that?

This may sound like a random example, but I wanted Betty to know that I had friends.  Right?  I wanted her to know that she was a critical part of my life, but so are my friends and so are these other pieces of me.  So even when it was really hard at times for me to leave her, I would try to say the things out loud that were showing that value.  Even in those early months when I would go to meet up with a couple of girlfriends or something like that, I would say, like, hey, it’s hard.  It’s really hard for me to leave you right now, too, because I love spending time with you, and I love you so much.  But it’s also really important for Mom to go see her friends because they’re really important to me, too.  And so just really being thoughtful of the behavior that you’re modeling for them is, to me, kind of the crux of it all, and allowing your child to be your community and to see people show up for you.  They’re not going to remember that from being three days old or nine days old or thirteen days old, but it’s part of you then, and you then show up for others in the way that people showed up for you.  It’s just all about living with intention, I suppose.

It is, 100%.  So you have shared your wisdom in blogs and social posts.  Of course, in the Supported book.  And I didn’t know until today, but you also created this lovely community for new moms.  So how can our listeners connect with you, other than reading about your registry tips and your own personal experience with pumping in the book? 

You know, it’s funny.  I never anticipated that I would be maybe so communicative about parenting when it seems like in some ways to be such a common thing, but when you’re in it, it just overtakes your life.  For me, it’s been in a very positive way.  So I have really enjoyed kind of thinking about it and writing about it and reflecting on it.  So I do that sometimes online, but I don’t have a specific place for people to follow me.  I’m on social media, of course, on Instagram or LinkedIn, so people are welcome to connect with me on there.  But yeah, it just opened my heart up in a way that kind of surprised me, and so I wanted to acknowledge it and share it in ways that could be helpful for others, I suppose.

Well, thank you so much, Lizzie!  I appreciate your time and all of the intention and support you offer new parents, but especially new mothers.

Yeah, and thank you, Kristin.  Obviously, I had never even heard of doula support before knowing you and Alyssa, so it was such a gift for me to go through that Becoming course, which was hugely important for me, and then also all the support that you’ve shown following that.  So I do really want to say thank you to you and to the whole Gold Coast team for the way that you honor mothers and fathers and really allow us to flourish.  It’s been very helpful for me.  I appreciate you inviting me onto this podcast to chat about my experiences.

It was fun!  Thank you so much, and I appreciate all the kind words!


Lizzie’s article about supporting new parents

Birth and postpartum support from Gold Coast Doulas

Becoming A Mother course

Buy our book, Supported: Your Guide to Birth and Baby