Renee’s Postpartum Depression Story

Breastfeeding problems can contribute to postpartum depression in a variety of different ways. 

Often, we think of moms who are unable to breastfeed.  But even those who successfully breastfeed can also find themselves suffering.  Sometimes, breastfeeding dependency can make us blind to other problematic symptoms.  Renee from This Anxious Mum shares her story about how her breastfeeding dependency led to sleep deprivation and other side effects.  It became so important to her that she didn’t notice the bad shape her mental health was in. 

This is Renee’s story.
Renee's Postpartum Depression Story
*This is a guest post and all opinions are those of the author. This post may also contain affiliate and/or paid links. Rest assured that I only work with companies and individuals that I trust. While some of those companies and individuals may work in the medical field, this post is not intended to be a substitution for medical advice. Always speak to your doctor if you have concerns about your mental or physical health.

I Drank the Crunchy Mum Koolaid – And It Made Me Self-Loathing

Of the many things I thought I’d cherish as a new mum, I NEVER counted on breastfeeding being one. I’d been firmly in the camp of “no thanks” for breastfeeding (especially extended breastfeeding, which I deemed “gross” and “only for hippie weirdos”) whilst pregnant, and I didn’t anticipate that changing.

Well, well well.

Nobody was more surprised than me when I became somewhat of a massive breastfeeding advocate. Of the many pivots my brain did in that short time between pregnancy and the fourth trimester ,this was perhaps the most significant in mine and my daughter’s life.

Despite being born at 32 weeks gestation and not mastering the sucking reflex until 34, I was able to maintain an exclusively breastfeeding relationship with my daughter for 10 months. The idea that I was the sole source of her nutrition was something that provided a great comfort to me, especially when I felt so utterly lacking in every other department.

I surrounded myself with other “breastfeeding buddies” and joined a multitude of breastfeeding support groups, eager to help new mums. I got in wars with other women over bottle vs breast and I openly judged anyone who, in my eyes was “depriving their child” through either their choice or inability not to breastfeed. I had a back pocket full of facts and sources about breastmilk and mother-child attachment.

How to Ensure Successful breastfeeding with postpartum depression
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“This is all that’s important,” I told myself of my breastfeeding dependency.

It didn’t matter that my little girl, Elliott, woke over 10+ times an evening to feed.

It didn’t matter that her own father couldn’t help her sleep and that she would only settle for me and my boobs.

It didn’t matter that I felt constantly “on call” and that the hyper vigilance was affecting any little sleep I was getting.

It didn’t matter to these women I surrounded myself with either because we were good mothers.  And being a good mother meant being completely there for your child, day and night, even to the detriment of your own health.

I made snide comments to my husband about “those bottle-feeding families” how backward! Why would you willingly bottle feed when it’s so much extra washing up?!  What about the maternal bond? Don’t they care?

As is common in these groups, I created a little toxic echo chamber for myself where I felt both safe and held as well as completely petrified of being shunned for any juxtaposing beliefs. I had (at least in my eyes) isolated myself from the majority of society, whose beliefs I openly and vocally deemed harmful.

Every day I was scrupulous about combing through my words, both written and verbal, to make sure I wouldn’t offend anyone and ultimately be thrown out of my friend group. I began to feel trapped in my parenting choices and completely alone.

Self-care is often touted as the remedy for any and all ailments of the new mum. The problem is it was so freakin’ hard to fit a fart into my day, let alone a quiet yoga session or bubble bath.

Self Care Routine for a Stay at Home Mom
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As my daughter got older and more interested in things that challenged her fine motor skills, I found myself covered in tiny bruises in the stupidest of places after she had fed. She’d pinch, bite and slap me. I was no stranger to depression and anxiety, even before I had a child. I was convinced that I’d successfully shielded myself from postpartum depression, as though I was engaged in a game of hide and seek with mental illness, where I had a killer hiding spot.

Cracks began to form. Completely sleep deprived and emotionally depleted, I began self harming again, not even having the awareness to notice if my daughter was present. One evening I self harmed while holding my daughter. It was an unsafe environment and I needed help.

Breastfeeding and Postpartum Depression - What is the Connection?
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After my complete breakdown, I found myself in the local Mother and Baby Unit where I spent 5 long and emotional weeks. As well as engaging in therapy and using skills for myself alone, I also worked with an Occupational Therapist to help my relationship with my daughter, and things began to change.

My breast-obsessed, bottle refusing baby began to take a bottle of expressed milk. I told myself it was just a necessity now and that once I was better, I’d go back to being her everything, on call, always.

A large part of our breastfeeding relationship was feeding to sleep. I would feed my daughter for every nap and night sleep. Some nights she slept with my nipple in her mouth. And as much as I delighted in her little soft body and baby breath, I resented the loss of my bodily autonomy.

I had never intended to stop bed sharing, but a condition of staying a patient at the MBU is no “unsafe sleep.” My husband and I squeezed hands under the table when the admissions nurse mentioned this condition of admittance.

Surprisingly most of all to me, she took to a crib as though she’d been waiting for it, sick of sleeping next to someone. Changes seemed to take place slowly and then all at once. Four weeks into our stay, our baby seemed to turn into a little girl.

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She ate finger foods like any other child her age and slept alone. I felt guilt, unlike anything I’d ever known. Our bed-sharing, breastfed baby, who refused solids, sleep and bottles were no longer, and it was my fault. I felt rejected and as though by partaking in these parenting practices, I was failing my daughter and her future development. The real struggles with this guilt and misplaced identity came after our hospital stay, on the day she turned 11 months old.

I began having migraines that couldn’t be helped by any painkillers I tried. Visiting the GP she prescribed a wafer type med that’d knock them out fast. One caveat being – I had to stop breastfeeding. I cried in my doctors’ office, I cried even more at home. Not because I felt I was depriving my daughter but because I felt I was depriving myself of something that I  found comforting.

The truth is, my daughter hadn’t wanted to breastfeed for weeks and I was barely producing milk. She’d latch on if I initiated a feed but she’d lose interest within a minute or two, contented just to pinch the skin around my neck and make me self conscious. This loss, I realized, was all mine.

I held my little girl that night and breastfed her for the final time.  I set up a self-timer and took photos of the “event” as though I was commemorating a loss. I woke the next morning fully anticipating a battle involving tears and tugging at the collar of my t-shirt.

There was nothing of the sort from my daughter, who was perfectly contented with her bottle and after all that worrying, the tears were all my own.


Author Bio:
Renee Shaw - This Anxious Mum
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Renee is a maternal mental health blogger who believes in the healing power of words. When she isn’t writing she’s playing dinosaurs with her toddler. 

You can read more from Renee on her blog This Anxious Mum – http://thisanxiousmum.com

Kyleen’s Postpartum Depression Story: Part 1

Continue reading “Kyleen’s Postpartum Depression Story: Part 1”

11 Postpartum Depression Triggers and How to Avoid Them

Postpartum depression symptoms can be triggered by different factors, making the recovery process much longer than it needs to be.

With a proper treatment plan, postpartum depression can go into remission.  But postpartum depression triggers are internal or environment factors that can cause symptoms to flare up again. These can continue to affect mothers for years after the postpartum period. 

It can be frustrating to battle symptoms of postpartum depression for years, and it might even feel like it will never go away.  Identifying your specific triggers can help you to avoid them, which means you’ll be less likely to experience a postpartum depression relapse.

Here are some of the most common postpartum depression triggers to watch out for.
11 Postpartum Depression Triggers and How to Avoid Them
*This post contains affiliate and/or paid links which means that if you click on one of these links and buy a product, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Rest assured that I only recommend products that I love from companies that I trust. Furthermore, I am not a medical professional and nothing in this post should be taken as medical advice. I am simply a mother who has been there and lived to tell the tale.
11 Postpartum Depression Triggers and How to Avoid Them 11 Postpartum Depression Triggers

Sleep Deprivation

Our brains need sleep and there isn’t an acceptable substitution for it.  No amount of caffeine, medications, diet changes or exercise can replicate what sleep does for our bodies.  If our brains don’t get the chance to reset each night, they don’t function very well during the day.

Sleep deprivation is an especially big factor for postpartum moms.  Babies have much shorter sleep cycles than adults do.  This means that a mother’s brain isn’t getting the chance to fully “reboot” because it’s constantly being interrupted by a hungry baby.  So it’s no surprise that sleep deprivation is one of the most common postpartum depression triggers. 

Sleep deprivation is also not synonymous with the postpartum period.  It can occur at any time in our lives.  It can be caused by a baby’s sleep regression or teething, illness, stress, interrupted schedules or sudden changes, anxiety or even daylight savings time

In order to get the most undisturbed sleep possible:

Postpartum Anxiety Insomnia 1
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Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is another one of the more common postpartum depression triggers.  In fact, many mothers report feeling more stressed about breastfeeding than they did about labor and delivery.  Breastfeeding can be a struggle and it can cause pain, frustration, shame and embarrassment.

Mothers who struggle with breastfeeding can feel guilty, unworthy, judged  or end up feeling resentful and full of regret. All of these feelings certainly contribute to symptoms of postpartum depression.  But some mothers found that breastfeeding eased their symptoms and helped them to bond with their babies.  Each woman’s experience is so different, but if this is a trigger for you, know that you are not alone.

Education can be key to successful breastfeeding.  While it’s promoted as “all-natural,” it doesn’t come naturally to the majority of mothers.  Consider hiring a lactation consultant, or take an online breastfeeding course from home.  If all else fails, know that it’s perfectly okay to stop breastfeeding and switch to formula for the sake of your mental health. 

Breastfeeding and Postpartum Depression - What is the Connection?
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Pain

When we think of pregnancy and childbirth, we associate it with some form of pain.  This is often thought of as a rite of passage and many mothers spend a lot of time preparing for it.  But in some cases, the pain of childbirth can trigger unexpected feelings and suppressed memories. 

A painful delivery or recovery can be one of the first postpartum depression triggers, but pain is a trigger that can linger long after the recovery period.  When we experience pain in another form, such as menstrual cramping, pelvic pain, back pain or migraines, it can trigger the symptoms of postpartum depression again.

This trigger can be especially difficult to avoid due to the fact that pain comes in so many different forms.  Identifying that pain is a trigger is a good first step.  Experiment with different pain treatment options, such as CBD oil, and try to deal with the root cause of any chronic pain, in order to avoid being triggered long term.

9 Reasons Why Mothers Don't Speak Up About Chronic Pain
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Weight Fluctuations

The weight issue is another trigger that affects expectant and new mothers.  During pregnancy, a woman can gain 20 – 40 lbs in the span of 9 months.  And then immediately following childbirth, her body can look unrecognizable.  There will be pressure to lose all the extra weight as fast as possible.  She may also have to deal with a c-section scar, stretch marks, loose skin and sagging breasts.  

These weight and body changes can have a significant effect on our mental health.  Even if body image was not an issue for us prior to becoming a mother, postpartum depression can take a hit on our self esteem

While maintaining a healthy weight is important, embracing our new bodies is equally as important to keep weight changes from triggering postpartum depression symptoms.  

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Hormonal Imbalances

The fluctuating hormone levels during pregnancy and in the postpartum period are completely normal.  They are responsible for the extreme mood swings, weepiness and other symptoms referred to as “the baby blues.”  It’s not unusual for hormones to also take all the blame when it comes to postpartum depression, however we know that there’s much more to it than that.  

Certain hormonal imbalances can be postpartum depression triggers.  Some women find their symptoms are triggered upon the return of their menstrual cycle or with another pregnancy.  Certain illnesses can also cause hormonal imbalances, such as thyroid problems or diabetes

There are plenty of natural ways to keep your hormone levels balanced to avoid a postpartum depression relapse, but always speak to your doctor first to identify the cause of the imbalance and come up with the right treatment plan. 

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Relationship Problems

Marriage and relationship problems can begin or get worse following the birth of a child and they are a major cause of stress and anxiety for both parents.  Postpartum mothers are extra sensitive, irritable and sometimes prone to rage.  They can be extremely difficult to communicate and reason with.

In addition to the lack of communication and mood swings, it can be really difficult to open up about all of these scary thoughts and feelings.  Instead, women tend to shut down, retreat away from their spouses, and have difficulty with intimacy.  

Despite how hard it might be, try your best to talk to your loved one about what you’re feeling.  Getting an official diagnosis may help you both to understand what’s going on.  Couples therapy is also a good option to help break down the barriers.

To The Husbands of the Women with Postpartum Depression
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Grief/Loss

Grief is a major depression trigger that can affect postpartum moms.  Pregnancy and welcoming a new baby are symbolized by joy, happiness and new life.  It can be shocking when these actions cause an opposite effect, but sometimes they do.  

A mother who previously suffered a miscarriage, stillbirth or the loss of a child may be triggered by grief upon giving birth to a healthy baby.  Postpartum depression symptoms may also be triggered when a woman thinks of someone who previously passed away and isn’t present to meet their child.

Grief is a part of life and there’s really no avoiding it.  If you’re struggling with the loss of a loved one, talk about them openly.  Talk to your baby about them, look at an album full of pictures or share stories about them.  Try not to keep all that pain inside, and instead, memorialize the ones you have loved and lost. 

Miscarriage: Moving on Doesn't Mean Forgetting
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Holidays/Anniversaries

Special occasions can actually be quite difficult for a mother with postpartum depression.  Certain dates or holidays might stir up traumatic memories that are postpartum depression triggers.  Plus, social anxiety and the desire to withdraw from conversation are common symptoms of postpartum depression. This makes it very hard to get together in large crowds, even if they are all people whom you love. 

As these dates approach, try to be proactive about your condition.  Take the day off work, scale down the festivities or plan a vacation instead.  Changing your memories about that day might be hard, but not impossible.

How to Survive the Holidays with Postpartum Depression
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Weather

Cold weather and rainy days can make anyone feel depressed but it’s much deeper than that.  Depression thrives when a person feels isolated.  And there’s nothing better at keeping a mom with a new baby locked up indoors than some bad weather.  Hot weather can also encourage a new or expecting mother to seek out the cool air conditioning instead of a muggy back yard.

All this time spent indoors can deprive a mother of enough fresh air and sunshine.  Combined with the other effects of seasonal affective disorder, the weather changes should never be underestimated as postpartum depression triggers.

Keeping a journal or mood tracker can help to identify if your postpartum depression symptoms are being triggered by the weather.  If they are, then there are several easy therapies and common practices you can do to help avoid it.

Seasonal Affective Disorder
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Financial Stress

Money problems are high on the list of depression triggers.  For parents, adjusting to the financial strain of adding a baby to the budget can be difficult.  In addition to the cost of diapers and daycare, a mother has to battle with the financial stress of staying at home instead of working – or feeling guilty for working instead of being home with baby.

Changes in finances are just one of the many overwhelming adjustments that a new mother will need to make, and it can be a big trigger for postpartum depression. 

One of the best ways to avoid this is to prepare for the financial stress prior to giving birth.  Meet with a financial advisor and make a plan for the future.  To save some money, research which baby products are worth investing in, and which ones you can probably do without.  And most importantly, stick to a budget to keep financial stress under control.

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Changes in Treatment

To help fight all of these different postpartum depression triggers there are several different treatment options available.  The variety of antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications available means that you should be able to find one that works well for you, even if you have to try out a few first.  Considering online therapy?  Check out this detailed review of online therapy companies to help with your decision. 

I tried Online Therapy for 30 Days and this is what happened
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But beware when making changes to your treatment plan.  Sudden changes to any of your medications can trigger symptoms of postpartum depression again.  The same goes for stopping therapy sessions or another supplemental form of treatment.  If money is the issue for stopping, you can find out more information about the cost of online therapy here.

Consider weaning yourself off slowly instead.  If you plan on switching to a different medication, slowly wean off of the first one and gradually begin the second one.  Obviously, speak to your doctor about any and all changes in your treatment plan.  And make sure to be open about the symptoms you are experiencing, so that you can find the treatment that works for you.


What Things (Triggers) Made Your Postpartum Depression Worse?

Continue reading “What Things (Triggers) Made Your Postpartum Depression Worse?”