How to support a mother
Listen quietly but with interest.
Try to understand – it’s hard for someone who is depressed or anxious to explain how they feel. Avoid judging or getting angry – it’s no one’s fault.
Be there (this means to be emotionally available as well as physically present). Be patient.
Help reduce stresses. Offer practical help. If a person isn’t sure what help they want, offer alternatives or suggestions e.g. “I would like to help, can I cook a meal or take the older children out?” “Your house looks fine but I know some people find they don’t have the energy to do any housework can I vacuum or hang out the washing, or something?” (Don’t have your own agenda about what you think needs doing – do what they want done!).
Support her to do the baby cares herself rather than take over and do them (unless she asks you to). Just being with her and her baby when she is anxious will help. (If she is very unwell she may not be able to do this).
Give positive words of support, affection and encouragement. Be positive about any accomplishments, no matter how small they might seem.
Don’t take what they say personally. Remember that when a person is unwell or stressed, they can say things they don’t mean, and their mood can change quickly.
Remain positive. Provide encouragement and lots of positive reinforcement – even if what you are saying seems obvious. When someone is depressed they are not thinking in their usual way and they have great difficulty seeing the positives.
Try not to dismiss a persons concerns. Instead of saying something isn’t a problem, say, for example, “I can see that is really worrying for you – I will be with you to help with that”. Due to the indecisiveness of depression, a person may need guidance and support with decision making – but don’t jump in too early with your solutions.
Offer distracting thoughts or activities, especially if you can see that they are going round and round in circles by their thinking or are overwhelmed by their feelings.
Help them to get out and have fresh air and exercise. They may not feel motivated to do so but will often feel better if they do.
Help get regular meals/snacks especially if breastfeeding.
Help her to have time away from her baby doing something pleasurable, such as getting her hair done, having a massage – but not doing the groceries.
If she is suffering a lot and not getting better, help her to get help
Take seriously any negative thoughts she may have about harming herself, or her baby, and get help urgently