3 Tips To Help Manage The Baby Blues
Whether you are feeling particularly emotional, overwhelmed, or anxious in the days and weeks after having your baby, you can expect there to be some heightened feelings which can be up, down and all around. Some call it “the baby blues”. This is absolutely normal, due to the fluctuation in hormones, reduced sleep, and all of the new pressures of taking care of your baby.
While the early days can be an extremely joyful time, it can also look like lots of crying, the need to process your birth story, some arguing with your partner or family members, feelings of resentment or being overwhelmed, or missing your old life.
When is it the baby blues? When is it something more concerning like postpartum anxiety or postpartum depression and what can you do to help?
What are baby blues?
If you are experiencing the baby blues you may notice some shifts and unpredictability in your mood. It may quickly swing from happy to sad and back again. You may feel exhausted, irritable, anxious, or overwhelmed. These feelings can make simple everyday tasks like bathing and eating a little more difficult than usual and can last for up to 2 weeks.
What is postpartum depression or anxiety?
Recognizing the signs of postpartum depression or anxiety, also known as the PMADs .Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Disorders, (as compared to the baby blues) is not always easy. The main difference between the baby blues and postpartum depression or anxiety is the severity and length of sadness, despair or anxiety experienced after having your baby. Where the baby blues usually passes within 10-14 days, postpartum depression or anxiety typically lasts beyond 14 days. You may feel hopeless, alone, anxious and/or disappointed in parenthood. Other signs that you may be experiencing postpartum depression are that you aren’t bonding with your baby, you are crying often, you are having panic attacks and/or you are unable to eat, sleep, or care for yourself. If you or your family members have a history of depression or anxiety, you may be at greater risk for postpartum depression. Some people realize they just don’t feel like themselves anymore and if this feeling has continued past 14 days, it is worth talking to someone. Postpartum depression and anxiety are quite treatable and the first step is letting someone know what you are experiencing.
If you think you may be suffering from postpartum depression, reach out to your midwife or doctor and let them know so they can screen you and provide additional resources like mental health therapists who focus on the pregnancy and postpartum period or a psychiatrist who can prescribe medications or both depending on your symptoms and personal experience. Therapy has been proven successful at actually preventing depression and anxiety.
3 Ways To Manage The Baby Blues
- Bring on the Support!
If you are experiencing the baby blues it is important to reach out to your support system for help. Hiring a postpartum doulacan also do many things to help soften the postpartum period and postpartum doulas are often able to support you in unique ways that will benefit you the most. They can help you process and talk through your birth story, assist with household responsibilities such as meal prep, laundry, or watching your little one so that you can have time to yourself. Hint: Many new parents use the support of a postpartum doula to catch up on some much-needed rest and many postpartum doulas offer overnight hours! Other great professional supports for the postpartum period include lactation consultants, bodywork professionals, and mental health therapists who focus on this period of life.
- Your body still matters
While you were pregnant, you paid extra close attention to how you treated your body and what you put in it. Now that you have had your baby it feels natural to shift much of that attention to your little one, but how you treat yourself still matters and can impact your postpartum experience. Exercise is known to reduce the stress hormones in your body, such as adrenaline and cortisol. Exercise also creates endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers, and mood elevators. With all the online options, you can easily find guided exercise from the comfort of your home. Taking walks alone, with your partner, or as a family is a great way to support your mind and body and to incorporate family time, too.
Consider what you put in your body as another way of showing yourself love and care during this tender time. Be sure to eat lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, leafy greens, and foods high in protein such as yogurt, some fish, and beans. Asking for a food train from friends and family could be a solution if you are struggling to feed yourself. Continue to take your prenatal vitamins or try an omega 3 fatty acid supplement which is known to improve the brain development of nursing babies, and can improve your memory as well. A nutritionist can help; if you are struggling to find the right foods for you. Working with a postpartum doula who focuses on postpartum foods can help too. There are also postpartum meal delivery services.
- Carve out “Me Time”
In addition to celebrating the birth of your baby, many new parents find themselves reminiscing about or even mourning their pre-baby life. With all your new responsibilities, it is important to carve out time to enjoy and experience things you did before you became a parent that you miss, like catching up with an old friend, running errands alone, taking a relaxing bath, watching a show uninterrupted, taking a class or any engaging in any other hobbies or interests you may have. If you are struggling to find time, try some short, focused breath techniques like square breathing, where you breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 4, exhale for 4. “Me time” can also be 5-10 minutes alone in the shower/bath! Even if you can’t have this time as often as you used to, just small glimpses of your old life can help you to feel like yourself again.
If you think that you may be experiencing the baby blues, it is important to first make sure it isn’t something more serious like postpartum depression or anxiety. If you aren’t sure, speak with your midwife or doctor for further screening. Once you are able to rule out postpartum depression, you can support your experience by hiring a postpartum doula, night nanny, or lactation consultant if feeding your baby hurts or makes you anxious. Continue to take care of your body through nutrition and movement, and make time to do things that you enjoy.
There is a learning curve to parenting. Patience and time are needed to adjust to these big changes. Use these tips to make the road a little bit smoother as you navigate your new life.
Laura is a doula, a writer, and the mother of two incredible kids. When not supporting new families or her own, you can find her trying out new recipes in the kitchen. Laura is available on the boober platform for matches.