The other night, I went to a birthday dinner with four of my nearest and dearest mom friends. We’ve been a mom squad ever since our now 8-year-olds were in an infant playgroup together. Truthfully, back then, I found being a new mom totally isolating. I didn’t have my own mom friends prior to giving birth and my playgroup crew became my go-to besties for advice, sanity checks, humor, and good company.
But it wasn’t until I had a serious bout of postpartum depression after my second child was born, that I really thought about how truly important it is to maintain friendships as a new mom. These women stuck by me, and showed up for me in ways I couldn’t have imagined. But whether or not you’re having difficulties adjusting to new motherhood in the same way I was, all moms are going through an adjustment period.
(And yes, for new dads too; but most of them don’t tend to rely on new dad communities the way moms do, and they definitely aren’t going through the same physiological and emotional challenges.)
Thanks to all the amazing women in my life who taught me so much about friendship, here are my 10 tips for how to be a great friend to a new mom — who probably needs you now more than ever.
shower announcement at top: minted
1. Give her a free pass. Or ideally, a whole book full of them.
If you have a friend who just had a baby, try to give her a break if she’s in a bad mood, if she’s hard to make plans with, or seems to drop off the face of the Earth completely. I know that I was so grateful to those friends who didn’t make me apologize for canceling plans because my baby was sick, and didn’t make me feel bad when it took me 30 minutes longer than expected to put the baby to bed, and I showed up late to dinner. Again.
Meanwhile, how many of us were terrific at sending thank you letters promptly for all those shower gifts, then post-baby we somehow lost our ability to lick a stamp?
My own friends’ patience and understanding, and their willingness to put my challenges above their own needs really cemented them in my mind as A+ friends.
2. Understand she may only be able talk about the baby for a while.
Some new moms are simply obsessed with this new phase of life. Yes she may be describing baby bowel movements, growth chart progress, and cracked nipple pain with detail that you’d rather skip. Give her at least a few months to get over it. Most likely, she will. And if she doesn’t? Well, a good friend might (gently) nudge her to rediscover her passion for the things she used to love, whether it’s music, politics, fashion, travel, dining out, or Benedict Cumberbatch.
3. Understand the difference between venting and a request for advice.
New moms may just need to download and vent to her best friends about those engorged breasts or sleep-training terrors (see also: #2). Of course it’s possible she may want some BTDT tricks and tips — or maybe she just wants to get all her anxieties off her chest without feeling that you’re going to chime in with advice and fixes.
No matter how old my kids get, I always love when a friend is able to just listen when I need to vent, unless I ask for more. And that goes double for new moms at home with a baby, who probably have few other adults around to help take the weight off their shoulders.
4. Bring her food, rub her feet, hold her baby. Before she asks.
photo: laura lee moreau via unsplash
When I had my second child, a crew of my friends were absolutely amazing at figuring out what I needed before I had to ask for it. They organized a schedule and took turns dropping off dinners for myself and my family. Another few friends stopped by with groceries one day. And yet another came over and simply said, “Go shower. I’ll hold the little one.”
I remember each and every person who did these things for me, which seemed like tasks so beyond my reach at the time. Now, I always want to be that kind of friend to other women in my life when they become new mothers.
5. Give up on the idea of clubbing together.
Not every mom is ready to hit the town for a glam girls’ night out right after having a baby. (Hey, we can’t all be as put together as the gorgeous Chrissy Teigen.) Maybe she doesn’t feel up to it emotionally or physically. Maybe she’s got limited babysitting options, breastfeeding constraints, or just general anxiety about leaving her baby. Maybe she’s not feeling great about her new body.
Try to respect the space she’s in and work around that. It’s easy for new moms to fall down a rabbit hole and not come out until her baby is sleeping through the night — or entering kindergarten. What’s important isn’t what you do together or where you do it, but that you stay in her life. Even if it means just hanging out and doing nothing together. Don’t look at it as boring — see it as some needed downtime for you, too.
6. Remember that the little things count.
Helping out a new mom friend doesn’t have to be all about meal-planning or babysitting or dog-walking. Maybe stop by with your friend’s favorite latte when you know she could really use one. Leave her favorite song on voicemail. Drop an actual card in the mail — remember those? Or even easier, bombard her with funny digital ecards (the one above via Just Wink) when she’s home dealing with that first awful ear infection.
A simple gesture costs you very little and could make her whole day. New mom or not — no one ever gets tired being thought of or noticed.
7. For goodness sake, don’t just say hi on Facebook.
While it may feel great for any of us to get 150 comments on a Facebook post about some new milestone, or lots of “likes” on an adorable Instagram photo, there’s nothing that beats an actual phone call. Especially in this day and age when a text is considered personal and anyone can tap a thumbs-up on Facebook. So I try to make sure to treat my new mom friends as extra-special friends, meaning real live, human contact when I really want to honor a special moment or commiserate with a major new mom fail — that she’s sharing online.
8. Think about little gifts for her, not just the baby.
As much as she loves getting those adorable 3–6 mo. onesies or the cute stuffed animal you just had to grab, don’t forget her too. When you’re running on empty and extra hormonal to boot, a little nod to your own existence means the world. It could be as small as a new lipstick or nail polish, a favorite guilty pleasure magazine, or her favorite flower — just, no baby stuff allowed.
If she’s not good at accepting gifts, well, too bad. Sometimes friends know what a new mom needs even before she does.
9. Keep up with your friend long after the baby comes home.
New moms are inundated with offers of help when they bring home baby, but it feels like so many new parents hear crickets three months later — when, by the way, we’re totally wiped out and still not getting any sleep. Friends notice the offers of help that come in months after the baby is born and the novelty wears off. Especially when the grandparents have gone back home, a partner or husband may be back to work, and those endless stretches of alone time with the baby really sets in.
10. If you can’t relate to her as a parent, relate to her as a person.
It sucks, but sometimes it happens after a friend has kids — your once close bestie becomes the mother who’s too attached, too laissez-faire, too body-conscious, too uptight, or too stressed out for you, and it becomes really hard to relate. If her parenting style is getting in the way of your friendship, try and make plans to come over at night when (if?) the baby is sleeping. Or maybe you’ll just have to hang tight until the baby is a little older, and she can meet you alone for a coffee or a girls’ movie night.
Then, hopefully you’ll reconnect over whatever it is that bonded you in the first place, even if you have to skip the parenting talk completely. Even us moms of older kids need friends too. And someone to talk to about anything besides Bubble Guppies.