So your good friend just popped out a tiny human, and you want to be a really good friend right? That’s great because new parents definitely need a LOT of support. But sometimes… this support can unintentionally add stress to the new mum’s life. As a mum of three, I can tell you from experience that this happens ALL the time, sadly. When you’re in that chronically sleep deprived state after just having a physically traumatic medical procedure that changed your life forever, you are LOW on emotional capacity, and things that you would probably have been able to handle at any other time can be very upsetting and triggering. And no, knowing that “she has good intentions” and “she was only trying to be helpful” does not actually help if someone upsets you when you are struggling with a newborn.
But good news! I’ll be sharing what are the top 5 things that you should avoid doing if you want to be a supportive friend/sister-in-law/grandma, so that you will be able to be one of the people whom the new mum is actually really happy to see.
1. DON’T Drop In Unannounced
…To be honest, I don’t think you should EVER drop in unannounced on someone.
(Unless maybe you’re their boyfriend/girlfriend and it’s their birthday, or they’re having a really bad week and you’re wanting to pass them something to cheer them up. Okay fine, there are exceptions where it’s ok to drop in unannounced on someone.)
But definitely, when your friend has a new human being upending their life is NOT a good time to try to surprise them with a visit. They’re already reeling from all the surprises; they do not need the stress of a surprise visit.
Instead, send a message to arrange a suitable visit time, ensuring it aligns with their needs and comfort (you’re not the one up at 1, 2, 3, AND 4am trying to convince a baby to sleep :p).
2. DON’T Challenge Her Choices
Parenting decisions are deeply personal, and each family's choices may differ. Avoid questioning or criticizing the new mum's choices, whether it's related to feeding, sleeping, or other aspects of baby care.
Trust that your friend/sister-in-law/daughter loves her baby and has already done a lot of research before making the decision that she feels is the best fit for her family at this time. Respect her as a fellow adult who is able to make her own choices (even if they differ from what you would choose), and respect her as a mum who cares deeply for her child and her family.
3. DON’T Say Anything Negative
Remember how I said they’ve just been through a life-changing, physically traumatic, emotionally draining, financially taxing ordeal? Yeah. New mums are amazingly awesome and strong, but they are also likely at the lowest they’ve ever been in terms of emotional capacity. I don’t mean they’re sad. They’re just super tired and they don’t have the bandwidth to absorb negativity that they normally do.
So don’t say ANYTHING negative, whether about her, her baby, or her house. If she complains or cries, listen in solidarity. Don’t offer solutions unless she asks for them. Don’t bring up other mums, not 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.
4. DON’T Send a Gift Without Checking with Her
To be more precise: don’t send a gift without checking, UNLESS it’s a hongbao. Those, you can send anytime.
Gifts can be super stressful for anyone, but especially a new mum. This is because kids tend to need a ton of stuff, so she may already feel like the baby stuff is overtaking her house, and having to find space for something she didn’t ask for and doesn’t want is emotionally draining on top of that.
And if the gift was expensive, that’s often worse. I promise you that there are definitely other things that the new mum wanted to buy but decided not to spend the money on, so getting an expensive gift that she didn’t want and won’t use feels worse because she feels like the money could have been used so much better.
One good way to give a gift that you KNOW they’ll use is to offer to sponsor a particular baby item (e.g. toy, baby carrier, or postpartum spa/massage session for mum) that they want. This thoughtful approach ensures that your gift aligns with her wishes and avoids redundancy.
5. DON’T ask, "How Can I Help?"
I’ll be honest - “How can I help?” feels like a burden. The new mum will either HAVE to say, “no need lah, I’m good, thank you!” or she’ll have to do the mental work of thinking of an appropriately convenient, not-too-expensive gift. If you really want to help, this is not that helpful.
Here’s some more helpful ways to offer help:
- I’m heading to the supermarket - can I pick up some groceries for you?
- What’s your favourite snack/drink from [shop/mall]?
- I will be passing [specific mall near her house], can I dapao dinner for you or your husband?
If you’ve read to the end, I want you to know that you are a WONDERFUL PERSON for putting in the effort to learn more about how to support new mums. Motherhood is a beautiful, exciting journey, but it is also extremely exhausting and can often be very isolating. Your friendship and understanding can make a world of difference, as long as you are able to support her in a way that understands her needs and respects her boundaries.
In the next blog post, I'll delve into how to be the best friend and support system for a new mum, offering insights that can strengthen your bond during this special phase. Subscribe to our mailing list to make sure you don’t miss it!