As many of you know, I recently gave birth to my second child :) It’s been a bit of a tough (read: EXHAUSTING) time, but thankfully I’ve had lots of help and support from wonderful people, especially my three families (Ors, Angs, and Christ’s). If you have a friend with a newborn, and are wondering how to help them out, here’s my top 5 tips:
1. Message them to chat
Newborns are exhausting, but new mums DO have time to chat. In fact, they have quite a lot of extra time to chat because they’re now spending hours nursing/pumping/feeding the baby, or sitting with a baby sleeping on them…At the same time, because they’re confined to the home and not at work, they’ve got much less adult interaction than they’re used to before the newborn arrived. Trust me, they’ll welcome a chance to chat with one of their friends. (Note: notice I said MESSAGE them to chat — this is the least stressful mode of conversation, because they can text you back when they’re free, and won’t have to worry about taking a zoom call or entertaining a visit when they’re super tired.)
2. Offer to run errands (e.g. bring lunch, deliver BBT, pick up eggs)
Mums have time to chat, but very little time to get stuff done, and it’s basically impossible for them to go out (even if they weren’t in confinement, and even if they weren’t worried about COVID-19). It doesn’t have to be something big — in fact, the smallest things are sometimes the most helpful. You can bring them lunch, or pick up milk from the supermarket when they’ve run out, deliver bubble tea, help them hang up clothes, or wash a few dishes. It’s super helpful and is usually far more appreciated than sending a box of brands essence.
#protip : Don’t ask, “How can I help?” (It’s nice, but 99% of mums will say, “It’s fine, thank you!”). Instead, offer a specific way you can help (“I’m heading to the supermarket — can I help you pick up anything?”)
3. Arrange to visit for a chat
Caveat: Do NOT drop by unannounced.
Just like in #1, lots of new mums are starved for adult interaction. Many of them are ready to receive visitors earlier than you might expect, especially if it’s friends, and not relatives they haven’t seen since CNY two years ago. You can make it a super low-stress visit by doing the following:
Arrange a time & date to visit beforehand.
(Unannounced visitors are the WORST. Please don’t. Just don’t.)
Be flexible in your visiting timing.
Ideally, make sure you have a couple of hours free. You don’t have to stay the whole time if you’re worried about tiring them out. But it helps if you aren’t just dropping by for a specific 1h slot, simply because the new mum never knows when she’ll need to disappear for 30 minutes to feed the baby, and she’ll feel really bad if it’s supposed to be ‘your time’ but she has to do other things.
Be self-sufficient during your visit.
Bring a book or some work to do, so that if she needs to go settle the newborn, you can point to your ipad and say, “Don’t worry about me, I’ve got some work to do!” This way, there’s clear evidence that she doesn’t have to feel bad about you sitting outside on the couch waiting for her to come back out.
4. Positive comments only, please.
As much as possible, try to be positive in all you say. Praise whatever you can think of (“He looks adorable!” “You look really good!” “The cot sheet is so pretty!” “This toy looks very useful for young kids!” “The way you’ve arranged the baby room is very efficient!”). New mums need lots of reassurance.
If she complains or cries, listen in solidarity. Don’t offer solutions unless she asks for them. Don’t bring up other mums, even as helpful examples, and don’t bring up your own experience unless she asks or unless it’s to show that she’s doing better. New mums are super sensitive about all things mum-related, and even the most gentle of remarks or the most well-meaning of advice can hurt badly.
5. Message them to chat.
Just a “hey, how’re you doing today?” can make a huuuuuuge difference. 70-80% of all new mums will experience some form of depression after birth (even if it’s mild). Don’t leave them to work through it alone. Don’t wait for them to emerge from the valley. Be the first to reach out :)