Becoming a new mom often brings up a roller coaster of emotions. Many of us aren’t prepared for how challenging the postpartum period can be. Sleep deprivation, mental health challenges, an overnight identity transformation, and new labor related to caring for a baby can leave us feeling overwhelmed and uncertain.
We often feel like we can’t or shouldn’t ask for help. It might seem like everyone around us is navigating motherhood just fine and that we are the only ones struggling. We might even wonder if we’re failing if we ask for help.
The truth is that becoming a parent is hard–and new moms need support. Expressing our needs in the postpartum period is essential. But many of us don’t know where to begin or how to ask for help.
It takes a combination of understanding our needs, shifting our belief set, and setting up practical ways for people to assist us. Read on to learn 7 ways you can ask for help in the postpartum period.
Before you can ask for help, it’s vital to understand that doing so is not a sign of failure. We often enter motherhood with the belief that we should be able to naturally “do it all.” The mismatch between our expectations and reality can leave us questioning our own capabilities and worth.
If you find yourself hesitant to ask for help, think about what you would want for other new moms. Would you judge them for needing help? Would you tell them to suffer in silence? Or would you encourage them to seek the support they need?
You deserve the same compassion and understanding that you would offer a friend or loved one. It isn’t failing to ask for or accept help. In fact, it’s one of the best things you can do for your postpartum mental health, your overall wellbeing, and your entire family. Your baby needs you to be happy and whole–not overwhelmed, burnt out, and struggling!
It can be helpful to practice some self-compassionate statements to remind you that you aren’t failing, that it’s okay to struggle, and that asking for help is a positive thing. Try these statements or use them as a jumping-off point to create your own:
Parenting feels hard because it is hard–everybody feels this way.
We weren’t made to parent alone–and asking for help doesn’t mean I’m doing this wrong.
It’s okay to lean on others for support.
I deserve to have my needs met.
A big part of asking for help is understanding what it is that you truly need. When we’re overwhelmed in invisible labor, suffering from sleep deprivation, and feeling like there’s ALWAYS something else to do, it’s hard to know where to begin. Even if people offer to help, we might not know what to ask for.
Think about what is consuming your time, draining you, or keeping you overwhelmed. Spend time reflecting on what it is that you truly need.
Is it more sleep? Someone to take care of the dishes or the laundry so you can bond with your baby? Time to yourself? Connection with your partner? Emotional reassurance?
When we can understand what it is that we need the most, it becomes much easier to communicate these needs clearly.
If family or friends come over to visit, and the last thing you need is to play host or entertain them, set those expectations upfront. Don’t be afraid to ask them to watch the baby while you sleep or fold a pile of laundry. Communicate openly about your needs.
The postpartum period can take a toll on relationships. We often find ourselves only communicating in the middle of overwhelm, when we’re frustrated or resentful. The middle of the night when we’re up for the second (or fifth) time is not the best time to have a positive, productive conversation!
But frequent open communication is important. If you have a partner, they are your ally on your journey. Talk to them about your needs, about dividing labor in a fair way, and about the importance of valuing your work and helping you take the time to meet your needs. Remember that you’re both on the same team–and you’re both learning along the way!
Set up a regular time for check-ins and communication–daily, every other day, or once a week. Listen to each other and discuss how everyone can get their needs met.
Friends and family often want to help but aren’t sure what to do. But answering the question, “What can I do to help?” when you’re holding a crying baby, covered in spit-up, or surrounded by chaos can feel like more of a mental burden than just saying, “Oh, nothing” and doing it yourself.
Creating a “help list” allows you to avoid the mental labor of prioritizing and delegating tasks in the moment, and gives visitors a concrete way to help.
Print or write a list of tasks that guests can tackle during their visit. This could include cooking a meal, doing a load of laundry, walking a pet, washing dishes, or taking out the trash. Post the list on the fridge or somewhere easily accessible to make it easy to direct guests to it.
It might feel like you have to do everything, but there might be labor you can outsource, if feasible for your family.
Grocery delivery services, cleaning services, night nurses, postpartum doulas, or meal kit options are all options that might help you alleviate some of the stress and burden in the postpartum period, freeing up time and energy to take care of yourself and bond with your newborn.
If your family isn’t able to take advantage of these options, there might be other creative solutions to outsource some labor. Perhaps you can partner with another new mom in your neighborhood and take turns doing laundry while the other naps or rests. Or you can ask a friend or family member to set up a meal train so that you don’t have to cook or worry about meals.
Brainstorm what options for outsourcing might look like for you and your family.
Sometimes what we need most in the postpartum period isn’t help with chores–it’s emotional support. Finding a community that understands what you’re going through can help you feel less alone.
This might look like a mom group, friends or family, or a support group. Seek out those who are non-judgmental, open and understanding, and who you can be vulnerable with.
Share your experiences, seek advice, and offer support to others. A strong community can make a significant difference in your mental wellbeing.
Don’t be afraid to seek help or a professional, such as a mom therapist experienced in postpartum mental health.
We often tell ourselves that we don’t need help, especially if we feel like other people are suffering more than us. But the truth is that we don’t have to wait until we are in a crisis to seek professional support.
Seeking professional help early on is a proactive step toward protecting your mental health and learning valuable skills for a lifetime of motherhood.
Postpartum mental health professionals are trained to provide the support and guidance needed during this critical period. Therapy can offer coping mechanisms, a safe space to express your feelings, and valuable insights into managing the challenges of new motherhood.
Asking for help in the postpartum period isn’t always easy, but it is worth it. Support is a fundamental aspect of navigating the postpartum period.
From help with physical tasks to supporting our mental health, it’s important to take care of our needs, prioritize our wellbeing, and ask for postpartum support when we need it.
Remember, you're not alone, and seeking help is a powerful demonstration of strength and resilience.
Need professional postpartum help? Our specialized mom therapists get what you’re going through and offer safe, non-judgmental support. Book a FREE 15 minute virtual consult today.