Has your friend, sister, cousin, neighbor, or in-law just had a baby? Do you want to help, but aren’t sure how? Rest assured: you are not alone. The world of parenting is difficult to understand if you’ve never been a parent. Yet things can be just as confusing, even if you have raised a child. Things change quickly – so quickly, in fact, that even most of us in the trenches still don’t know what we’re doing half . . . or two-thirds . . . or really, most of the time. We’re sharing the top 8 ways you can support a new mom – because trust us when way say: she could really use it!
Leave the Poor Woman Alone
In a lot of ways, this tip is going to sound counterproductive (especially when you read the rest of the tips), but there’s the thing: your friend/cousin/sister/neighbor/etc. just birthed a baby. Her body is worn out, could be extremely sore, she’s operating on little to no sleep, and probably can’t remember her last name half the time, let alone the fact that you and she had plans next week. So, don’t take this the wrong way, but for a little while, focus on being a friend who gives rather than one whom expects. Don’t show up unless you’re there to help. Don’t take it personally if she doesn’t call you back and don’t blow up her phone to see if she’s okay. Most likely, she is. She’s just a little overwhelmed., so give her some time to find her bearings. If you can do that, chances are, she will be in tears thanking you for being such a wonderful friend in just a matter of weeks.
If You’re Going to Show Up, Bring Her Food
It’s funny how we think to take casseroles to those who are grieving, but fail to recognize that new moms need a little help remembering to eat, too. Well . . . she probably remembers that she needs to eat, but she doesn’t exactly have the extra time or energy to shop, cook, or do dishes. She may not even have two hands, so she may be resorting to whatever random things she can find in her fridge and cupboards – crackers, applesauce, toast, olives, and other random finger foods. That’s great and all, but she needs real food! So, if you’re going to show up, bring a casserole (preferably in a disposable container so she doesn’t have to wash it).
Give Her a Break
Another way you can show up without completely overwhelming her is by offering to give her a break. Come over and sit with the baby so she can take a shower and brush her teeth. Give her a chance to go shopping, sans baby, so she can enjoy an hour or two of free time. If she swears she’s okay and doesn’t need help, bring over candles and a bath bomb and shove her into the bathroom with instructions to not leave it until she’s nice and relaxed. Because (and this is a super big mom secret, just so you know), a lot of us feel like we’re supposed to have it all together, and we’re afraid to ask for or accept help. It’s not because we’re stubborn. We just face a lot of pressure from mom bullies and awful judgement that seems to come from every corner and crevice of the world around us.
Offer to Clean (Or Better Yet, Send Over a Service)
If you’ve had the honor of visiting, you probably noticed that the house was a bit . . . messy. Don’t judge. The poor woman is exhausted and worn out and in a baby haze. And again, she probably only has the use of one hand most of the day. Now, you could offer to clean for her, but odds are that she’ll be a little embarrassed at the mess – so do one better and send over a cleaning service. Maybe even get together with a couple other close friends/family members/co-workers and take turns paying for the service. It’ll really brighten her day to see the house clean (even if only for a little while) and she’ll be floored by the fact that you were thoughtful enough to realize she needed the extra help.
Watch and Listen for Signs of Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression is a real threat for moms – especially those that feel isolated or have a history of depression – so if you know this is a risk, watch and listen closely. It is normal for her to be a little frazzled and to not reach out as often as she used to, but things like ignoring her phone for days or weeks on end, averting conversation away from herself or the baby, or seeming stand-offish are some red flags that suggest there may be something more going on. If you’re super close to her, talk to her about it. Try to get her to open up and talk about what’s going on. If you’re not all that close with her, get in touch with someone who is. Most moms with postpartum depression struggle to come to terms with the condition, and once they do, are ashamed over it. But you noticing it and sharing your concerns with someone that loves her could help to ensure she gets the treatment she needs.
Give Her a Call Before Going to the Store
If you’re headed out to get toilet paper or just a few random things for dinner, maybe give the new mom in your life a quick call. Ask her if there’s anything you can pick up for her. She might decline, but there are times that you might literally be her saving grace. Because – and take it from those of us who’ve been there – it’s always the absolute worst timing when you realize that you’re down to less than half a roll of toilet paper, or out of baby wipes, or dish soap, or . . . well, you get the point.
Be Willing to Act as Her Buffer in Public
If you’re close with the new mom in your life, you’ll probably start to notice just how much unsolicited advice she gets – as in, she literally cannot get through a shopping trip without someone telling her all about how they sleep trained their baby at two months, or what they used to deal with teething, or how they got their baby to read at six months. If you happen to be with her when this happens, gently interject and give her a way to get out of the conversation. Odds are, she’s trying to be respectful of the other parent’s feelings. Alternatively, she might be genuinely interested in what they saying (especially if she hasn’t reached that stage with her baby just yet or Is currently struggling with something), but at some point, we just need help shutting out all the extra advice. It will literally drive a mom crazy. Trust us when we say that she’s going to do enough of that all on her own – and it’ll probably be at three in the morning, when baby won’t stop crying, and she’s using the internet to find out why when, in all reality, baby is likely just extra fussy that night.
Listen, Encourage, and Help Her Feel Human Again
When your mom friend/sister/cousin/neighbor does call or emerge from her parenting duties for a bit, you might notice that she’s still talking about the baby. Or that she sounds a little like she’s been abducted by aliens. Don’t worry. She’s still in there. She’s just overwhelmed. Just listen for a bit, remind her that she’s doing a great job, and then be willing to help her feel human. If she asks about your inner circle, fill her in. If she doesn’t, shrug it off. She will in time. Again, it just takes a little while for new moms to find their bearings. She’ll find her momma groove eventually, and before you know it, she’ll be back to normal . . . well, maybe not normal. Kids can drive you crazy. But at least she’ll start to sound and act a little more like herself again.