During pregnancy, your friends and family may have shared stories with you about feeling “love at first sight” upon meeting their newborn, or having that “instant connection.”
If that isn’t enough, movies and TV shows tend to show new mothers in postpartum bliss—and back to their pre-pregnancy bodies with a clean house to boot!
Of course, this isn’t the reality that most new mothers experience. Around 2/3 of new moms and about 15% of dads report feeling emotionally fragile or numb within the first 10 days of the birth of their baby. By Day 3, they feel especially tearful and are easily upset. This is referred to as having the “Baby Blues.” The biggest contributors to these feelings include:
- Hormonal changes from a drop in estrogen and progesterone levels.
- The stress of childbirth.
- Lack of sleep.
In addition, a new parent’s emotions are affected by:
- Learning to care for a new baby.
- Family demands and household chores.
- Finding that parenthood is different than what they expected.
- Lack of support from friends or family.
- Mourning the loss of your old lifestyle.
- Physical changes due to pregnancy and breast-feeding.
The good news is that the baby blues are usually temporary and can be helped with some self-care techniques.
Set realistic expectations
With a new baby in the mix, your day is going to be filled with feedings, diaper changes, trying to soothe, spit up to wipe off your freshly changed shirt . . .lather, rinse, repeat!
Don’t expect to keep up with the housework like you did in your pre-baby days. Don’t be afraid to ask for extra help from family or friends during this time. The first two weeks after birth, mom’s job is to feed baby, hold baby, and rest. Dad/partner and other support people are there to take care of mom. When you sit down to feed baby, your partner can bring you a snack and something to drink. If you are nursing, this will help you keep up your strength and your milk supply. And if friends or family offer to help, TAKE IT! Your friends and family wouldn’t offer if they didn’t truly want to help.
Keep in mind that your newborn is only going to be small for a short amount of time. Save big projects like cleaning out the garage for later and just focus on the day-to-day tasks. As the days progress, you and your baby will settle into a routine and you will gain confidence in your parenting skills.
Take care of yourself
It’s easy to get swept up in caring for your baby. Many new parents forget that their own needs are just as important as their baby’s. When possible:
- Sleep when the baby sleeps.
- Take a walk or get out of the house for exercise. Daylight and fresh air have been shown to raise mood.
- Take a few moments out of your day to take some deep, relaxing breaths. Look around and experience the moment with all your senses. Making a habit of mindfulness practices like this increases well-being.
Another easily overlooked aspect of new parenting is staying connected with your partner. After the first couple of weeks when it’s not so hard to get out of the house, pick a few dates on the calendar to arrange childcare so you and your partner can spend time together. If you are unable to leave baby for longer than a few minutes, plan an evening at home, or let grandma take him while you and your partner walk around the block. If you have a hobby you enjoy, try to find time each day to keep doing what you love. Whether it’s yoga, gardening or talking with a friend, make time for yourself to maintain and refresh the “non-parent” side of your life.
Build your village
Meeting other parents with similar aged-children is a great way to make new friends and talk with other adults who “get it” when it comes to newborn parenting. Connect with other parents at Parenting Now!’s Baby Connection or Incredible INFANTs. For a full list of parenting resources visit, http://resources.parentingnow.org.
It’s easy to feel alone in our thoughts and feelings, or feel worried about what others might say if we open up about our struggles. But experiencing the baby blues is much more common than we realize. If you are feeling sad or depressed, don’t keep it to yourself. Tell your partner, trusted family member or healthcare provider to get the support you need.
WellMama, a local postpartum support organization, suggests that new moms reach out for help when:
- Your symptoms affect your relationship with your baby and your family.
- You feel alone, ashamed, or the support of family and friends is not enough.
- You believe that things are getting worse, not better.
If you have concerns about your emotional state or symptoms, call your healthcare provider; WellMama at 1.800.896-0410; or Postpartum Support International at 1.800.944-4773 for free support and information on getting help.
In next week’s Triple P post, we will discuss what happens when sadness and exhaustion move beyond just the baby blues and into Postpartum Depression.
This article is brought to you by Parenting Now! Parenting Educators and authors Amanda Bedortha, Claire Davis and Lynne Swartz and consultant Jay Thompson (andupdatemywebsite.com). Parenting Now! is passionate about happy, healthy families. For more information about Parenting Now! please visit their website (https://parentingnow.org/) or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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