Your baby is finally here. After months of growing and developing into a tiny human, your little one has made an entrance. You know you should be elated, but something feels off. Postpartum blues is real and can last a few weeks as your hormones shift from pregnancy to the recovery period.
How do you move past postpartum blues and get back to enjoying your new baby?
Getting back on track after postpartum blues.
You may have felt happy, joyful, and serene right after the birth of your baby, but after the first week of no sleep, constant diaper changes, learning how to care for a newborn, and shifts in hormones, you feel the opposite.
This is a normal occurrence. Hormones control our emotions and moods, and as estrogen and progesterone levels decrease, you may experience postpartum blues with mood swings, sadness, and anxiety for a few weeks.
The good news is that the postpartum blues only last about two weeks, then your hormones stabilize. When the emotions do not seem to be stabilizing and you continue to experience mood swings, sadness, and/or anxiety, it is important to check in with your healthcare provider. While experiencing these emotional lows is normal after birth, there are things you can do to help ease your way through this time.
Increase rest and nutrition.
This may sound easier said than done, but as your hormones adjust, it is the most important time for you and your baby to focus on rest and nutrition. Keeping your body fed and hydrated will boost your ability to weather the baby blues. Resting may not come easy as life can be full of demands, but finding a way to incorporate it whenever possible is a must.
One of my favorite pieces of advice in this area was from a midwife who said, “stock up on one-handed foods.” The unpredictable schedule and demands of a newborn will seem at odds with the times you are hungry. One-handed, nutrient rich and/or simple foods are a great go-to.
If you are unable to sleep whenever the baby sleeps, that’s okay. Increasing rest can also look like decreasing the energy you expend or creating a restful environment. Dim the lights, light a candle, time-block for quiet activities, and set the mood for relaxation for the whole family.
Find help with the baby and the house.
The overwhelming feelings may be more acute if you are trying to manage a newborn on your own. The first few weeks of an infant’s life are also a challenge for them. They must adapt to sights, sounds, and smells they did not have in the womb. In addition, they have no way of communicating except through crying.
This trying period will pass as your baby grows and adapts, but in the meantime, you need help. Do you have a spouse that can take over while you get some sleep? How about a parent or sibling who can handle the daily chores like dishes and laundry? A friend who can bring you a meal, sit with you, or hold the baby while you shower? Asking for help is a sign of strength. Many people will want to help you, but they will need your permission.
If you are preparing for your baby’s birth and are reading this to know what to expect, take the time to recruit help now. From anything to setting up a meal train, to driving siblings to their appointments, to walking the dog and cleaning your house.
There are things you can do for yourself as well. To save time during those first few weeks, consider cooking and freezing meals for when your family is too tired to cook. Consider reducing physical clutter and daily routines to the necessities. Even stocking up on paper plates and disposable cutlery.
If you have a large family, teach your older children to do certain chores, like taking out the trash, running the vacuum, and dusting. Even little ones can fold the towels and washcloths; their work may not be perfect, but it will be done and one less thing for you to think about.
Focus on less.
Now may be a time when focusing on less or slowing down may not be possible. Maybe you are in the middle of a school program, have to go back to work immediately, or are raising other kids who haven’t reached a significant independence level.
Even if that is the case, something will have to give. The attention a baby demands, coupled with the struggles of the baby blues, makes it necessary to slim down the daily doings to the minimum. If you are able to before the baby comes, make a list of things in your days that can be altered to an easier form for the transition of this new baby.
Focusing on less while you are facing the baby blues can be difficult if you are not prepared to take it easy. You may be struggling with doubt, guilt, or other negative influences. If you are unable to prepare prior to having the baby, three ways to focus on less immediately are:
- Recognize the negative and unrealistic message of having to “do it all” during this time and replace it with “I am doing what’s most important” by tending to the needs of the new baby and taking care for yourself so you have enough to keep going.
- Remind yourself that it is a different season that will pass quickly and you will find a new way to get things done eventually.
- As “eventually” may not come as quickly as one would like, remind yourself the days are long, but the years fly by and take as many deep breaths as you need.
Facing the baby blues is difficult for any momma, even a seasoned one. Seeking help is another way to start immediately focusing on less and getting the most important work done.
You are not alone. Postpartum blues affects up to 70% of new mothers. You may still develop the postpartum blues even if this is not your first child. Seek support if you struggle with symptoms or have questions for other women.
You can find support through online communities or live local groups. Your obstetrician, pediatrician, or lactation consultant may be able to recommend a group or community you can join. Some groups meet at hospitals and clinics.
You can also find Mothers groups that consist of women who have children from birth through age five. These groups offer invaluable insight and activities for children while the mothers provide advice and ask questions. They may also host events or Mother’s Day Out opportunities.
You don’t need to leave anyone off the list when it comes to seeking support. From your church to your neighbors, from your county organizations to your online communities, finding people to help doesn’t have to be limited to family and close friends.
As long as you can trust them with even as small a task as providing clothes for the new baby or taking your trash cans out for trash day, it can help ease the burdens and lighten the weight of the baby blues.
Accept your body in the moment.
Postpartum blues can worsen our perceptions and expectations about our bodies after a baby. Sometimes we expect our bodies to bounce back quickly after a child is born. We become disappointed and depressed if we still weigh the same as we did when carrying a six to nine-pound baby.
Most likely, you are still retaining extra fluid, and if you are breastfeeding, your new milk supply may alter the fluid content and weight. You may not be able to wear your pre-pregnancy clothes for weeks or months after birth. This is normal. As your body adapts to the changes, overall change towards your former body will happen.
In the meantime, give yourself grace. You may not like what you see in the mirror when your clothes are off, but remember that you just gave birth to a baby. The process of pregnancy and birth is a miracle. Your body nurtured and protected a child for nine months. Accept and practice gratitude for the body God blessed you with that could participate in this miracle.
Stop the comparing.
Becoming a mother is an honor and a blessing. But we can romanticize pregnancy, birth, and new motherhood. We admire other mothers on social media who seem to have it all together. These women may show organized nurseries, svelte bodies, and sleeping babes on their newsfeeds.
What they are not sharing with you are the same issues you are dealing with having a newborn. These women also have laundry, dirty diapers, painful breasts, and spit up on their clothes.
Your schedule may not be what you expected, but it may be the one that will have to work for you and your family temporarily. Your new baby might be your fifth, but is the exact opposite of their siblings. Your home may look like a nursery exploded inside for the first few weeks. Accept that things will not be perfect, call on people to help, and let the rest go for now. Learn to pivot instead of compare and you will adapt more easily.
If you give birth to your new baby right before a holiday, accept that this year will be different, and don’t stress yourself out trying to make it magical. Instead, request more help or scale down on the lavishness. For example, if your baby is born a week or two before Thanksgiving, you might choose to stay home and have a premade meal delivered instead of traveling for two hours to visit extended family. Do things that will make life easier postpartum, not harder.
Postpartum blues can leave you feeling very impressionable. While avoiding comparing with those who seem to have it easier or more together, it is also worth the caution to avoid surrounding yourself only with others struggling with the same things, as it can lead to a worsening of your symptoms.
Is it postpartum blues or depression?
Sometimes the postpartum blues is really depression. Postpartum depression is more intense and can last months. If you are experiencing persistent sadness as if a cloud hangs over you, you cannot seem to bond with your baby, or you are having thoughts of harming yourself or your infant, reach out for help immediately. Postpartum depression is treatable with the assistance of a licensed mental health care practitioner.
Contact our office today to speak with a therapist. Your therapist can offer more information about the postpartum recovery period and methods to overcome the postpartum blues.
“Mother and Child”, Courtesy of Fancycrave1, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Helping Hands”, Courtesy of madsmith33, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Right Foot In”, Courtesy of shelley_shang, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Worried”, Courtesy of Ryan McGuire, Pixabay.com, CC0 License