Science has proven parenting can be a lonely path – and mom friends postpartum are the remedy.
The postpartum period is hard on parents – especially moms, which is why it’s so important to have a team of mom friends as postpartum supports.
Yet, creating a circle of social support can be much harder than it sounds, especially postpartum. Motherhood was meant to be a major life transformation and job supported by a village, but today many women become a mom and then find themselves going it alone.
Repeated studies have revealed that parenting can feel socially isolating, which has an impact on maternal health and children’s health.
Despite Canadian societal norms that prioritize solitary parenting, scientific studies indicate that having a support system of friends and loved ones, especially other mom friends, can offer significant relief from the difficulties and isolation of raising a child.
At Care for Women, we believe in motherhood, together – and we’ve created this article to bring more attention to why mom friends are so important both for new moms and their children.
Whether you’re a mom to be, a new mom or friends with someone who’s expecting, this article is for you!
- 51% of mothers with young children feel “serious loneliness”
- More than 1 in 10 people in Canada are always or often lonely
- Studies on loneliness indicate that isolation can be as dangerous to physical health as smoking cigarettes
- 83% of mothers under age 30 report feeling loneliness some of the time, and 43% feel lonely all of the time
- Breastfeeding can increase the risk of feeling lonely in new mothers
- Postpartum loneliness shouldn’t be expected, but it can and needs to be prevented through proactive social supports
The science of loneliness and the importance of connection
A study on loneliness commissioned by Cigna Global Health Insurance found that nearly half of all adults (not specifically parents) sometimes or always felt alone or left out – and this study was conducted before the pandemic and lockdowns.
New research shows that millions of Canadians have come out of the pandemic feeling lonely, isolated and anxious.
Cigna’s study shows that people feel less lonely when:
- They get the right amount of sleep each night
- They spend more time with family
- They get more physical activity each day
- They participate in the workforce
Now let’s think about parenting – a time in many mother’s lives when they sleep little, see people sporadically, exercise less than usual, and are out of work for sometimes up to 18 months.
It makes sense that parenting can feel lonely if postpartum supports are not in place to help new moms and new dads process these changes and the feelings they can cause.
Also read: What to write in a baby shower card
The importance of friendship for brain and body health
Human beings are social creatures. Feeling connected to one another is vital to our overall health and development from infancy to old age.
Social isolation has an impact on brain development at any age. In short, studies show that our brains are healthier when we feel connected to others.
Meaningful connections are described as:
- Feeling that we have close or “best” friends
- Feeling that we have someone to talk to about our struggles and our joys
- Feeling that there is someone in our life who understands us
- Feeling that we have people to spend time with when we’re craving interaction
Psychology research indicates that close friendships are associated with greater happiness as well as:
- higher self-esteem
- a stronger sense of purpose in life, and
- physical benefits such as lower blood pressure and longer lifespan
Loneliness and connection in motherhood
Loneliness in mothers with infants or toddlers under 3 years has been a studied concern around the world.
In this study on maternal loneliness, some mothers described that following the birth of their child they felt:
- Lost (a loss of their sense of self, loss of independence)
- Confined to their homes
- Unsupported by partners and family members
- Fear of being judged by others as “not a good mom”
- Feelings of increased negative feelings and depression
There is an increased risk of being diagnosed with perinatal and postpartum depression in mothers who report feeling loneliness.
Loneliness is a struggle for many new parents – and the process of becoming a mother (“matrescence”) involves hormonal changes, major shifts in identity, and the uprooting of our previously relied upon support structures and routines.
This is where mom friends and creating a modern day version of a “village” can save the day.
The importance of mom friends postpartum for child development
Science shows that healthy, happy mothers equal healthier, happier children.
Mothers who have mom friends as parenting supports also have children who score higher on developmental tests.
Maternal depression is considered a risk factor in children’s socioemotional and cognitive development.
On the other hand, this study by the JAMA Network shows that: “maternal social relationships are associated with cognitive development in children.”
In other words: mom friends help mothers stay healthy, happy, supported and understood – which leads to better connections between mothers and their children and cognitive benefits to children’s development.
Making mom friends postpartum
As one mom-journalist wrote for the Times, it took a long time for her to find mom friends who felt like “her people.”
Making new friends as an adult who is going through a major life transformation can feel daunting.
However, there are a number of ways new moms can make new friends postpartum, as well as ways other women can help form a new village around a new mom.
Below are 5 ways women can make new mom friends postpartum:
5 ways to make new mom friends postpartum
1. Mom and baby classes:
Many moms bring their infant to mom and baby classes not for the baby, but to meet new mom friends. Look at your local library or community centre for classes you might want to attend. Use the class to get out of the house, and begin a network with other moms in your community. It’s okay if your baby is asleep or hardly aware of what’s really going on.
2. Go virtual:
Joining your neighbourhood Facebook mom group, or an online community dedicated to moms – like Mamaraderie – can be an easy way to start building new connections, especially during those early postpartum days and weeks.
3. Begin a playground routine:
Even if your new baby is too young to climb on the playground, going for a short stroller walk by your local playground at the same time each morning can lead to new connections right by your home.
4. Join a support group:
Postpartum support groups for anxiety, depression or child development learning can be one of the best places to make new connections through shared experiences and deep bonds. Check with your family physician, local hospital or community resource centre for advertised groups. We’ve curated a number of powerful resources for new moms on our website. See the complete resource list here.
5. Directly ask for connections and support:
Similar to dating, sometimes reaching out to your current network to make new connections is one of the best ways to build new relationships. Email or text current friends, old coworkers or your family and ask if they know of anyone in their network who has recently become a new mom who you could connect with.
Remember, it may take time to build those connections around yourself – which is why postpartum supports exist in the meantime to help you get through those early days of seeking and finding your mom friends.
3 ways to create a village around a new mom
If you have a friend, coworker or family member who is about to become a mom or is newly postpartum here are three things you can do to help create a village:
1. Do a meal drop off or organize a meal train. Shared meals are one of the best ways to create a connection and show someone you care. Bonus points if you include uplifting messages for mom!
2. Spend time with her on her terms. Sometimes an invitation to come over can overwhelm a new mom, even if she wants to see you. Nap routines, feeding schedules and more can conflict with social time. Offer to drop by, especially after the first initial weeks have passed and ask what windows of time work best for mom.
3. Ask her how she’s doing and ask her again. After a momentous event like birth, new moms are often only asked how they’re doing once and they often want to reassure family and friends they’re doing fine. Continue to ask how mom is doing and be specific when you offer help: can you pick up groceries? Can you drop off a coffee? Can you connect her with a mutual new mom friend?
Motherhood together – you are not alone
Our organization, Care for Women, is a community of women for women. We’re here for women who find themselves feeling alone in their transition to motherhood.
Feeling lonely isn’t a reflection of your ability to “cope with parenthood” – parenting is hard to cope with alone.
You may feel lonely for reasons such as not having a supportive family, not having family available to help out, living in a new area away from old friends, or many other reasons.
But, you don’t need to do this alone.
If you’re a new mother looking for support and connection, we’re here for you. Take a look at the services we offer the mothers in our community who have applied for care.
Follow this link to apply for care today.
If you’re a compassionate person who has, or knows someone who has experienced parental loneliness, we invite you to donate to our program today. Your contribution helps us care for more mothers and children in our community and is greatly appreciated.