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How to Help

The first few months with a new baby are a time of adjustment. Friends and family can help mom by providing practical support and cheering her on. Here are some ways to be helpful:

Make sure it's a good time

Check in before you arrive to make sure it's a good time for visitors. It's good for new moms and dads to practice lots of skin-to-skin with baby, and some may want to make this a private time. Moms and dads also need to sleep when the baby does, day or night, so you may need to set your visit for another time.

Be conscious of germs

Wash your hands before you touch the baby, and don't visit if you are sick or were recently exposed to an illness. A sick baby can have a tough time breathing while trying to breastfeed. Also, babies get sick more easily than adults do because they are still building up their immune system.

Help with daily chores

Offer to help out by bringing a meal, doing household chores, running errands, or caring for other children in the home.

Assist mom

Ask if you can bring the baby to mom once she gets set up in her favorite breastfeeding position or chair.

Help during breastfeeding

Bring mom a glass of water and some snacks when she is breastfeeding. Many moms feel very thirsty as they nurse.

Offer to care for the baby after breastfeeding

Offer to hold the baby for 20 to 30 minutes after breastfeeding, until baby falls into a deep sleep and can be placed gently back into her crib for a nap. This gives mom a chance to rest, knowing that the baby is being cared for.

Be encouraging

Encourage mom to stick with her goals, and show her helpful breastfeeding information if she needs it. Remind her that every ounce counts!

What If Mom Seems Depressed?

Many women feel depressed or anxious during and after pregnancy. It is not a sign of weakness or that she has done something wrong. It is a medical condition that can cause her to stop breastfeeding and can have long-term health effects. Here is some useful information from the National Institutes of Health on how to identify the signs of depression and what you can do to help.

Know the signs

You are in a unique position to help your loved one if you see signs of depression, such as:

  • Frequent sadness, irritability, or anger.
  • Foggy thinking or difficulty completing tasks.
  • "Robotic" actions, like she's going through the motions.
  • Anxiety around the baby.
  • Saying that she's a failure as a mother.
  • Lack of interest in activities she usually enjoys.

How you can help

Listen to her

  • Ask how she is feeling.
  • Be kind and understanding about her concerns.
  • Listen without offering advice.
  • Let her know that perinatal depression is common and can be treated.
  • Encourage her to seek help quickly.

Support her

  • Offer to watch the children to give her time to herself.
  • Provide meals or take care of household chores or shopping so she can get some rest.
  • Schedule time with her outside the house so she can get away from family responsibilities for a little while.

Let her know where to get help

  • Encourage her to contact her health-care provider or the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Treatment Locator at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) to find a health-care provider in her area.
  • She can also contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for free and confidential emotional support—they talk about more than just suicide.
  • Call 9-1-1 if she is feeling like she may hurt herself or her baby or if she is having unusual or extreme mood swings or thoughts.

Learn more about depression and anxiety

Download the flyer, "Talk About Depression and Anxiety During Pregnancy and After Birth: Ways You Can Help" (166KB) from NICHD for tips on how to talk about this and more resources on where to go for help. Get more helpful resources on mental and emotional health support.

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