Know a new mom who's experiencing postpartum depression? Here are seven simple ways you can help her.
Most moms experience the baby blues right after they give birth, but postpartum depression, a more severe disorder, likely affects at least one new mom you know. Approximately 15 to 20 percent of all new mothers are affected by PPD and anxiety, and suffer from feelings of inadequacy, tearfulness, guilt and fatigue—all of which can take a toll. "Depression lies to us, and we are convinced we are failing," says Lisa Tremayne, director of the Center for Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders, Monmouth Medical Center in New Jersey. "Look at all the Facebook pictures of new mom and their babies, making it all look so easy. Nothing feels that way."
If this sounds like what a friend of yours is going through, you don't have to feel helpless. Try one (or more!) of these ideas to support your friend and help her get through this tough time.
1. Help out with everyday stuff
"Being a new mom is overwhelming," says Kristy Rodriguez, a holistic health coach specializing in postpartum wellness and author of Pure Nurture: A Holistic Guide to A Healthy Baby. "Being a new mom with postpartum depression takes that overwhelmed feeling to another level." To lighten her load, offer to tackle her grocery list or run some errands like going to the post office or dry cleaners.
2. Bring on the casseroles
Making dinner for her family is often the last thing a mom wants to think about, especially after a day of countless feedings, bottle-warming, nursing and burping. Bring over a prepared, heat-and-serve meal in a disposable dish (one less thing to wash and return) or send her a meal delivery service.
3. Give her some alone time, if she needs it
Just having the opportunity to be quiet can be a rare treat for a new mother. Because everyone's needs are different, ask her if she wants some time to herself. If her baby isn't a firstborn, offer to take her older child out for the day. "Moms [with older kids] don't get the same ability to rest when the baby naps as they do with first babies, so offering to take her older one can be a big help," says Sarah Allen, psychologist and director of the Postpartum Depression Alliance of Illinois. Frame this outing as a playdate for your child, and it may make her feel like she is helping you out.
4. Play auntie for the afternoon
Caring for a newborn is draining when you're overtired, so let her rest while you watch her baby. "Sleep deprivation complicates and exacerbates PPD, and by helping a friend take naps, this can help greatly," says Pam Ginsberg, a psychologist specializing in women's health.
5. Keep in close contact
Staying in touch with a new mom helps her connect to the outside world. "A lot of good comes out of just being around," says Tremayne. Even if you can't visit as often as you'd like, call, text or e-mail your friend to see how she's doing. "Encourage her to talk about how she feels without judgment or advice," says Allen. "Women often don't need a fix, but just to be listened to, so they can process how they feel about the transition [to motherhood]."
6. Help her get professional help
Do some homework and check out some possible PPD resources for your friend. Allen recommends calling area professionals who specialize in treating postpartum mood disorders to get some basic information: where they are located, how many years of experience they have, etc. "Offer to drive her to the support group [or appointment] if necessary, and sit in the waiting area with the baby," she suggests.
7. Don't give up on her
Even if your friend has stopped returning your calls or texts, keep at it, but don't overdo it. "If a woman feels the support being offered is too intense, she may pull away even more," says Rodriguez. Remind her that she's not alone and that you are there for her. "Once your friend realizes how important it is to be supported by loved ones, it will be easier to give her the help she needs."