By Dr. Katie Godfrey, LMFT
Finding out that your loved one is struggling with postpartum issues can lead to feelings of wanting to help, but feeling unsure of the best ways. Here are some suggestions:
Educate yourself on postpartum challenges and take them seriously. A couple of helpful websites include Postpartum Support International, Postpartum Progress, and The National Institute of Mental Health.
Focus on empathizing, not fixing. She needs someone to really hear her, not fix the situation. Helpful phrases include: “I know it may not feel like it right now, but you are a great mom”, “You will feel better” and “You are doing a great job with ______ (be specific)“. Remind her that she is not the only mother to go through this.
Encourage her to get help. The three recommended forms of professional help for postpartum issues include individual therapy, group therapy, and talking to a doctor or midwife about potential medications. She may find other forms of support such as acupuncture helpful as well.
Make sure there is easily accessible food available. High-protein snacks can be especially beneficial. Nuts, string cheese, and hard-boiled eggs are all easy protein sources to keep on hand. Fresh fruit that does not take a lot of preparation is also good. Also, preparing some meals for the freezer is nice. Sometimes making decisions such as what foods to buy or eat can feel overwhelming to a new mom, so set up some automated grocery delivery options for her.
Take over household chores so that she can just be with her baby. We know that skin-to-skin time is especially helpful for recovery, so doing a load of laundry, preparing meals, and running errands are all helpful. Take care of any pets. Play with her other children if she has any. Essentially do anything around the home that needs taking care of so that she can just focus on herself and her baby.
Hire a postpartum doula. They are especially helpful for those struggling with postpartum issues and some are also available to help overnight. Check out this website to learn everything a postpartum doula can assist with: http://www.dona.org/mothers/faqs_postpartum.php
Help her get as much sleep as possible. Be “on-duty” at night so that she can sleep. Aim for getting at least a 4 hour block of solid sleep. Consider a temporary sleep plan where she sleeps alone in another room with earplugs, white noise, and no monitor so she can get a full night’s rest, if she feels that would be helpful. Sometimes mothers do not want to be away from their babies, so make sure to not force this option on her.
Take care of yourself! It is also possible for non-birth parents to struggle with postpartum issues, especially if they get too run down. You won’t be able to support her if your tank is running empty. Although you are taking on various responsibilities, ensure you are also getting food, rest, and support when you need it as well.
Postpartum challenges can be overcome with the right mixture of support, attentiveness, and treatment when needed. Feel free to check our page out www.catalystcenterllc.com for more info about how we can support new and forming families!