Black women suffer from maternal mental health disorders at disproportionately higher rates than other women. On average, 29 – 44% of Black women experience postpartum depressive symptoms after childbirth. Despite being more likely to suffer from it, only 4% of Black moms receive postpartum depression support. 

It is likely that someone you know has dealt with postpartum depression. You might be unsure of what to do or say to support a friend or loved one going through postpartum depression

Lactation consultant, Erica Wilkerson, is the owner of Your Black Breastie, which provides perinatal mental health and lactation resources for mothers, particularly Black mothers. 

“No one should suffer in silence or alone,” Wilkerson said. “While only a licensed clinician can provide a diagnosis, family and friends can provide love and support for someone experiencing postpartum depression symptoms. 

Here’s how you can show up for a mom friend who is experiencing a postpartum mood disorder

Educate Yourself First

It is essential for family and friends to first educate themselves on what postpartum depression is and what information and resources are available. Just as having a baby looks and feels different for everyone, Wilkerson explains that postpartum depression also presents itself differently. It can look like fear, anxiety, mood swings, difficulty sleeping, appetite changes, inability to bond with the baby, or guilt. 

“Family and friends must first acknowledge that it presents itself differently for everyone, and reserve judgment as it is not warranted or helpful,” she said.

Share Resources 

Once family and friends are informed, then they can share resources and encourage mom to seek professional help with consideration and respect. Sometimes, a mom might not be ready to receive help from a professional. That is perfectly okay. 

“Family and friends need to create a safe space and normalize mom’s feelings,” Wilkerson said. “Assure her that you are there to listen without judgment, offer emotional support, and respect her boundaries.”

Some resources Wilkerson encouraged family and friends to direct moms to are support groups such as those offered through Postpartum Support International. New moms can find a doula through DONA International or the National Black Doulas Association. She also recommended therapy as a postpartum resource through: Your Black Breastie, Bump Baby Bliss, After Birth Studio, Raising Resilience, and Sista Afya.

Provide Practical Help 

When it comes to helping mom, a little goes a long way. Offering practical help might look like tending to the baby while mom sleeps, eats, showers, reads, or simply watches her favorite TV show. 

A lack of rest may be contributing to her depressive symptoms, which is why helping a mom with everyday tasks can make a huge difference. Tasks might include: washing dishes or laundry, sweeping/mopping the floor, delivering groceries, or taking out the trash. 

“Caring for a new baby is a lot of work and it can result in household tasks being pushed to the wayside,” Wilkerson said. “Taking something off of mom’s to-do list can alleviate stress and allow her to rest.”

Encourage Self-Care

Showing up also looks like encouraging self-care. Offering to watch the baby so mom can exercise, work on a hobby, get her hair done, or spend time with her partner promotes mental well-being. 

It is also important to check in regularly. Send mom a text or phone call. Schedule a visit (pop-ups don’t always work well). Do whatever you can to show up and create a plan to ensure mom has a break again. 

“The baby cannot and should not take over mom’s life,” she said. “Family and friends can show support by being present and being that village for mom and baby.”

Reassure Her That She Isn’t Alone

Showing up for the mom experiencing postpartum means validating her feelings and experiences. After reflective listening, Wilkerson encourages family and friends to reassure her that she is not alone. Also, show her that you are present. Offer to help find ways for her to practice self-care and prioritize her well-being. Let her know that it’s perfectly fine to not be okay right now. Listen and offer support. 

“The most appreciated words of support can be ‘I’m here for you,’” Wilkerson said. “It doesn’t have to be overcomplicated.”