Friends and Family, How You Can Help…

The anticipation of meeting a new baby is huge—you’re excited to hold the baby and see how the new mother is doing. It can be easy to forget in the excitement that the mom has just given birth and needs a lot of TLC and compassion right now. With that in mind, if you’re not sure what to say or do, here are some tips:

  • THINK BEFORE YOU SAY IT

    Remember that even the most well-meaning sentiments can come across as insensitive to a new parent who is struggling to adjust to the changes a baby brings. If the new mom had a C-section when she desperately wanted a vaginal birth, saying, “Well, at least the baby is healthy” is not going to lessen her grief or guilt about her experience. Listen to what she tells you and validate her experience by saying things like “I’m sorry you went through that”. Don’t share your birthing horror stories—that’s a conversation for much later when wounds have literally and figuratively healed.

     

  • ALWAYS CALL BEFORE YOU VISIT

    Don’t stop by unannounced unless it’s to leave a casserole on the doorstep. If the new parents have said it’s ok for you to visit, plan ahead and ask if there is anything you can bring them. Bear in mind too that newborns need and want to be snuggled, nursed and feel close to their moms all the time. This is normal and does not mean that you won’t be able to hold them at some point, but what new parents usually need, and often feel most comfortable with, is for them to be the ones holding the baby, not visitors. Try to not take this personally, but instead offer ways to help them with practical things instead, which leads on to…

     

  • HELP AROUND THE HOUSE

    Doing a load of laundry, washing dishes, emptying the dishwasher or sanitizing bottles only takes a few minutes, but it can relieve a lot of stress for the new parents. Empty their trash cans and make sure the bathrooms are stocked with toilet paper and clean towels. Make sure they have the basics in their fridge, such as milk, bread, etc and if not, run out and grab some for them. They will be so grateful when they’re up at 2am desperately wishing for a cup of tea or a slice of toast.

     

  • BRING FOOD. ALWAYS BRING FOOD
    Bring nutritious meals that require minimal preparation (think reheat-from-frozen), or food they can freeze for later. Bring them a gift card for a local food delivery service, such as Munchery (https://munchery.com/) or Schwanns (http://www.schwans.com). If they have an older child, bring food that you know they will enjoy.

     

  • HANG OUT WITH THE BIG KIDS
    Adjusting to a new baby brother or sister can be hard for siblings, no matter how old they are. They will likely be feeling a bit left out as their new sibling is showered with attention, and the sudden change to their routine is unsettling. Spending time with bigger kids not only helps them feel loved and included, it can help mom and dad out by giving them time to bond with the new baby. If the parents are comfortable with the idea, offer to take bigger kids out to a playground or sleepover or to watch a movie.

     

  • SKIP THE ADVICE
    Everyone’s experience of parenthood is different and just because the new mom is not doing things they way you did, doesn’t mean she’s doing it wrong. What works for one family may not work for another. Let her figure this out for herself, unless she specifically asks for your advice. Try to keep your feelings about breast vs formula/co-sleeping vs crib/stay-at-home vs working mom to yourself—she’s trying to figure this new motherhood business out and having conflicting advice will only make her job harder. Respecting her choices will show a new mom that you support her.

     

  • ASK HER HOW SHE’S DOING
    Depression and anxiety is the most common complication of pregnancy and the postpartum period. It can manifest in pregnancy or a few days to a couple of weeks after birth. Symptoms include crying, insomnia, panic attacks, lack of interest in the baby, and some women experience intrusive or suicidal thoughts. Partners can also be affected by paternal postnatal depression. If you’re worried about a friend or family member who is pregnant or has recently given birth:

    1. Ask them how they’re doing. Ask how much sleep they’re getting, how often they’re eating and taking care of themselves.
    2. Listen to their response.
    3. If you think they may be struggling, gently help them find resources in their area, such as a therapist or support group, by visiting supportingmamas.org for Santa Clara County or www.postpartum.net which lists support across the rest of the United States.

    4. If a new parent is having:
    -Delusions or strange beliefs (sometimes religious or related to God)
    -Hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t there)
    -Feeling very irritated
    -Hyperactivity (constant activity, impulsiveness, inability to concentrate, aggressiveness)
    -Decreased need for or inability to sleep
    -Paranoia and suspiciousness


    These could indicate something more serious, such as a condition known as psychosis. Psychosis in pregnancy and postpartum is a rare but extremely serious illness, affecting 1-2 in every 1000 births. However it is temporary and treatable.  In these circumstances, it is very important that a mom receives treatment IMMEDIATELY. This condition does not go away or get better on its own. Visit this page to find help.