I’ve been the friend-to-the-new-mom and the new mom. And I’ve learned that until you are a mother — until you have experienced the pain and emotional heartache that comes with everything postpartum; until you have gone through weeks and months of virtually no sleep; until you have cried while your baby has cried — you will probably never truly understand the impact motherhood has on most women. Looking back, I could have been a much better friend to several new mom’s that I knew and I wish I had read something similar to this beforehand, to have shared some insight as to what my friend(s) might have been experiencing and to how I could have been there for them and their baby. So here are the top five things I suggest you do, say, or ask in order to be a good friend to a new mom:
1. Ask if you can visit her in the hospital.
Everyone’s preferences may be different when it comes to hospital visitors. Those with larger families may squawk at the idea of having to accommodate another individual by their bedside. But those with smaller families or families that aren’t local to the area may really enjoy and appreciate the extra attention and love you offer by visiting them after delivery. So my advice is to simply ask — wait until after the baby is born and put in a call or send a text— explain you would love to see the baby but will respect the new mom’s wishes as to when that time will be best for her.
2. Don’t make the new mom feel bad for anything!
Maybe she hasn’t called you, texted you, or even emailed you. Maybe her Facebook page has gone silent. Maybe she hasn’t invited you over. The new mom is not intentionally ignoring you; she is simply adjusting and healing. And don’t be quick to judge, especially those who are already mamas. Everyone’s experiences are different — some mom’s have colicky babies; some have a ton of family to help out and provide sleep deprivation relief; some have no one to help and husband’s that cannot take off from work; and other new mom’s may be undergoing a painful recovery (I could barely sit down without a pillow under my tush for six weeks with my first but was up vacuuming on the fourth day home with my second)! Don’t pressure your friend to give anymore than she is capable of at the time. Her first priority is to take care of her baby and then herself. She will catch up with you as soon as able and ready!
3. Bring them meals, not gifts!
Forget the onesies and rattles (they probably have enough of those)! The best gift you can give a new mom and her family is food! Provide freezable dishes (think baked ziti or enchiladas). Even something store bought like muffins for breakfast is helpful. Prepared meals give the new parents one less chore — that time can be used showering or taking a nap!
4. Visit them.
I don’t mean just visiting once the new mom comes home from the hospital. I mean visiting the weeks and months following. Mom’s can feel isolated after giving birth. And even if feeling okay they may be incredibly exhausted and not want to shower, dress, and venture out anywhere further than the pediatricians office. Visit the new mom at her home to share lunch, a glass of wine, or to simply pop in and say hi. She will appreciate the company at her doorstep.
5. Ask if they are okay.
Many women suffer from postpartum depression and/or postpartum anxiety. Some women suffer silently, while many women do not even know how to define or label what they are experiencing. Sometimes it is the individual on the outside looking in that can identify that a mother is slightly “off” in her demeanor, mood, or high level of irritability and anxiety. You might feel like it is not your place to ask such sensitive questions, but your inquiry could consist of simple conversation starters such as, “How are you feeling?” and “Have you been adjusting to motherhood okay?” You may be the person that the new mom opens up to. Simply showing interest and concern can help the mom identify that there is a problem and reach out for help.
What do you think are the dos and don’ts when it comes to being a good friend to a new mom?