How to support sister in law and brot... - Action on Postpar...

Action on Postpartum Psychosis

3,008 members2,126 posts

How to support sister in law and brother with older child. Practical support?

Supporting_my_bro profile image

Hi All,

My sister in law has just been diagnosed with pp. She is in hospital with baby, my brother is at home with their 3 year old.

What would be most helpful to do or get to help my brother? I doubt he'll reach out, I just want to do somehing to help him out as he's visiting hospital everyday and is flying solo with the little one.

Also is there anything suitable to send in for his wife in the hospital? I don't know how well she is yet as this has just happened this week.



10 Replies
AndyHenderson profile image

It's good news mother and baby are together. There's detailed support for Dads in the APP web site here: You might find some of the information useful yourself.

APP also provides a one-to-one peer support service details here:


Rachel_at_APP profile image

Hi Supporting_my_bro,

Firstly I'm sorry to hear that your sister in law is poorly with PP and has been hospitalised. It is a horrible illness, as you have no doubt seen, but with the right help and support your sister in law can make a good recovery. She is in the right place, accessing support in hospital, but sorry to hear that she has had to leave her husband / partner and three year old whilst she gets help. That is tough for everyone.

I was hospitalised to a mother and baby unit in 2016 when I had PP with my first baby. I don't remember much of my first few days at the hospital to be honest, but when I started to get better, I remember people visiting and showing their love and kindness in their own way. Is your brother able to visit often? I'm not sure if visiting is back to normal now following the covid situation?

In terms of how you can support, I have no doubt that you already are. By virtue of writing here you're showing just how much you care. Your brother will very much appreciate you being there for them all, I am sure.

Do you live locally to your brother? If you do, there are very practical ways you can help I am sure like putting a load of washing in the machine and hanging it up, cooking a meal, baking a cake - taking your niece / nephew to the playground so that your brother can have a break. Lots of practical things that can support your brother.

If you're not local to him, then of course you're at the end of the phone, able to text supportive messages and send little pictures in the post to your niece / nephew maybe. In my experience, children love to receive post with their name on! Surround them in love in little ways as their Mummy is away and it'll naturally be an unsettling time.

In terms of your sister in law, I really hope that she responds well to being in hospital. It can take time, and it is early days by the sound of it. It can feel a bit of an up and down journey at times. I remember my mum did several things to support me, she brought a photograph from home for me to have in my room (check with the staff at the hospital about this, but it definitely helped me), take in a lavender scented something, I found it very comforting and calming - but everyone is different. Perhaps your sister in law has another scent she likes?

Read lots on our website. I know when I was poorly and was recovering, one of my old friends told me they had taken the time to read about Postpartum Psychosis. I thought that was so kind of them to try and understand, and I felt like they really cared as they had taken the time to try and comprehend what I had gone through. Here is a link to the partners guide which is very helpful, but there are also personal stories on our website too. Links below.

Guide for partners and families:

Personal stories:

Just be there for your brother, and offer your support. Your brother will so appreciate the moral support I have no doubt.

Take care, and write here anytime if we can help with anything.

Rachel x

EmiMum profile image

Hi Supporting_my_bro,

So pleased you have reached out here for some support for your brother and your sister in law. I am so sorry to hear that your sister in law has been struck with pp after the birth of her second baby, it is quite a traumatic illness and can struck out of the blue with very little warning, having said that it is also very recoverable as many mums here are proof of.

I had pp in 2018 following the birth of my first baby and my husband and brother visited me every day in hospital. I am pleased to hear that your brother can visit everyday and also bring your niece/nephew(?) to her, it must be such a consolation for your sister in law, even in the early days as just their presence will be a relief.

In terms of practical help for your brother that I can think of, perhaps helping around the house, bringing a dish around for example, and distracting their toddler could be appreciated. Pp is such a whirlwind that it takes some time to get your head around it and to be able to put it in words, even with your nearest and dearest; don't feel pressured one way or another. But let him know that he is not alone and does not have to brave all of this just by himself.

Things that your sister in law may appreciate, could be home comforts, blankets or pillows that remind her of home, a soft pair of slippers, her favourite snacks. It is all very recent from what you write, but these were things that I appreciated when I started coming back to myself. I have always enjoyed reading, but books and magazines took me the longest to get back into as I found it really hard to concentrate at the beginning. Colouring books could also be an option if she has that inclination, and pampering toiletries like hand cream, lip balm, etc.

With treatment and time your sister in law will come back to herself, I know it doesn't feel like that at the moment, but it will most certainly get better.

The APP website has a series of guides for women who are recovering from post-partum psychosis and also for their partners and family :

They have been compiled with the help of mums and family members with lived in experience of pp, you and your brother may find them helpful. I read through the recovery guide as well when I had been in hospital for a couple of months, and it helped me internalise how pp is an illness and not a permanent change in my character.

Take good care, write here whenever you want to share something or have any questions

Twobabies profile image

Hello, well done finding this group I really hope we can all help in some small way. It’s sounds so hard for your brother and niece wonderful you are there to support. I had Ppp in 2018 I was lucky my parents and brother rallied around my partner to help him look after our other twin. Great she is in an MBU. My girls are 3 now so I have an idea of how hard looking after there 3 year old and her emotions with mum being away with new baby must be. Practical help is very good idea. Loads of ideas shared and links to info already. Just to add not sure if 3 year old in nursery ?, if so taking on the drop offs or collection might be a great help. If not and your brother normally take her to the MBU you could offer to go along so you could play with her on grounds of MBU while your brother can speak with your sister in law without kids for a little bit and also attend any ward meetings. Maybe bring some games , my three year olds love those orchard toys games or if in nice grounds a nature hunt usually a winner. Another thing might be good is cook vouchers or the mindful chef which do home cooked frozen meal bundles / vouchers so your brother had good food and doesn’t have to worry about cooking. It’s incredibly tough for your brother and you being there will be help so much. My partner often said he doesn’t know what he would have done without the family support as he found it very hard to cope. Reassurance, she will get better. Finances are another thing if your brother needs to sort time off work or any support with that. You could also ask him if he would like to email out a communication to their close friends so people who love them are in the loop. Psychosis in particular is terrifying for the person experiencing it and those around. Allowing him a little time for self care also good and a pint in the pub or some kind of stress relief if another family member or close friend can take your niece for a bit that of maybe beer and take out in house if that appeals. Maybe. Note book and pen for meetings with medical staff. It’s a horrible horrible illness but thank goodness recoverable. Hope things look brighter soon and I’m very sure your brother will be so grateful for your support.sending love to you all. X

Pikorua profile image


thank you for reaching out and a warm welcome to this group.

My partner gave his all when I was sectioned throughout the Summer till September in 2010. Love and kindness for such traumatising times can be of great comfort.

Family and friends can play such a big part and will be of great significance throughout acute illness and subsequently recovery time. A lot of patience and listening skills are required for those who play a vital part in supporting the family.

My partner was struggling so much as he was thrown into the deep end, just knowing that I became seriously ill after giving birth to my son.

Like your brother he went daily to hospital to see me, but simultaneously having to care for our baby son.

- yes, it would be great, if you can communicate and listen and just saying, I am here for you always, building bridges may take a bit of time, but small gestures will be a good start;

- your brother needs to keep his strengths emotionally and physically, thus offering to share meal time or cooking or getting him nutritious food delivered

- anything to allow for a bit of me-time, something which covers his passion/interest, - reading material, music stuff etc.

- most importantly a rota creating a family and/or friends' support network (baby sitting, quality time together, listening without judging), - it is going to put an emotional strain on you, if you take on too much caring responsibilities

- it is worthwhile to have a look what is going on in his community with regards to carer support, mental health support, dad groups etc.

- keeping in touch with friends who matter most to him

- encourage a good banter with health professionals; my partner was a key player in managing my needs within hospital, and finally in making sure that I was released and given appropriate after care

- you could be helping your brother with goal posts and moral campus...there is too much to think about when emotionally my case a lot of health professionals and other orgs were involved and for your brother there is also trying to juggle work arrangements

(occupational health, GP, union and counselling and other support links were vital for my partner: he had to take 6 months of full time and then gradually was re-integrated into work, firstly part time)

I know this sounds like an overload and these are all suggestions only, needs are diverse...

In my few point the focus on your brother will be priority as with your help and support inner strengths will feed from your brother to his wife...once you know about the ins and outs and how well she is doing, more could be done...just be there and making sure your brother is reassured...

Take good care of yourself, too. Much love x


I am sorry to hear this but happy that you are thinking pro-actively. My wife has suffered PP now for 3 years and I was on my own really the whole time.

Are you close and comfortable looking after their 3 year old? I know that having that little one cared for, in safe hands would be a great help. Maybe offer to get the shopping in would really help too. If he is the sort of person not to reach out then practical things like this are more easy to accept and appreciated. I am sure there will be times that he will really need someone he can trust and lean on through this. I certainly had many moments when all I wanted was a hug and a shoulder, I am also a chin up and get on type of person. I ended up pushing myself so hard that I got pneumonia and put into hospital myself for 4 days. Odd as it sounds and ill as I was it was actually a welcome break from the pressure I had been carrying.

So practical help at first, turn him on to this resource (I just diacovered it and wish I had found it sooner), let him know it is anonymous and then let him know that whatever and if ever he needs to get his thoughts out you will listen and not judge. Get him out for walks, rides, workouts, or whatever so he gets some head space

It is very scary to be experiencing this and can be so confusing. You are obviously ready to support and that is great, and to research the condition. You will see that it is recoverable from but it can take time. The UK is one of the best places to be for this, I often think we would have been bettet to have got on a plane at the start and headed back.

Look after yourself, it is brilliant that you are already reaching out.

Take care,


Lilybeth profile image

Hello Supporting_my_bro

I’m sorry to read that your sister-in-law has recently been diagnosed with PP. It must have been a shock for the family, as it was for mine many years ago.

I had PP twice and was treated under mixed general psychiatric care, so I was separated from my newborn sons. My first son was six years when his brother was born so it was very hard for my husband. It’s very early days for your sister-in-law but she is in the best place to get better. I think it has been mentioned in a reply here that PP is a temporary and very treatable illness ... although it doesn’t feel like that in the early days.

Your brother must be very tired visiting his wife everyday but it will be reassuring for her to know he is by her side. I wasn’t aware of visitors at first as I was still having delusions but as time went on I did appreciate family company. Is your brother visiting with their little one? Perhaps he could take a family photo for his wife to see when she is feeling more stable? Or even a little blanket from their little one as a comfort from home?

If you are not too far away, perhaps you would be able to help with any washing or ironing he might have? Or take a colouring book for your niece so that they can both colour in and have fun together, taking some of the stress away.

There is another APP resource “PP Soup” described as a nourishing mix of all things Postpartum Psychosis. Put together by a mum who suffered PP with input from other mums and professionals at For example “What to say to someone with Postpartum Psychosis” might be helpful.

Remember to take care of yourself too as this can be a very stressful time for everyone. We are all here to listen.

I can't thank you all enough for sharing your advice and kind thoughts. I appreciate the time you have taken to support an anonymous stranger, your personal experiences are so helpful. I have visited my brother with a little survival pack for home and one for his wife. She's not quite up for extended family visits yet but seems to be making good progress which is very good. I'll continue to work through your suggestions, once again thank you for all your replies ❤❤❤

Lilybeth profile image

Hello Supporting_my_bro

I’m glad your sister-in-law seems to be making progress. The forum is a great safe space to share our experiences and It’s good to hear you found them helpful. I hope your brother can find a little time in his day for himself and I’m sure your loving support is a great help to his family.

We are all here to lean on. Take care.

Pikorua profile image

Thank you for your kind response. We are thinking of you. x

You may also like...