Being a new mum is incredible. It's exhausting. It's life-changing.
This unfamiliar role sets off a rollercoaster ride of emotions. Everything is new, exciting and terrifying all at once.
Playing a supportive role in a new mum's life is one of the best things you can do for her, whether you're a friend, relative or partner.
“New mothers do experience a lot of change all at once. Changes to their body, changes to their social setting and changes to their responsibilities. All of this can be overwhelming,” Psychotherapist Pauline McKinnon, says.
While a new baby can turn life upside down – in the best and most unexpected ways possible – for a new mum this can often cause feelings of fulfilment mixed with anxiety and stress - a very confusing combination!
While it is normal to feel this way, for some it can develop into something more serious.
“Around 80 percent of women develop the baby blues after having their first child. This occurs between day three and day ten after birth,” Pauline says.
“While most women tend to get over this period, quite a few develop postnatal depression (PND).”
There are a lot of factors that can contribute to PND including feelings of inadequacy, guilt and fatigue. So having a strong support system during this time is essential.
“Family and friends need to play an important role in helping new mothers to cope with their new bundle of joy,” Pauline says.
So how can you help? Here are some simple and supportive ways you can help a new mum whether she openly asks for help or not.
Give her time to herself
Demonstrating an understanding that new mothers need time to themselves will be extremely helpful and valuable. Give her time to take a shower, get some fresh air or step away for a while. This will give her time to re-group and think clearly.
Cook and deliver dinner
It’s common for new mums to forget to eat. Having someone bring you pre-prepared meals that you simply heat and serve makes life that little bit easier.
Keep the compliments coming
Offer lots of supportive comments and compliment her on her abilities. New mums can feel a lot of uncertainty. Try not to compare her situation to anyone else, but be kind and compliment wherever possible.
Take bub off her hands
Offer to take care of the baby for a while to give her time to rest, sleep and ideally, meditate. “Rest and recreation is important for all – especially new mothers,” Pauline says.
Often the smallest gestures are the most valued. Surprise her with a simple flower, cards, or gifts to let her know you are thinking of her.
Pauline is Melbourne based and a Clinical Member of AAFT (Australian Association of Family Therapy), an author, and a meditation and psychotherapist specialising in anxiety, depression and other mental health issues. See more from Pauline, here.