How to Help a New Mother Overcome Postpartum Depression
Much of a new mother’s depression following childbirth is probably resulting from too many changes too soon. At no other time in a woman’s life is she expected to do so much for so many with so little help. As a husband or a helpmate of a new mother, here are ways you can help alleviate the postpartum depression:
1. It is very advisable for a husband to take a few weeks of paternity leave if possible. During this period the husband or the partner must become the chief of energy management in the household, taking over all those household energy-draining chores from the wife so that she has more left over to give to the baby and top herself.
2. Keep her nest clean, tidy, and comfortable. Postpartum mothers are especially sensitive to untidiness.
3. Take over the care of the older child or children as much as possible, since older siblings are particularly draining during this postpartum period.
4. Stand guard and protect her from unnecessary visitors and responsibilities. Take the phone off the hook, keep the cell phones in silent mode while she and the baby are sleeping and put a “do not disturb” sign on the door.
5. Keep harmony in the nest. Respect this early nesting instinct and do everything you can to keep others from disturbing the nest. Manage the household and its chores, do some cooking if you can. A sure winner is serving her breakfast in bed. Ward off prophets of bad baby advice. Sometimes, well-meaning friends, relatives, even your or her mother may offer advice that may shake her confidence in raising the baby. Postpartum mothers are particularly vulnerable to any remark that suggests she may not be doing the right thing for the baby. Support her confidence by giving her messages such as “You’re doing the most important job in the world – mothering our baby.”
5. Be sensitive. One of the most common complaints heard from new mothers is that they feel their husbands are not truly sensitive to their needs. A statement often heard by counselors is “I’d have to hit my husband over the head before he realized what I needed.” It is important to give extra consideration for her at this point. Don’t take anything for granted in the postpartum mother. Ask her what she needs and what you can do to help. You may be surprised to know that little things which previously didn’t matter now bother her greatly, such as leaving your shoes lying around the house. Developing the quality of paternal sensitivity is one of the greatest gifts a husband can give to a wife and to the baby.