A startling number of new moms feel ignored. Here's how to let them know you see them.

By Beth Ann Mayer
April 27, 2021
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An image of a mom holding her baby.
Credit: Getty Images.

"How's your baby sleeping?" "When are you due?" "Is this your first child?" "How's that cute kiddo doing?"

Pregnant people and new parents will be the first to tell you: These are some of the most frequently asked questions they field from friends, family, and even random people on the street.

But it's what's not on the list is the subject of concern: Questions about the new parents, like how they're doing. About 20 percent of new moms report feeling ignored, according to a new survey from the health app FitTrack.

The app hopes to shift the conversation by partnering with Postpartum Support International, an organization dedicated to helping women deal with the emotional changes they experience throughout their motherhood journeys. For every person who signs the pledge, FitTrack will donate $1 (up to $5,000) to Postpartum Support International.

This conversation is such an important one to have. Though people mean well when they ask new parents how their baby is doing, we must not forget about the parents. Anxiety and depression are common during pregnancy and postpartum—up to 1 in 5 women may experience postpartum depression, according to the CDC. One recent study showed that anxiety and depression increased in pregnant people during the pandemic. Some experts worry that the current way of screening for postpartum depression is outdated, particularly in the context of a global health crisis.

I gave birth shortly before the pandemic and was fortunate to have friends who had the wherewithal to ask how I was doing and truly listened to my concerns. They provided a lifeline, even from a distance, and it's troubling that so many mothers don't have this support system. Mental health and feeling seen shouldn't be luxuries.

How can you help the new mom in your life? A few do's and don'ts.

  • Do: Offer to help with something specific. Asking "what can I do?" is great, but it's even better if you can offer to help with a specific chore, such as laundry. Sometimes, new parents don't know what they need or feel sheepish asking.
  • Don't: Comment on how tired a new parent looks. They probably know.
  • Don't: Make comments on a postpartum individual's weight. They just grew a tiny human and are now keeping said tiny human alive. The last thing they need to worry about is the number on the scale going down at a pace that you find acceptable.
  • Do: Organize a meal train. Cooking for yourself often goes out the window when the baby is eating every two hours. Having someone else ensure you eat can go a long way. A fed, healthy parent and baby are typically happier and healthier.

I'm not an expert, but as someone who had tons of conversations postpartum, my biggest piece of advice is: Start by asking how the person is doing and really listen to the answer. Don't dismiss their feelings, even if you went through something similar and "didn't think it was that bad." Everything is relative, and dismissing feelings may only make the new mom feel more ignored.

Are you a new mom? Check out That New Mom Life, a new podcast from Parents about those first bleary-eyed months of motherhood, now available on listening platforms.