14 Ways to Help a Mother With Postpartum Depression

If a woman in your life has recently given birth then there’s a 1 in 7 chance they are struggling with postpartum depression.  It might be your partner, daughter, sister or friend but no matter who they are to you, it’s normal to feel helpless seeing them in pain.  From a mother who has battled it first hand, here are a few tips that might help you understand her better and be able to provide the right type of support.

*This post contains affiliate links which means that if you click on one of these links and buy a product, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Rest assured that I only recommend products that I love from companies that I trust.

1. know the symptoms

It’s very common for a mother to be in denial about their postpartum depression at first.  Even if she does have her suspicions, it’s unlikely that she will admit it out loud.  This is why it’s important to recognize the symptoms in someone else so that, even if she doesn’t want to talk about it, you can be there to support her.

Resources:

PostpartumDepression.org
Lots of useful information including a PPD Quiz
Logo for WebMD
Symptoms of Postpartum Depression
The Symptoms of Postpartum Depression and Anxiety -PostpartumProgress.com
Great detailed explanations of the symptoms
Postpartum-Depression-or-The-Baby-Blues.jpg
www.rachelrabinor.com

2. believe her

There is a lot of stigma around postpartum depression and many people still don’t believe it’s a real disease.  If she does open up to you about having postpartum depression – believe that her pain is real.  She is not being overly dramatic.  She is not “just tired.” Motherhood is overwhelming in general and it will be for a very long time but postpartum depression is different – it’s uncontrollable.

It can be really hard to tell the difference

3. help her get some rest

Sleep deprivation can aggravate postpartum depression but postpartum depression can cause insomnia so it’s a lose-lose situation.  Do whatever you can to help her rest.  If she cannot sleep at night, then make sure she gets frequent, short naps in throughout the day.

4. don’t tell her things could be worse

It’s natural to want to tell her stories about someone else who had it worse in the hopes of making her feel better but it will have the adverse effect.  Instead of being thankful that she isn’t having suicidal thoughts, she might see her pain as insignificant and feel guilty for having such a difficult time when others are going through “things that are worse.”  It’s still important to make sure that she knows she isn’t alone – as long as she knows that debilitating pain from postpartum depression comes in all forms.

5. don’t try to explain why

Yes, she’s tired, yes, breastfeeding is hard, yes, labour was intense but those are not the reasons why she has postpartum depression.  It’s not her fault.  If labour and recovery were a breeze, baby was nursing fine and sleeping well she could STILL have it.  Knowing that postpartum depression does not discriminate and there was nothing she could have done to avoid it will relieve some of her guilt.

postpartum depression
Join the study to help determine why some women get postpartum depression and others do not.

6. keep it on the down low

The last thing she wants is everyone at your office knowing about her postpartum depression and offering to help.  She will be mortified if someone she barely knows asks her how she’s feeling, no matter how good their intentions might be.  The day will come when she will openly want to talk about it but it should be her who decides when that is.

Click to read why

7. send her a text message but don’t expect a reply right away

Don’t expect her to answer the phone when you call.  Better yet, don’t phone her.  For someone with postpartum depression, their emotions change throughout the day without warning.  Chances are, when you want to talk, won’t be when she wants to talk and vice versa.  A text message is a great way to check in and see how she’s doing while allowing her to reply when SHE feels up to it.  You can even write something like “you don’t have to reply right away – whenever you feel like talking just text me.”

8. don’t force her to socialize

And don’t be offended if she doesn’t want to see you.  She’s not trying to keep the baby all to herself.  Going out or hosting visitors means putting on a smile and talking to people when all she wants to do is be alone.  Even her inner circle can be extremely irritating.  Let her know that she can take all the time she needs and that you will be there for her when she’s ready.

Download this FREE printable PDF workbook for her to use as a safe place to write down her thoughts and feelings.
Click to download!

9. cook food for her

Appetite changes are a major symptom of postpartum depression.  She will either not want to eat anything at all or not be able to stop eating. Having a fridge stocked with healthy ready-to-eat food will help her get the calories and nutrition she so desperately needs (especially if she’s breastfeeding) without all the added exhaustion of having to prepare it.


10. clean the house but don’t make a big deal about it

Moms are infamous for not asking for help.  Do it while she’s napping so she can’t tell you to stop.  Cleaning will be the last thing on her mind but looking around at piles of laundry, overflowing garbages or dishes in the sink will cause her more anxiety. It’s one thing to tell her not to worry about the cleaning, it’s another to make the clutter magically disappear.

The Maids
Or you can hire someone to do it for you!

11. get up with her in the middle of the night

If she’s breastfeeding, you may feel like there’s no point in getting up for night time feedings.  But those dark, lonely hours can be the scariest times for a mother with postpartum depression.  If for no other reason than to keep her company – get up with her. She may tell you that she’s OK and to go back to bed but at least get up and check on her – check if she needs anything, rub her feet or her back while she nurses.

12. help her find strangers to talk to

Don’t try to force her to talk to you about her feelings, even if you’ve been through it before.  It’s much easier to talk to strangers who understand and won’t judge her and who she may never see or talk to again.  She can be completely honest and vulnerable without having to worry about hurting someone’s feelings or having them take things the wrong way.

postpartum depression Facebook groups

Postpartum Support International
Momma’s Postpartum Depression Support Group
Postpartum Anxiety Support Group
Postpartum Depression Awareness

13. take pictures of her

Not happy, dressed up, perfectly posed pictures but real pictures.  Pictures of her nursing in her pajamas.  Pictures of her holding or sleeping beside the baby.  Pictures of her when she hasn’t showered in 3 days and has dried breast milk all over her shirt.  Take pictures of her crying.  Aim for honest pictures of her so that she can look back at them when she is better and remember this part of her life. Reassure her that you will never show them to anyone else or post them anywhere, they are only for her.

Click here to read my story about breastfeeding with postpartum depression

14. wait it out

Don’t try to rush her recovery. Helping her find the right path to recovery is important but don’t keep asking if she’s feeling better yet. If she has a good day, don’t assume she’s past the worst of it. She may very well move past the postpartum depression and become the happy loving mother that everyone knew she would be, only to have a bout of baby sleep regression trigger some deep, uncontrollable emotions all over again.  Many women battle postpartum depression for years so if you’re in this with her – prepare to go the lengths for her.

here are some tips for recovery

Postpartum depression is one of the most under-diagnosed conditions in North America for a reason.  Women, moms in particular, pride themselves in being able to handle it all and admitting that they are struggling or need help is one of the biggest hurdles to overcome.  While these tips may help the woman in your life open up to you, nothing is ever for certain when it comes to postpartum depression and many women experience it in different ways.  If all else fails, love her and support her and know that this too shall pass…


postpartum depression
postpartum depression
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The gift of sleep


*This post contains affiliate links which means that if you click on one of these links and buy a product, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Rest assured that I only recommend products that I love from companies that I trust.

It’s been almost 7 years since I brought home my first newborn.  I was a typical first time mother back then, worse maybe.  I documented every single nap, feeding, poop and bath in a notebook specially designed for recording baby poops that cost me twice as much as a regular notebook and I recorded them for an entire YEAR!  I basically had no idea what I was doing and the things that I thought were SO important were not nearly as important as I thought they were.

One thing that has always been important to me is sleep.  I really enjoy it, and always have, not just since becoming a SAHM.  I knew that bringing a new person into my life meant that they were going to have to love sleep also because this relationship wasn’t going to work if they were constantly disturbing my sleep (my husband can vouch for this).

The good news is, my first child got the memo.  He was a great sleeper right from the beginning.  By 2 weeks he was sleeping 6 hours straight at night and by 6 months he was sleeping from 8 pm to 8 am and didn’t put up a fuss at bedtime.  But I also enforced a strict routine right from the start in order to make that happen.  Because, like I said, sleep is very important to me. 

By the time baby number 2 came along, I was convinced that I was a pro at this.  I jumped right into the routine and didn’t think twice about it.  But she was different.  She didn’t like sleep. She didn’t like the “routine.” And she definitely didn’t like being left alone at bedtime.  In fact, all she liked to do was cry.  So we had to make some adjustments and trying to figure out what worked for her was tiring and tough.  But since sleep was still so very important to me, I didn’t give up.  I didn’t give in.  I was battling some pretty heavy post-partum depression and when she was 6 months old we moved 9 hours away which was not easy on anyone.  So her “routine” didn’t start until she was closer to a year but eventually, she slept.  She still goes through phases of sleep walking, sleep talking, night terrors and she leads the board for the most bedtime excuses each night.  But… she sleeps.

Number three, thankfully, also loved sleep.  Her routine was much more relaxed.  Remember what I said about realizing what’s important?  By the third one, I did.  I cut out all the stuff that didn’t seem to make a difference and just stuck to the basics.  Out of all three children, she probably loves sleep the most.  She actually waves goodbye to me from her crib when I tuck her in at bedtime and it feels like a giant pat on the back.

So while the first time was strict, the second time was tough and the third time was relaxed, they’re all great sleepers now, despite their different personalities and preferences and dispositions.

I feel like I can take credit for that because it’s not about one magic method, it’s about a mentality – a positive mentality towards sleep and all things related… it’s not something to dread.

It’s why I felt so compelled to start my blog off with information on sleep training. Parenting is a world of unknowns and second guesses.  Of conflicting advice and regrets.  I can say with great confidence that I do not, nor will I ever, regret sleep training my children.  

Sleep is wonderful.  It has an amazing way of resetting your soul.  It’s so important.  It’s comfortable and cozy and refreshing.  There was no better gift I could have given to my children than the gift of a great night’s sleep.

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