top of page
  • Jordan Quinn

How to Support Someone After a C-Section? (A Guide for Friends and Family)

Updated: Nov 6, 2023

If you know someone who has had a c-section, you may be wondering how you can best support them. A c-section is major surgery and recovery can be challenging. As a friend or family member, you can play a vital role in helping them navigate this process. Here are ten things you can do to support someone after a c-section.

Table of Contents

How to Support Someone After a C-Section?

1. Offer Practical Help...and Food. Always Food.

One of the most helpful things you can do is to offer practical help, and by practical, we mean physical. This can include helping with household chores, running errands, or preparing meals. After a c-section, it may be difficult for the person to do things like lift laundry baskets, load a dishwasher, pick up a prescription, or vacuum. By offering physical help, you allow them to focus on their recovery...instead of all the dishes overflowing in the sink.

What this sounds like:

  • "Hey, I'm swinging by the grocery store -- is there anything I can pick up for you and drop off at your door? It would make me feel good to be helpful."

  • "I'm making my special chili this week so I'm going to double it -- I'm going to drop it off on Tuesday unless there's a better day for you."

2. Provide Emotional Support

At the very least, they have just been through an intense 1-2 hour surgery completely awake (or if not awake, they may be navigating emotions from "missing" the birth). That would rattle anybody. Especially if it was unplanned or an emergency, chances are they may be completely traumatized.

Despite that, surprisingly people mostly ask about the baby and don't ask how they are. Simply asking how they are feeling, giving them a chance to vent, and checking in on them regularly (even just an occasional text to let them know you're thinking of them) can all go a long way. Let them know that you're there for them and that you care.

What this sounds like:

  • "How are you feeling? It sounds like you've been through a lot. <Pause>"

  • When they use a word to describe their feeling, say it back to them to validate it. E.g. "Wow, that does sound _______." And pause. Let them go deeper or continue talking.

Note: As a friend or family member, you should consider yourself an important part of their care team. Educate yourself on the signs of postpartum depression, anxiety, trauma, and psychosis so that if you notice these behaviors you can encourage them to get help. Also, keep in mind that their partners may need support and encouragement too :)

3. Give Support...and Space.

While it's important to offer help, it's also important to be thoughtful of personal boundaries. They said "No visitors in the hospital or until X date". Respect that. This time is not about you and your chance to meet your grandchild/niece/etc -- there is plenty of time for that sort of bonding. These early days (or weeks) should be focused on supporting the parents with recovering and figuring out their new roles -- and sometimes people's preferred environment for that is total privacy.

So, offer help, but respect their privacy and personal space (and don't be offended) if they decline your help. Remember that they may be in pain or discomfort and need time to rest. Or, they may feel embarrassed by the state of their house (and their appearance) to have guests over, but they may appreciate drop-offs while homebound or meeting up for an outdoor walk once they are mobile!

What this sounds like:

  • "Hey friend, I know there's probably a lot going on right now, so no pressure to respond. Just wanted to let you know I'm thinking about you. I'd love to help out by <offer something specific> or anything else you need when you are up for seeing people."

  • "I'm going to drop off a meal at your house around 4:00. I'll text you before I arrive in case you do want to see people, but if not I'll assume you are busy with feeding/sleeping/etc. and just leave it at the front door."

  • "Hi love, I know you decided you don't want visitors at the hospital, which we totally respect. We are so excited to see you both, so just let us know when you are feeling up for having visitors and anything we can bring. We care about you and will follow your lead on this."

4. Help with Childcare

If the person has other children, offer to help with childcare or carpooling. Taking care of a newborn and recovering from surgery can be overwhelming -- especially if there are other toddlers or young children who need attention and supervision. So any help with childcare is likely to be greatly appreciated.

What this sounds like:

  • "I'd be happy to take Tommy and Sarah to the park for an hour or two to give you some 1:1 time with the baby. Does tomorrow afternoon work?"

  • "I'm happy to pick up Sam from school this week so you don't have to worry about loading the baby in the car."

5. Encourage Rest and Question the "Resist"

Encourage the person to rest as much as possible. This may mean offering to watch their baby for a couple hours so they can take a nap, or reminding them to take it easy when they're feeling better.

For some reason, a lot of us defer to saying "we're fine" or declining help when offered because we don't want to be a burden. And some of the simple things people offer feel like huge things to us in that moment so it feels like a huge ask. Push back gently (or firmly) and remind them that not only are you offering, but doing it would make you happy. You would enjoy holding the baby, or helping her organize things, or running errands because you want to help and this is something easy for you.

What this sounds like:

  • "I'm free on Saturday afternoon and I'd love to hold the baby while you nap/shower/stare at a wall/whatever! Let me know if there is a good window for you, otherwise would something like 1-3 work?"

  • "Let me take an overnight shift this week. If you're using bottles, I can feed them, or if you are breastfeeding, I can keep you company and do the burping, diapering, and settling back to sleep. Let's try to get you a solid night's sleep if we can."

  • "I'm coming over tomorrow to fold laundry. So, tell your partner to put on as many loads as they can, and I'll be there from 2-4 if that works. You can stay in your room if you want, come down and hang, or leave the house if preferred - either way I'm a frickin' folding machine!

6. Bring Goodies

Never underestimate the power of showing up with a sandwich (or a coffee, salad, Big Mac - whatever they like). Small treats or gifts specifically for your friend can be a thoughtful way to show your support. Consider bringing a care package with items like healthy snacks, books, or cozy socks. When in doubt, bring a treat to drink or eat. They have probably microwaved the same cup of coffee 8 times today.

What this sounds like:

  • "Do you have a preferred drink at Starbucks? If not, I'm showing up with a _______."

  • "I'm at that deli in town picking up lunch before heading over -- what do you want? If you say 'nothing' I'm just going to guess, so better to just tell me."

7. Offer to Attend Appointments or Make Calls

Offer to attend appointments with the person, especially if they're feeling anxious about going alone or if they are unable to drive. Keep in mind that getting into a car hurts, driving in a car hurts, lifting a carseat with a baby feels impossible, lowering yourself down into those tiny, low chairs at the pediatrician appointments is downright cruel (seriously guys, can we change those?).

Having someone else there for support (or to drive and carry the car seat) can make a huge difference.

What this sounds like:

  • "I'd be happy to drive you to their appointment or to carry the carseat back and forth."

  • "I can watch the baby while you go to your appointment. Just let me know what time I need to be there."

  • "Are there any appointments you need help making? I know researching providers and calling to schedule is difficult with a newborn."

Note: This is especially helpful if they are struggling with mental health and don't have the energy to find the right professional that works with their insurance plan.

8. Offer Support with Breastfeeding (or Any Feeding)

Breastfeeding can be challenging for many new mothers, especially after a c-section. Offer to help with breastfeeding by providing information, sharing any tips or hacks that worked for you, or connecting them with a lactation consultant.

Sometimes simply hearing that it IS hard and it is not intuitive, but that it DOES get better can make the difference between quitting and continuing.

What this sounds like:

  • "Oof, breastfeeding is so hard and no one talks about it. Here's some links to a couple things that helped me [websites, techniques, social media accounts, products]."

  • "I've just sent you some lactation cookies I loved when I was breastfeeding."

  • "Can I fill up your water bottle? I know I was always so thirsty."

  • "Have you heard about (nipple shields, silicone healing pads, milk collection cups...or other magical pain-eliminating tool)? Those saved me."

9. Clap Back on "Snap Back" Culture

Recovering from a c-section takes time. And it is different for everyone. Be patient with the person and don't pressure them to do too much too soon. Encourage them to take things at their own pace and offer support along the way.

If they (or their partner) make comments about their appearance or "getting back to the gym" then help normalize that it takes significant time to recover, and that doing certain exercises before they've healed their core can do more damage.

If they are breastfeeding, their body is still in a very active postpartum stage and their body will likely be burning and storing fat differently. Remind them to let their body do its thing, and relax. There can be a million burpees in their future if they wish. Focus on your little one's burpies for now :)

What this sounds like:

  • "Slow down there superwoman. Didn't you just have major surgery a couple of weeks ago? Let me get this."

  • "It takes 9 months to grow a baby and 9-18 months for your body to fully recover. There's no race here."

  • "I know you can carry that now. But it doesn't mean you have to. Let me feel strong by lifting it ;)"

Note: Postpartum depression and other symptoms can appear up to 2 years afterward. If they seem to be struggling with something new, create space for them to discuss it.

10. Celebrate Milestones

Finally, celebrate milestones with the person. Whether it's the first time they're able to walk without pain, the first time they're able to lift their baby, or the first time they make it downstairs on their own. Acknowledge these achievements and offer words of encouragement.

Having someone to text when you've just overcome a hurdle and knowing they are going to respond back as your biggest cheerleader goes a long way in making this recovery feel less isolating.

What this sounds like:

  • "Happy 1-week of being a parent! You are doing great even if it seems crazy!"

  • Lots of emoji's whenever they share an update. And a follow-up question, because sometimes it's an effort to engage.

In Conclusion

Supporting someone after a c-section requires patience, empathy, and practical help. By offering emotional support, respecting boundaries, and providing practical help, you can help someone recover from surgery and adjust to life with a new baby. Remember to be supportive, celebrate milestones, and offer encouragement along the way. When in doubt, just drop something off or send a small "thinking of you" text - it can transform their day and their recovery.


bottom of page