A little help for new mums can make all the difference
Should we offer to assist or assume your friend has everything under control? Lauren Taylor gets advice from an expert
When your friend has a baby, it's standard practice to send a congratulatory message about how beautiful their little one is, and perhaps pop a card and a cute baby gift in the post.
But it can be tricky to know whether new parents want to be left alone to adapt to their new lives with a newborn, or if they'd actually appreciate friends calling around unannounced with lasagne and the offer to hold the baby while they have a shower uninterrupted for the first time in days.
Last month, the Duchess of Sussex said: "Not many people have asked if I'm OK," admitting being a new mum was a struggle in the ITV documentary Harry & Meghan: An African Journey - a sentiment no doubt felt by women all over the world.
So, during those first few demanding, exhausting and emotionally draining months, what do new mums actually wish their friends and family would ask? My Expert Midwife co-founder and midwife, Lesley Gilchrist, shares her advice.
1. "Are you OK?"
Having someone offer a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on can be something that many exhausted new mums are crying out for, so they can offload worries. She may just want to pour out how she feels or have a good moan about life in general, but either way, bottling up emotions is not helpful for most women.
Listen to her concerns, help if you are able and ask her to speak to her midwife or GP if you think she's struggling, and her mood is not improving.
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Hormone levels change dramatically after giving birth and for this reason, a lot of women experience 'baby blues' around day four when they can feel upset and tearful. Whilst these feelings are a normal part of the transition from pregnancy to new mum, they should not last for more than a few days.
2. "Do you need any support or help?"
Research has shown that after having a baby, women prefer a direct approach and most said they would have welcomed someone asking if they felt they needed extra help or support.
We now know that between 10-15% of new mums will experience some form of postnatal depression (PND), ranging from mild to severe, and continuing low mood can be an indication of PND. Early help can provide much-needed support networks, and those close to new mums are often the first people to spot signs of any problems.
3. "Can I get you anything?"
It's always good to call or message ahead of a visit to ask if there's anything you can bring with you. Chances are that when baby brain and tiredness sets in, running out of an essential item, such as washing liquid, teabags or baby wipes, is more likely. Just stopping off for a couple of items can mean a new mum doesn't have to trail out shopping with her newborn in tow.
4. "I'm going to bring you dinner, is there anything you fancy?"
This is such a lifesaver, especially during the early days and weeks for new mums and dads. To not have to think about what to make for dinner, can take the pressure off and help immensely.
Making a delicious healthy meal is usually quite low on the list of priorities as a new mum, but a gifted meal will be very much appreciated. Easily prepared dishes such as chilli, stews, curries or soups are ideal, and can be reheated when needed. If you're feeling generous, you could make double, so there's one for the freezer too.
5. "I'm going to the park/swimming/soft play, would your older child like to come?"
Other children can become bored and fractious if they are inside too long and mum is busy with their new sibling. Taking their other children for a trip to the park - so they can let off steam and use their energy, can be so helpful to new parents, and it can also give them a couple of hours to enjoy their newborn baby.
6. "Would you like me to plan an evening out, girls' night in or trip next month?"
Although this may be the last thing on a new mum's mind, just asking and pitching the night out for the next month, can mean she can look forward to a few hours to be herself again. It can be all-consuming being a new mum, and a day or evening of respite to look forward to with friends, can offer a much-needed boost.
7. "Can I watch the baby while you go to the shop or for a walk?"
When a new mum has been feeding, changing and comforting her newborn for days, being able to pop out, even for 30 minutes, might be just what she wants to do, to clear her head without having to think of her newborn's needs. She might find it difficult to ask, but easier to accept an offer to watch her baby.
You could also offer to make coffee, unload the washing machine or do the dishes - it's one less household task for new mums and families to do.