Almost all new mothers experience some postpartum blues. New moms are often sore, sleep deprived and stressed with all the responsibilities of a newborn baby. Moms can be feeling fine one minute and suddenly burst into tears the next without even knowing why. Or she might be watching a commercial on TV and become very emotional and tearful. These situations are very common.
If a mom is able to lie down and take a nap and when she wakes up she feels refreshed and like herself again, this is normal postpartum blues. What isn’t normal is to feel miserably depressed for weeks on end and mom does not feel like her normal self.
The best thing to do is to prevent postpartum blues or depression in the first place. Moms need help and support when they bring the new baby home. Dads and grandmas can be a huge help for new moms. Moms need to be reminded to take care of themselves and their babies and let the other people in the house do the cooking, dishes, laundry and other housework. For a new mom, there is no housework that is more important than getting her daily afternoon nap.
When friends and family call to see how things are going and offer to help out, mom is not allowed to say no! She also needs to give them a job to do. If she has nothing for supper, needs groceries, has laundry to do or whatever, she needs to tell the people offering to help her. If she doesn’t give them a job to do, they will not know what to do for her and the calls offering to help her will stop.
Some moms have more than just normal postpartum blues. It’s very important for her to talk to her OB doctor. There are antidepressants that can be taken safely with breastfeeding. There are also several non medicinal options to help treat depression including Omega-3 fatty acids, bright light therapy, psychotherapy, cognitive therapy and exercise. Breastfeeding successfully can also be a very positive, empowering experience so moms also need to get the help they need to have breastfeeding go well to help prevent postpartum depression.
What to Do If You Have Symptoms
Call your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms during or after pregnancy:
- Your baby blues don’t go away after 2 weeks
- Symptoms of depression get more and more intense
- Symptoms of depression begin any time after delivery, even many months later
- It is hard for you to perform tasks at work or at home
- You cannot care for yourself or your baby
- You have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
Any woman may become depressed during pregnancy or after having a baby. It doesn’t mean you are a bad or “not together” mom. You and your baby don’t have to suffer. There is help.
– Depression During and After Pregnancy, WomensHealth.gov
A Few Tips to Rid Those Baby Blues
While typical baby blues are fairly brief and usually disappear on their own, you can do a few things to help yourself feel better and get through the next few emotional days or weeks:
Join a support group. Joining a support group, either in person or online, can help you sort through your feelings about new motherhood. Take care to choose a group that aligns with your core beliefs about parenting a baby. As an example, if you are committed to breastfeeding, but most other members of the group are bottlefeeding, this may not be the best place for you, since your breastfeeding issues won’t be understood and you won’t find many helpful ideas among this group.
Tell Daddy what he can do to help. It’s very important that your spouse or partner be there for you right now. He may want to help you, but he may be unsure of how.
Don’t fret about perfection right now. Household duties are not your top priority now — in fact, nothing aside from getting to know your baby is. Remember that people are coming to see your baby, not your house, so enjoy sharing your baby with visitors without worrying about a little clutter or dust. Simplify, prioritize, and delegate routine tasks, errands, and obligations.
Enjoy your job. If you work outside the home, then view your time at your job as an opportunity to refresh and prepare yourself to enjoy your baby fully when you are at home. Go ahead — talk about your baby and share pictures with your co-workers. Chances are, they’ll love to hear about your new little one. This is a nice and appropriate way of indulging your natural instincts to focus on your baby when you can’t be with her.
Get into exercising. With your health care provider’s approval, start exercising with short walks or swims. Exercise will help you feel better in many ways both physical and emotional. Even if you didn’t exercise before you had your baby, this is a great time to start. Studies prove that regular exercise helps combat depression, and it will help you regain your pre-baby body much more quickly.
Eat healthful foods. When the body isn’t properly nourished, spirits can diminish – particularly when the stress of recovery makes more nutritional demands. If you are breastfeeding, a nourishing diet is important for both you and your baby. Healthful foods, eaten in frequent meals, can provide the nutrition you need to combat the baby blues and give you the energy you need to handle your new role. And don’t forget to drink water and other healthy fluids, especially if you’re nursing! Dehydration can cause fatigue and headaches.
Take care of yourself. Parenting a new baby is an enormous responsibility, but things will fall into place for you and everything will seem easier given time. During this adjustment phase, try to do a few things for yourself. Simple joys like reading a book, painting your nails, going out to lunch with a friend or other ways in which you nourish your spirit can help you feel happier.
Love yourself. You are amazing: You’ve become mother to a beautiful new baby. You’ve played a starring role in the production of an incredible miracle. Be proud of what you’ve accomplished, and take the time to know and enjoy the strong, capable, multifaceted person you are becoming.
– This article is a copyrighted excerpt from Gentle Baby Care by Elizabeth Pantley. (McGraw-Hill, 2003)
Still have questions? Don’t hesitate to call or email me anytime with your concerns. I am here to assist you in any way I can.