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18 Jul

How to be a good friend to a new mum

Written by Sian McGrowder

Image by @desiperkins

Everyone wants to hold the baby but who wants to hold the Mum?” ~ A wise woman

This is one of my favourite quotes as it rings so true when it comes to Motherhood. We become so consumed by the baby, we forget about the person that is experiencing this major life change and what their needs might be. Being a new mum myself not too long ago; I remember being so overwhelmed at times, feeling out of place and needing help. It wasn’t that I didn’t have good friends around me because I absolutely did, it was more so the fact that they didn’t necessarily know how to help me and why would they? Unless they had been a mother themselves. If you have a friend that has recently had a baby or has young children here are some gestures they will appreciate from you.

For Mum

We’re so used to showing up with cute gifts for the baby and if you’re more polite than most; perhaps a bunch of flowers for the Mum. I’ll tell you for free; the baby most likely has umpteen baby grows already and the last thing you need to be doing as the mother to a newborn is digging out a vase and trimming flowers. Firstly, check in on whether they really feel up to having visitors; a lot of the time, especially in the early stages, getting dressed and being mentally available to entertain guests is literally mission impossible. If it turns out they aren’t ready to have visitors, don’t let this deter you from doing something nice. You can still do a mini food shop with some staples/snacks or drop off a home cooked meal; cooking or leaving the house with a baby is HARD!

If you are lucky enough to have been given the green light for a visit; try and be useful. Even if it isn’t true, tell them that you’re making a pit stop at the shop and ask them if they need anything picked up enroute (remember what I said about leaving the house with a little one?… It’s hard!). If your friend is anything like me, they won’t want to put you out even if they do need something, so this way they won’t feel like they’re being a bother if they do need something.

Mental health matters and postnatal depression is very real. Be a friend, ask them how they are, how they’re feeling and give them the space to tell you – more than once. Feelings change, they could be good one day and bad the next. They may not always want to tell you in the moment but let them know you are there for them. They will be going through a lot both mentally and physically and it’s good for them to know they have an outlet and safe space in you. You can probably tell that ‘looking after mum’ is something that is very close to my heart. As a new mum and the first to have a baby in my friendship group – your girl was going through it! So much so I launched a whole Instagram community to engage with mum’s and mum’s to be as well as launching pregnancy and postpartum gifts.

For Baby

When you arrive, show them that you are thinking about their baby, as this will mean a lot and help to build trust. A mother’s baby is the most important thing to her, if there’s one thing we want to know, it’s that our friends love our babies too. For the most part the baby probably has everything he/she needs by now, so in this case it really is the little things. Please don’t wear perfume, don’t wait to be told to wash your hands and please for the love of God; do not come hungry and this last point, trust me I know it’s hard but from one cheek lover to another; do not kiss the baby! Offer to watch or hold the baby whilst your friend takes a longer shower than usual, runs a quick errand or just does something else in the house. They may not ask, so the key here is to always offer. Don’t forget, not everyone will be comfortable handing over their precious little one right away, so look out for social cues as to whether you need to give that baby back to its mother expeditiously. lol.

Something I really appreciated that one of my friends did for me, was buying nappies but one or two sizes up. Babies always need nappies; people make the mistake of only buying that first size so you end up with an abundance of newborn nappies and trust me they aren’t in them for all that long. When in doubt, always go bigger. What can I do to make my friends life easier? Always have this in mind. Sometimes being a good friend means just getting on with it. Mums are often in a completely different headspace to most people and have a lot on. Instead of asking if they need help, just help. 9 times out of 10, you ask someone if they need help, they’ll most likely tell you that ‘they’ve got it’ even if they don’t. Think of when you ask a woman if she’s ok and she says ‘I’m fine’. We both know that girl is not ok.

If you see bottles that need washing or dishes in the sink; just do it. Don’t expect to be hosted, if you need a drink, help yourself and clean up after yourself. Now, obviously this will depend on the closeness of your friendship. You know your friend and their boundaries but the idea here is to be a help and not a hindrance. I am a foodie, so in case you missed it; food drop offs are always a win. You’d be surprised just how many new mums barely have the time to make themselves something to eat. A hot meal without the obligation to host or entertain is truly a Godsend. Don’t ask, just do it.

Don’t assume

One of the most overpowering feelings you can feel as a new mum is ‘loneliness’. Of course, this feeling can be for a number of reasons but it’s very easy for mums to feel forgotten about or to become detached from their main circle. As the friend of a new mum, it’s your job to keep them in the loop. They have a baby and the next thing you know that’s the only thing anyone wants to communicate with them about. You were their friend first, so maintain that friendship. Let’s not assume they only want to talk about baby stuff or that they’re not interested in what’s going on in your life. Yes, we still want you to spill the tea, we are still very much interested, sometimes even more so, as we’ll be living our best lives vicariously through you (our friends).

Don’t assume they don’t want to do things, continue to send the invites and even more importantly don’t assume they’re being weird with you if they can’t make it or cancel at the last minute. When you’re a mother, things can change in a blink of an eye…Yes literally. It’s hardly ever got anything to do with you as their friend, so try not to centre things around yourself and be understanding. Kids get sick a lot and often only want their mums; childcare plans can flop or sometimes exhaustion kicks in.

Final words

If you suspect your new mum friend may be going through it, don’t wait for them to reach out to you, step in as you have no idea what you might be saving them from. Allowing them space to talk, having that quality girl time or by doing an activity with them, may be exactly what they need. If you sense that there may be a more serious issue that you aren’t able to help with, do try and signpost them. Friendships go through different seasons, becoming a parent is one of those seasons. Being a good friend to a new mum may require more effort at times but there are few things that are more rewarding in this life than good friendships, so seize the opportunity to go the extra mile when you can.