1. What do you need?
Wait, shouldn't I be offering to help out? You might be wondering. Asking a mother suffering from postpartum depression what she needs puts unnecessary pressure on her. Forming an answer to that question requires her to evaluate and prioritize her needs, when the inability to do so is actually a symptom of PPD. If you present a mother with this questions, odds are she will tell you she doesn't need anything, when in fact, the opposite is true. Instead of offering to help out, do it. Instead of asking her, tell her "I'm going to bring over some meals for you!" or "I'd love to come watch your little one while you take a nap or shower." If she declines, then you should of course respect her boundaries. But offering specific help is much more likely to help her out than asking her what she is in need of.
2. You'd feel better if you did *fill in the blank*.
Postpartum depression does not have an easy cure. While things like exercise, getting outdoors or taking a hot bath may help improve mood, they are not a way to magically take depression away. If you have not suffered from depression, then you cannot fully understand it. Even if you have suffered from depression, no two people are alike. What helped you, may not help her. Instead, ask her if she'd like to go for a walk with you. Or ask her if you can come hold the baby while she takes care of herself - a nap, meal, shower, whatever she needs.
3. What does it feel like?
Mothers suffering from PPD often are confused, scared or unsure of their feelings and may not even be able to put them into words. This question can come across as invasive and could cause the mother to push you away even if you have the best of intentions. Instead, you can ask her, "Would you like to talk or vent about your feelings?" And leave the door open for her. Let her know she can always reach out to you if she needs to talk.
4. This will pass.
Even though the statement is true, women suffering from postpartum depression cannot think that far ahead into the future. Saying this could make the mother feel like her pain is being minimized or invalidated, because it's temporary. Instead, offer her an encouraging, "You will get through this." That sends a better message, because it acknowledges the difficulties she is currently facing, while showing that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
5. You know any medication you take goes into your breast milk.
The LAST thing, and I mean the LAST thing, a women suffering from postpartum depression needs is someone to make her feel guilty. And the last thing a breastfeeding mother needs, is to be shamed. If the mother is taking medication, she has likely discussed the matter thoroughly with her doctor. Depression sufferers should never be put down while trying to get the help they need. Instead, you could offer to drive the mother to her doctor's appointments, or lend a hand with the little one while she is there.
If you, or someone you know is suffering from postpartum depression, know you're not alone. Reach out to a family member, friend or professional in your area. You don't have to suffer alone. You WILL get through this!