How to Deal with the Baby Blues

The so-called “baby blues” are a very real thing for new moms—and we touched on them in our last blog, What to Expect after Becoming a Mother.

But, since baby blues are often under-acknowledged or sometimes even made to seem taboo (which they decidedly are not), we wanted to dig in a little deeper here.

This blog will look at:

What are the baby blues?
Why do they happen?
How can I combat my feelings of sadness?
When should I speak to a doctor?

What are the baby blues?

In the days and weeks after giving birth, many moms find themselves experiencing pangs of sadness or a pervasive moodiness. The sadness tends to come and go, seemingly on a whim, and can be unsettling especially if you’re not accustomed to these sorts of mood swings.

According to the American Pregnancy Association, approximately 70-80% of new mothers experience some negative or fluctuating feelings after giving birth. These are some of the additional symptoms they note as being most common:

Weepiness or crying for no apparent reason
Impatience
Irritability
Restlessness
Anxiety
Fatigue
Insomnia
Poor concentration

These symptoms might hit you off and on throughout the first few weeks after giving birth. And they may catch you off guard, especially if you were expecting to feel pure joy and elation (if a little tiredness) upon welcoming your new addition. But, as we’ve said and will say again, you are not alone.

Why do baby blues happen?

The cause of baby blues is largely unknown—and there’s nothing special you can do to prevent them. But hormones are likely to blame, on top of the physical and mental stress that your body has endured in the birthing process. In addition, you may be dealing with some conscious or subconscious disappointment or frustrations that help fuel the blues; anything from difficulties during the actual birth to hurt feelings over something a family member may have said to you, or simply how your body feels.

How can I combat my feelings of sadness?

Take a deep breath—and one day at a time. One of the best things you can do to get through the baby blues is simply to take good care of yourself. (We know…easier said than done when you are also trying to care for a newborn!)

Try to do the following:

Ask for help (and patience) from family and friends

You may not be accustomed to asking for help, but now is the time. Can a friend or family member help you out with a chore that needs to get done? Can a grandparent sit with baby for a half hour while you get some rest? Has someone offered to make or pick up dinner for you? By all means take them up on it!

Get your feelings out

If you have a spouse, partner, or significant other, talk to them about what you are going through and what support you need from them. It can also help to share your feelings with a trusted confidante other than your partner. And, some moms also find it helpful to journal during this period, to get their feelings down on paper.

Eat well and stay hydrated

Keeping your body nourished and hydrated will go a long way in helping you to feel better. Aim to eat healthy, restorative foods like fresh vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, lean proteins, whole grains, yogurt, and other vitamin- and nutrient-rich meals. And drink plenty of water; this is especially important if you are breastfeeding.

Get plenty of rest

You know how sometimes you just need a good night’s sleep to make things better? Exactly. Rest and relaxation are your friends as your body recovers from giving birth. So, even though you may feel like you’ve got to accomplish things while baby sleeps, or that you shouldn’t “indulge” in rest for yourself, put these notions aside and give your body the sweet rest that it needs.

Do some exercise

Getting your body moving can also go a long way in helping you feel better. Assuming your doctor has cleared you for physical activity, start small with a brisk walk around the house. If you can get outside in the fresh air, even better. There are also lots of postnatal yoga and other post-baby workout videos available online.

See more tips on exercise here from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Carve out some “me time”

Again, this might feel selfish, but it’s not. It’s actually the opposite because you’re better able to take care of your baby when you yourself feel good. Try to carve out 20 minutes to do something you enjoy—whether it’s reading a book, taking a bath, or whatever hobby or activity you like best.

When should I speak to a doctor?

If you’re feeling out of sorts for more than a few weeks, and/or your blues are severely interfering with your ability to care for your child or yourself, it’s time to seek professional care and determine whether you may be dealing with postpartum depression.

Postpartum depression is typically characterized by symptoms that are more severe than the baby blues, and longer lasting—but still nothing at all to be ashamed of. You might feel withdrawn from your baby and loved ones, you might be having overwhelming or obsessive thoughts, and you might feel like your anxiety is hard to bear. These sorts of symptoms are red flags that you should bring to the attention of your doctor.

Also know that if you’ve experienced any depression in the past, you’re more vulnerable to postnatal depression. But a professional can help you find the right kind of treatment, whether it’s therapy/counseling, antidepressants, hormone therapy, or something else.

More information on postpartum depression, from the Mayo Clinic, is available here.

Giving birth is stressful and brings many changes all at once. In the weeks after, it’s important to fuel your body with restorative rest, healthy food, and movement and fresh air as you can. If you develop the baby blues, don’t worry: it’s completely normal and does not reflect in the slightest on your character or on your ability to be a good mom. Talk about what you’re going through, and know the ups-and-downs are likely to pass in a few weeks’ time.

 

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