While the birth of a child should be a moment of immense joy, for many moms, it comes with fear, anxiety, and depression. If this is what you are dealing with, you are not alone. A lot of women have trouble finding the energy to care for themselves, their families and even their little ones after delivery. This is called the baby blues. Baby blues can metamorphosis into postpartum depression which can make you start having thoughts of harming yourself or your child.
There are several strategies that can be employed to help deal with baby blues. However, when you start showing symptoms of postpartum depression, or when you start having thoughts about harming yourself or your child, you need to seek professional help.
Coping with postpartum depression and the baby blues
1. Focus on creating a strong bond with your baby
The process of emotional bonding between mother and child is known as attachment. It is an important step in your relationship with your child that takes place during the first few weeks of an infant's life. When attachment happens successfully, it creates a deep relationship that allows your child to develop fully. In fact, it has an effect on how your child will interact, communicate and form relationships throughout their life.
To form this strong bond with your baby, you have to be intentional about responding warmly and consistently to all their physical and emotional needs. When the baby cries, soothe them. When they smile, respond in kind. Hold them and let them feel your body heat.
Postpartum depression interrupts this process. It leads to inconsistencies when it comes to caring for your baby, and it can lead to adverse effects if you let it go too far.
While bonding with your child might be tough when you are also dealing with baby blues, if you put in the effort to do it despite how you feel, it may also yield positive results for your own state of mind. Every time you respond to them positively, your brain releases endorphins, which make you feel happier and more confident as a mom.
2. Seek social contact
One of the best ways to relieve the baby blues and stress is to seek positive social contact. It’s one of the fastest and most efficient ways to feel better. Here are a few ways you can lean on others for support:
- Prioritize your adult relationships. Staying connected with family and friends is important when you are feeling depressed and vulnerable. Do this even when you want to be alone. Self-isolating when dealing with depression only makes the situation worse than it is. Let those closest to you know what you need and how you would like to be supported.
- Find a way to share what you are going through with the people you love. In addition to being a source of practical help, close family and friends can also serve as an emotional outlet. Share your experiences and fears with them, from the good, the bad, and the ugly. Communication is a great way to make your issues feel lighter on your shoulders.
- Join a support group. This is a great idea as it will connect you with other people who are dealing with the same challenges as you. Consider it even when you have supportive friends and family. Hearing what they have to say can be very reassuring especially if it resonates with whatever you are going through. You can find these groups online or ask your paediatrician for resources closest to you.
3. Take better care of yourself.
Being mindful of your physical and emotional wellbeing is a great way to start feeling better. Take the initiative to change your lifestyle in small and subtle ways. These changes will go a long way in helping you feel like your normal self again.
Here are a few ways to do it:
- Skip the housework. Make yourself and your baby the number one priority. Give yourself some time to breathe. Chores can always be done later. Your health and your baby's well-being are more important.
- Slowly get back to exercising. When it comes to treating depression, exercise is more effective than any medication. The sooner you get back on the move, the better. Don't overdo it, though. A 10 to 30-minute walk every day will work wonders. Yoga and other stretching exercises are also just as effective.
- Add mindful meditation to your daily routine. A lot of research supports the benefits of meditation, so consider adding it to your routine. It will make you calmer, more energized, and more aware of what you feel and need.
- Get enough sleep. While getting some shut-eye might be tough with a baby, take all you can get. Consider asking your partner, friends, or family to take over with the baby for a while so you can get some rest. It will do wonders for your baby blues.
- Eat right. When you are depressed, your appetite severely suffers. Try to make healthy meals a priority because what you eat influences your mood. Plus, if you are breastfeeding, your nutrition also directly impacts the quality of your breast milk, affecting your baby's development.
- Get some sun. Studies have shown that sunlight can uplift the mood. Try to get at least 15 to 20 minutes of sunlight every day.
4. Connect with your partner
The months immediately after having a child are some of the toughest for any relationship. The birth of a child takes the relationship in a whole other direction, and you have to work hard to make sure that it does not go off the rails. When the relationship is your main source of social connection and emotional expression, it can take a toll on your overall well-being.
Here are a few tips that might help:
- Avoid blame games. All the sleepless nights and new responsibilities can leave you both feeling overstretched and exhausted. Its all too easy to take it all out on your partner. Whenever you feel this way, remind yourself that you are both in this together. Tackle your parenting issues together as a unit and you will come out feeling closer to each other.
- Communicate with your partner. Talk about how you feel about your new roles and you how you can help each other out. Don't let any problems you have with each other fester. And don't assume that your partner knows how you feel.
- Take some time to be together, just the two of you. This is essential if you are going to start reconnecting with your partner after childbirth. You don’t even have to go out to have a good time. Just 10 to 20 minutes of focused, undistracted time can do wonders for your relationship.
Final thoughts: What if nothing works?
If none of these tips seems to be working, or if you notice that your condition is getting worse, it may be time to seek additional professional help. Talk to your doctor about postpartum depression and the treatment options available to you.
You can also try individual therapy or marriage counselling. Therapy can really help you adjust to your new role as a mother. It can also help fix the problems you are experiencing in your relationship, which may be an aggravating factor to your depression issues.