Winter can be an unforgiving time of year. The temperatures are frigid, the roads are harsh, and there are mountains of snow. At one point, these conditions may have only been an inconvenience. But when you have a new baby, it can be hard not to think of all the things that can go wrong. While the dangers are real, so is our ability to prepare our babies and ourselves for the challenge. These are our tips for bringing home a baby in the winter.
Watch Environmental Temperatures
Babies can be outside safely in the winter. But when the temperatures dip below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s best to keep a baby’s trips outside as brief as possible, namely to the car and back. However, keeping a baby too warm can also have disastrous consequences, as newborns have trouble regulating their body temperatures. When setting the thermostat, try to keep the temperature between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit, especially in the room where the baby is sleeping.
These ideas should also be kept in mind when bringing home a baby all bundled up. The rule of thumb is to dress the baby in at least one layer more than you would need as an adult, paying attention to the hands, feet, and head. Remove the layers as soon as you arrive inside to avoid overheating. Make sure the layers are loose enough that your baby can breathe.
Breathing is also an important consideration when bundling the baby for bed. Good crib bedding practices state that you should not add extra, loose blankets to the crib until the baby is at least a year old. Doing so will risk the baby suffocating. The best practice is to swaddle the baby in breathable cloth to help them feel warm, secure, and safe.
If there’s one thing that’s true of the winter, it’s that the dry air can be rough on our skin. The same is true for our babies, too. When bathing babies in the winter, try to wash them briefly in water that isn’t too warm to avoid drying out their skin further. Non-fragranced, non-alcoholic soap will be the least harsh on babies’ skin. When done, make sure you pat babies dry to avoid wiping the oils from their skin. Apply a moisturizer immediately afterward to hold in the moisture.
Christina Duron is a writer living in the Chicagoland area. Her passion for writing and mental health help create thought provoking and engaging pieces and hopes to use them to empower mothers and women to embrace the beauty of motherhood.
Postpartum depression (PPD) is a psychological condition wherein new mothers experience negative feelings after giving birth, as opposed to the happiness and excitement that one might expect. Fortunately, postpartum depression is treatable, and if you know someone going through this condition, there are many ways you can help.
But first, how do you know if your friend or family member is suffering from postpartum depression? Here are the symptoms of PPD to look out for:
Symptoms of PPD
As opposed to ‘baby blues,’ which lasts from a few days to a couple of weeks in new moms, postpartum depression causes more intense and long-lasting symptoms, such as:
When left untreated, postpartum depression can last for many months or even longer. Over time, this condition can affect the mother’s physical health, mental health, and relationships with family and friends, especially their child.
If you want to help a loved one with PPD, here are different ways you can support them:
How to support a mom with PPD
1. Bring a gift
Although a gift won’t magically solve a new mom’s PPD, it can help give them at least a bit of happiness during this trying time. When you visit them, bring a gift that they can use for their hobby, such as a half square triangle ruler, or bring them their favorite food. As long as there is a possibility that the gift will bring a smile to their face, it doesn’t matter how small it is.
2. Focus on her
After a woman gives birth, the people around her tend to focus most (if not all) of their attention on the baby. This is not to be malicious, but the excitement of a new arrival usually overshadows the mother’s well-being after giving birth. So when you visit your loved one, make the conversation about her, not about the baby. Ask her about her day. Let her know that she is not forgotten. And most importantly, listen to what she has to say.
3. Offer to help
Postpartum depression can make mothers feel utterly exhausted, even when they aren’t doing anything physically taxing. As a result, household chores remain undone, and the errand list keeps getting longer. Offering to do a chore around the house or run an errand for them can help ease the burden on their shoulders, even by just a bit, so be sure to offer anytime you can.
4. Give her space
It’s essential to be there for a loved one suffering from PDD, but sometimes you have to pull back and give them space. At times, mothers with postpartum depression need time alone to process their feelings and acknowledge their thoughts in silence. This is especially important during the first few weeks after the baby arrives, wherein everybody wants to see the baby and a million things need to be done in the house.
5. Don’t invalidate her feelings
Instead of saying, “You will be a great mom, you don’t have to worry,” when a new mother voices their concerns, use phrases such as “I understand how you are feeling that way” or “That sounds difficult.” By echoing their concerns instead of disputing them, you help make them feel validated in their feelings, which, in turn, can help reduce guilt and anxiety associated with PDD.
6. Share your own story
If you have experienced (or are experiencing) PDD or non-pregnancy-related depression and anxiety, ask them if they want to hear about your story. When a woman hears that another person close to them is going through or has gone through the same thing, it can provide them the comfort that they need to push forward.
7. Accompany her to doctor’s appointments
Prompt treatment of postpartum depression is essential. To provide your support, offer to accompany them during their appointments if their spouse or partner cannot make it.
If you want to support a mother suffering from postpartum depression, be specific about what you want to help with. Instead of saying, “I’m here if you need me,” which can be very vague, offer to help with specific tasks, such as doing the grocery shopping, babysitting, or doing the laundry. In any case, every bit of help you give can make it easier for your loved one to recover.
Can you think of other ways to help a mom with PPD? Leave your suggestions in the comments below.
You’ve heard of birth plans, but making a postpartum plan can be equally if not more important.
A postpartum plan is a way to help you prepare for those first few months after giving birth. Many women create birth plans in anticipation of their labor and delivery, but often neglect the postpartum period. This can result in sleep deprivation, breastfeeding problems, added stress and may even contribute to symptoms of postpartum depression or anxiety.
Here’s how and why you should create a postpartum plan for the months following your baby’s birth.
The postpartum period is often called the fourth trimester and usually considered the first three months after giving birth. However, women require different amounts of time to recover after childbirth. The physical and hormonal changes usually regulate within six weeks, but mental health can sometimes take longer. Whether it’s your first or your fourth child, it can be hard to predict how long you will need postpartum care until the time actually comes.
The birth of a baby is like a mass signal to all our family and friends that it’s time to come and meet them. But too many visitors at once can interrupt the postpartum healing process. You may either feel excited to show off your new baby, or anxious about too many people crowding them (and you).
If you’ve given birth in a hospital, then there are usually specific rules that visitors must follow and this should also be the case when you are home. Try to schedule specific times for visitors, and don’t have everyone come all at once. Make sure visitors are washing their hands before holding or touching baby and don’t let anyone to kiss your newborn baby. Don’t allow visitors to simply “drop by” because that could interrupt your sleep or breastfeeding routine. And if at any time you feel anxious or overwhelmed by your visitors, feel free to ask them to leave or excuse yourself to your your bedroom. You’re not a party hostess.
Communicate these rules to your family and friends, even if it feels awkward. Adding this into your postpartum plan and letting them all know your wishes ahead of time can make it easier. Once baby arrives, the excitement can often distract everyone from the plan, so make sure to remind them in a text, e-mail or a printed note on the front door. No one should feel offended by your decision to focus on your postpartum health.
Take a look at a calendar and figure out your postpartum timeline. When will you be 2 weeks postpartum? Baby will need a check up with their pediatrician. What date will you be 6 weeks postpartum? That’s when you will need your checkup. The postpartum period can often go by quickly, so knowing the dates that you hit these milestones ahead of time can help you stay focused on your recovery.
If you can, try to book all of your appointments in advance. Doctor’s offices can sometimes be difficult to get into, and a lot can change in just a few days during the postpartum period. If you know that you have an appointment coming up, you can prepare any questions that you have ahead of time. Making notes of things that you want to discuss can help to reduce stress and anxiety.
And don’t forget to include any appointments with lactation consultants, the public health nurse, newborn photographers, for religious ceremonies, to get government paperwork or passports done, etc. When you think about it, there’s a lot that needs to be done to welcome a new person into the world.
It really does take a village to raise a child. Many moms these days tend to go it alone thanks to our ever busy lives. But historically and in many cultures today, it’s unheard of for a new mother to tackle the postpartum period on her own. Asking for help during the postpartum period does not make you any less capable of a mother. If anything, it’s one of the smartest things you can do.
Make a list or schedule for those who are available and willing to help you out. Your spouse or partner is going to be helper number one but it’s understandable that they won’t be available 24/7 as most workplaces only offer minimal amounts of parental leave. Try to schedule additional help during the times they are not around. Parents, siblings, friends, neighbors are often more than happy to help you out – all you have to do is ask.
If you really can’t find anyone to help, and your budget can afford it, considering hiring help. A postpartum doula is specifically trained to help you with everything you need in the postpartum period. You can also consider hiring a housekeeper or cleaning service, a food delivery service or night nurse. If there isn’t room in your budget for these kinds of things, add them to your baby registry.
Make Time to Rest
Your postpartum plan should be centered around getting rest. Rest is so incredibly important in those first few months postpartum. Regardless of how your labor and delivery went, all moms need to allow their bodies time to heal. A lot is happening inside of us that we don’t always see from the outside. So while making your postpartum plan, make sure to schedule in lots of time for sleep, naps and lying down with your feet up.
Moms tend to feel guilty when it comes to rest. The urge to cook and clean and take care of everyone else is a strong force within us. But rest is an important part of the healing process, both physically and mentally. Thankfully, newborns are pretty cooperative when it comes to this. Even if you’re not “sleeping when baby sleeps” make sure that both you and baby are getting enough sleep.
Once you’ve enlisted help to take care of all your other responsibilities, spend as much time as you can in bed with your baby.Focus on breastfeeding, have lots of skin to skin contact and sleep whenever baby does. This will also help with the bonding process, which can help with symptoms of the baby blues or postpartum depression.
Plan Out Your Meals
A healthy diet is essential to healing in the postpartum period. What type of food you eat can affect breastfeeding, your postpartum body and your mental health. You shouldn’t have to worry about cooking during the first few weeks, so having prepared food ready should be an essential part of your postpartum plan.
Stocking the freezer with healthy meals is a common practice for many moms during the “nesting phase” of their pregnancy. This will ensure that you always have something hearty that can be ready with very little effort. Stock your pantry with healthy non-perishables that are easy to whip up, like canned meats or beans, soups, pasta, or instant oatmeal (great for boosting your milk supply.) Buy them little by little throughout your pregnancy so that you have a fully stocked pantry by the time baby arrives.
Create a list of some of your favorite healthy dishes that family and friends can cook and bring for you when they come to visit. The majority of people (especially veteran moms) love feeling helpful by bringing food, but you don’t want to end up with a bunch of casseroles that you’ll never touch. They don’t have to be full meals either, you can request some simple things like fresh fruit or vegetables, smoothies or sandwiches.
Or try a food delivery service. There are so many different ones available now. Many of them offer free dishes and trial periods which can hold you over during the postpartum period. Don’t forget to add gift cards to these services on your baby registry, they make great last minute or long-distance gift ideas.
Add in Light Exercise
Your postpartum body is very different than your pre-pregnancy one. Many moms are anxious to start dropping the baby weight and get back into shape, but postpartum fitness should be more about strength and wellness than weight loss. Once you’ve gotten the green light from your doctor or midwife, you can begin to add in light exercise to help your body recover from pregnancy and childbirth.
Focus on your pelvic floor muscles. The pelvic floor muscles do the majority of the work when it comes to pregnancy, labor and delivery. During the postpartum period, they will need some work to get them back into shape and reduce the risk of pelvic pain, urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse. There are several light exercises you can do to strengthen them, including Kegels and pelvic lifts. Or you can invest in a pelvic floor training device to do them with ease.
Try low-impact workouts, like yoga.Postpartum yoga is a popular option and some places even offer mom and baby classes. Walking or jogging is another great option for moms, with local stroller walking groups popping up all over the place. Any kind of light exercise will help get you feeling like yourself again. But until your body is fully healed, it’s a good idea to hold off on weight lifting or high-intensity workouts.
Monitor Your Mental Health
Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders are one of most common complications of childbirth. Even if you are low risk, there are chances that you could get postpartum depression, anxiety or psychosis. This is something all mothers should be aware of and prepare for in their postpartum plan.
Don’t stay silent about it. Speak up if you feel like something isn’t right. Tell your spouse, your mom or best friend. Talk to your doctor or midwife. Call a postpartum support helpline. There are several different options available and it’s better to get help sooner rather than later.
A postpartum plan should be designed with you and baby in mind. Just like with a birth plan, make sure to communicate what you want with those who will be supporting you in the first few months. And, also like a birth plan, bear in mind that things may not always go according to plan. Your labor and delivery will have a lot to do with your recovery process. Make sure to leave room for adjustments as needed. Most importantly, rest, relax, and get to know your new baby!
There seems to be a common connection between postpartum anxiety and substance abuse.
Many mothers suffering from postpartum anxiety are prone to addiction and substance abuse. It’s true that drugs or alcohol can work to help numb the pain and drown our worries. But it’s not a permanent, nor a safe, solution. If this is a problem that you are dealing with, know that help is always available and there are other options available for handling the crippling symptoms of postpartum anxiety.
Here’s some information for moms suffering from postpartum anxiety and substance abuse.
Who is at risk for postpartum anxiety and substance abuse?
Postpartum disorders and addiction have a dangerous relationship, and each of them often make the symptoms of the other more severe. In the first days and weeks after childbirth, a new mother will go through a variety of emotions and sources of stress. She may experience difficult feelings and struggle with sadness, constant worrying, and extreme sleep deprivation.
Postpartum anxiety is when a woman develops an anxiety disorder following the birth of her baby that causes a disruption in her life and affects her health and well-being. Studies have discovered that women with postpartum depression or anxiety are at a greater risk for substance abuse compared to postpartum women without a mood disorder. Likewise, women with a history of substance abuse are more likely to show symptoms of postpartum anxiety.
Why do some mothers with postpartum anxiety abuse drugs or alcohol?
Caring for a newborn entails a great deal of work, and it is normal for a mother to experience a range of feelings including worry, unhappiness, and fatigue. If these feelings persist or interfere with a woman’s ability to care for herself or her family, she may risk developing a mood or substance use disorder.
Environmental factors such as relationship status or economic status may also leave certain mothers at a higher risk for substance abuse. Postpartum substance abuse may be a continuation of drug or alcohol use that was prevalent before or during pregnancy, or it may be the beginning of a new behavior.
Women with postpartum anxiety may use drugs or alcohol in order to:
Elevate their mood
Relieve stress and anxiety
Assist in falling asleep
Women who are prescribed opiates for postoperative pain-management or benzodiazepines for anxiety are also at an increased risk for developing a drug dependency. If you have a history of prescription drug abuse, let your health care provider so they can discuss safer alternatives during postpartum treatment. Opioids are especially addictive, making drug rehab a valuable tool for mothers struggling with dependencies after their pregnancy.
How to treat substance abuse in mothers with postpartum anxiety
Postpartum substance abuse can limit a mother’s ability to emotionally connect with her infant, adjust to their rhythms and behaviors, and anticipate or follow their development. If you or someone you love is struggling with drug or alcohol abuse and postpartum anxiety, it is important to seek treatment that will address both issues.
Many addiction treatment therapies can also be used to treat symptoms of postpartum anxiety. There are many options for rehab including inpatient or outpatient treatment and a wide variety of support groups. If you are unsure about which treatment option is best, contact a rehab specialist who can go over the options and help you find the right treatment facility.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on changing patterns of thinking and behavior. The therapist works alongside you to anticipate problems and develop healthy coping strategies. When treating anxiety in the general population, CBT has been proven to be effective with improvement rates estimated between 34% and 68%.
Common CBT exercises for treating substance abuse in women with postpartum anxiety include:
Setting realistic goals and learning how to solve problems.
Learning to manage stress and anxiety, especially with relaxation techniques.
Identifying and challenging negative thoughts.
Keeping track of feelings, thoughts, and behaviors to be more aware of symptoms and to make it easier to change thoughts and behaviors.
Exploring the negative consequences of continued substance abuse.
Identifying high-risk situations for substance abuse
Developing strategies for coping with and avoiding high-risk situations and the desire to use.
Mindfulness training is the practice of awareness and attention exercises focused on accepting your present state of emotions, thoughts, and physical sensations. When mindfulness training is practiced before, during, and after childbirth, it has been shown to significantly reduce anxiety and stress.
Some of the skills taught in mindfulness training are:
Observation: Being mindful and paying close attention to what is going on in the world around you.
Description: Having the ability to say what happened and how it made you feel.
Participation: Becoming involved in an activity without being self-conscious about it.
Taking a Non-Judgmental Stance: Learning to accept things you can’t control rather than judging them.
Focusingon what is going on in the moment without distraction from other ideas or events.
Effectiveness: Doing what works instead of second-guessing yourself.
Mindfulness training can help you recognize when you are running on “auto pilot”(acting without thinking about what you are doing), as well as developing a better attitude towards yourself and others.
Talking about Substance Abuse and Postpartum Anxiety
Postpartum anxiety can make the experience of motherhood even more stressful than it already is. The risk of drug and alcohol abuse is greater for mothers who are dealing with other disorders and unfortunately, many are afraid to speak up. Drugs and alcohol may numb the pain and symptoms of anxiety, but it only offers temporary relief and does more harm in the long run. If you are suffering from symptoms of anxiety or drug and alcohol dependency, seek help from a qualified professional and get started with a recovery program. Talk with other moms about your experience or join a support group and know that you are not alone in this battle.
If you, or someone you love is suffering from substance abuse in the postpartum period, please check out our resources and recommendations page for some sites with important information.
Ginni Correa is a Latinx writer and mental health advocate living in Orlando, FL. Her mission is to build awareness and promote resources that can help people transform their lives. She believes in the importance of ending stigma surrounding mental health and substance abuse
Those who have recently traveled, have come in contact with someone with COVID-19, or who are sick are putting themselves into self isolation. This basically means to quarantine yourself within your home for two weeks. And further more, social distancing has us all keeping away from friends and public places. With all of this isolation and anxiety, how does a person avoid actually feeling isolated? For moms with mental health issues, isolation can actually make symptoms of depression and anxiety worse, so it’s important to have some ways to manage the loneliness.
During self isolation, try some of these tips to avoid feeling lonely.
Most people, especially moms, will not actually be alone during their self isolation or social distancing. Spouses and children will likely be in isolation with them. It’s hard to say whether this makes it better or worse for a woman with postpartum depression or anxiety. Having the family around 24/7 might become overwhelming very quickly.
While it’s great to embrace this gift of family time, make sure that each person is also getting enough alone time to themselves each day. This could be quiet reading or doing a quiet activity all in one room, or have everyone separate into different rooms for an hour or two each day. This will surely benefit everyone’s mental health during the isolation period.
If the entire family is beginning to feel isolated from the outside world, then consider some of these options.
Make a Connection
Even though we can’t go out and socialize with our friends right now, we can still make connections with others. We need to stick together, especially during these uncertain times. This is something we should be doing daily or at least a few times a week in order to maintain our mental health.
Phone a friend or family member. Simply talking to another human being helps you avoid isolation.
Video chat with a friend or family member. It helps to see another familiar face from time to time, and not just hear their voice. This is also a great option for younger kids.
Write a letter to someone. It doesn’t even have to be someone you know. Consider writing letters with your kids to senior’s homes, hospitals, government offices, army bases, etc. It would make someone’s day.
Write an email to someone. Same as above, but send it online instead. You can find e-mail addresses for most places on their websites. Let your favorite local shop know how much you miss their store/business while it’s closed, and can’t wait to be back there again.
Read a book or watch a movie. Going on adventures with the characters in a book or a movie is another way to help you feel less lonely and isolated. Now is a great time to start binge watching that TV series you’ve been wanting to start.
Adopt or foster a pet. If you’re going to be locked up inside the house for weeks anyway, why not foster a pet to keep you company? You could all benefit from the company during this anxious time.
Find a Distraction
Don’t count the days of self isolation on a calendar, find a way to pass the time. Keeping the mind distracted is a great way to avoid things like intrusive or anxious thoughts while you are quarantined at home.
Cook or Bake. Don’t do it with the intention of “getting dinner on the table” as that will likely stress you out even more. Spend a day cooking some homemade soup or baking fresh bread or muffins with the kids. Take your time and don’t worry about the mess.
Craft. You can find hundreds of crafts you can do with the kids on Pinterest. Or maybe you’d rather do something just for you?
Learn something new. Nothing keeps the brain busier than learning. If you’re planning on homeschooling the kids, that will keep all of your brains busy. Trying to pick up a new skill? Now is the perfect chance to focus on it undisturbed for weeks! Interested in knitting? Check out Love Crafts for everything you need including free PDF patterns!
Leave the House
If you’re in self isolation or practicing social distancing, you should be avoiding other people and public places. But that doesn’t mean you have to be locked up within the walls of your house. There are still several ways that you can safely leave the house in order to avoid complete isolation.
Spend time in your own backyard. Good weather or not, spending some time each day in your own backyard is a great way to get some fresh air and sunshine.
Go for a drive. Why not pack the kids into the minivan and go for a drive in the country? See if you can spot any wildlife or signs of spring. Take photos along the way and compile an album. Stop for a picnic lunch on the side of the road and play some fun family car games.
Work on Yourself
Having weeks of undisturbed time at home means you finally have the chance to focus on yourself. This global pandemic is going to change our entire world in ways we never imagined. Let’s begin to prepare for the aftermath of it by using our self-isolation time to reflect on our lives.
Exercise. There’s no better way to avoid stress, anxiety, depression and isolation than to exercise daily. Exercise is so important for both our physical and mental health. You don’t need a home gym, either. Watch yoga videos on YouTube or turn on some music and dance!
Read self help books. Maybe you’ll actually finish some of those books that you’ve been saving for when you have time. Or try listening to some inspirational podcasts.
Try cognitive behavior therapy. If you’ve been putting off therapy because of a lack of time, self isolation is the perfect time to try online therapy. By completing an online therapy course, you can emerge from self-isolation with better tools to help you be successful in life.
Meditate. There are several different ways to meditate, even if you’re not a fan of it. Download a guided meditation app or simply spend time being mindful and grateful. Practice deep breathing and stretching for optimal health. Turn on an essential oil diffuser and listen to some soothing meditation music.
Focus on the positive. Self isolation is not the ideal situation for everyone. You may be worried about your job and bills and having enough food. Instead, try to find something positive to focus on each day and write it down. At the end of this quarantine, you can look back at this time and feel the happy moments instead of the negative ones.
Make plans for the future. Thinking about the future is a great way to avoid isolation and anxiety about the coronavirus. Sit down as a family and decide what things you’d like to do when this is all over. Maybe you’ve learned to live with less or have realized where your true priorities are. This is the time to set goals and make plans for the rest of this year.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Does postpartum depression put you at a higher risk for contracting coronavirus?
The new coronavirus, COVID-19, is officially a global pandemic and causing all kinds of anxiety and uncertainty. It can be especially hard on new moms who are already dealing with mental health issues. Moms with postpartum depression might see an increase in their symptoms during this time. Yes, it’s a stressful time for everyone, but could moms with mental health issues actually be at a higher risk?
If you have postpartum depression, find out if you are at risk of contracting coronavirus.
Those most at risk for contracting coronavirus include the sick, elderly and people with a weakened immune system. Many mothers with postpartum depression may suffer from a weak immune system, which is what puts them in the high-risk category. Depending on how recently a mother has given birth, her immune system may not have had a chance to recover properly. And certain behaviors caused by postpartum depression can affect our immune systems as well.
Symptoms of a weakened immune system:
Frequent and long lasting illnesses and infections
Digestion issues (diarrhea, nausea, constipation)
New or increased allergies
Joint pain or inflammation
Think about whether or not you seem to catch every cold or still get the flu despite getting the flu shot. Do your symptoms drag on for a long time? Do your wounds take long to heal? These are all warning signs that you could have a weak immune system. And if you’re likely to catch a cold from someone sneezing nearing you, then you’re also likely to catch coronavirus.
How does postpartum depression cause a weakened immune system?
Stress is the number one culprit when it comes to a weakened immune system. High levels of stress can increase our cortisol levels and decrease our lymphocytes(the white blood cells that help fight off infection). This imbalance within our bodies makes us more susceptible to viruses, like COVID-19. Moms with postpartum depression and anxiety often find themselves under a lot of stress. It’s never easy to manage the kids and a household, while trying to maintain our own mental health. Therefore, they are at a higher risk of contracting the coronavirus.
New moms, especially those with symptoms of postpartum depression or anxiety, are not getting nearly enough sleep as they need to. Chronic sleep deprivation can affect our immune system in a negative way. Normally while we sleep, our body works to produce certain antibodies that help us fight infection. Sleep is also our body’s time to recharge and refill. But when we don’t get enough sleep, our immune system goes into overdrive. Then it doesn’t work when we need it to the most, like for fighting off the coronavirus.
Both postpartum depression and anxiety can cause a new mother to distance herself from others, long before the CDC recommended it for the prevention of the spread of Coronavirus. Moms normally take extra measures to keep baby away from crowds and strangers, in order to protect their fragile immune systems. But all this time spent in isolation results in the opposite for moms. Without being exposed to normal, everyday bacteria in the outside world, moms haven’t been able to build up any immunity to it. Our immune system needs a lot of practice in order to keep it in good, working condition.
Fluctuating Hormone Levels
While the underlying cause of postpartum depression is still unknown, some theories suggest it could be due to changes in hormone levels after giving birth. We know this to be the cause when it comes to the baby blues, which is why it’s so common and doesn’t last long. Postpartum depression is a much more complicated illness, however. Either way, lower levels of estrogen may contribute to weakening the immune system. All women who experience a hormonal imbalance of estrogen might be susceptible. This includes women who are postpartum, peri-menopausal or who have had a hysterectomy.
Unhealthy Eating Habits
Our body needs a steady source of vitamins and minerals in order to stay healthy. But moms with postpartum depression or anxiety don’t always have the greatest eating habits. Whether it’s binge-eating junk food or skipping meals all together, these bad habits can weaken our immune system and make us susceptible to the coronavirus. If food was an issue during your pregnancy (due to hyperemesis gravidarum, gestational diabetes, anemia, etc.) you may already have some type of vitamin deficiency.
How will coronavirus affect a mom’s mental health?
Drink lots of water. Regularly drinking water not only boosts your immune system, but helps to flush out any unwanted bacteria in your body.
Get plenty of fresh air in wide, open spaces. Avoid crowded parks and playgrounds and take a stroll through nature instead.
Practice deep breathing and meditation.Not only does meditation help to calm stress, but taking long, deep breaths will actually improve your lung function. Strong lungs will help in the event that you need to fight off coronavirus.
Focus on the positive. This worldwide pandemic is one for the history books! As scary as the times are right now, we are living in a moment of history. Try journaling your experiences, or take photos. Look for ways that you can help out someone else, even if it’s just by making a phone call to check in.
Continue practicing self care. Increase the amount of self care you do daily, if that’s an option. In order to keep yourself from getting cabin fever, you’ll need to find time to yourself each day.
Try online therapy. If your mental health is truly suffering during the coronavirus outbreak, this is something you can always do from home.
The thought of a global pandemic killing thousands of people across the world is truly terrifying. With the intense amount of media coverage on the coronavirus, it can get very overwhelming for a mother with postpartum depression. It’s terrifying because so much of it is out of our control.
We need to focus on the small things that we can control. Don’t waste your time hoarding toilet paper. Instead, work on getting your immune system ready by eating healthy, getting enough sleep and finding ways to reduce your stress levels. In time, this too shall pass.
Whether you’re a brand new mom or a seasoned one, sleep is something we all crave. The months shortly after having a baby are the worst for sleep deprivation and there’s usually no avoiding it. But once you’ve got baby into a good routine and you’ve settled into motherhood a bit better, you can start to focus on how to reclaim all your lost hours of sleep.
Mom of two and freelance writer, Lisa Smalls, shares some tips on how to reclaim your sleep after having a baby.
Having a new baby will be one of the greatest feelings in your life, however, that thrill can be quickly replaced with the fatigue, lack of focus, anxiety and an increased temper all due to sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation is acquiring fewer than the seven-plus recommended hours of sleep each night. While newborn babies can sleep 16 to 20 hours each day, those hours are stretched into bursts which are often inconveniently disturbed when the parent is trying to sleep.
On average, a mother in the first three months after having a baby can lose between one and two hours of sleep each night and for both parents they can experience sleep deprivation for up to six years after the birth. While some people can get an adequate amount of sleep at six hours, most need between seven and nine, so those critical couple hours of loss after childbirth can make a big impact on your quality of sleep, especially considering the hours you do get are broken up into two-hour segments dictated by the baby’s fits.
Your body requires not only that you receive seven hours, but also that those hours are subsequent to each other and they are quality sleep. Sleep is the way your body processes thoughts, emotions, memories and helps your body relax and repair. Without consistent sleep your body does not have the ability to process and file all of your information or process it correctly. This leads to a haze during the day resulting in fatigue, lack of focus, lack of motivation, mood swings and anxiety. In turn, these symptoms lead to additional insomnia. So, when your baby is sleeping at night, you may not be able to. It is a vicious cycle.
As your baby ages, additional challenges such as potty training, nightmares, and the concerns of your growing toddler and an active imagination result in sleep deprivation. Though the sleep deprivation you will likely experience as your child ages may not be as complicated as those first few months, it also provides the same symptoms.
So, what can a parent (especially a mother) do to reclaim sleep after giving birth? Here are five tips.
Create a routine for you and the baby
Okay, to be fair your baby is probably not going to pay attention to a routine in the beginning. But, with practice and commitment a routine can help your baby sleep in longer bouts and learn to sleep so that after four months your baby may actually sleep through the entire night. Routine is good and setting a sleep routine such as bath, reading, cuddling, and sleep will be a great payback for the future.
This is such an important factor in helping you sleep that you should keep a sign on your refrigerator as a reminder. After having a baby friends and family will practically tackle each other to offer help and cuddle with that little cutie. But, parents are often unwilling to accept the help. This may be from guilt or simply because it is difficult allowing someone else (including mom) to watch your baby without you there. But, whether someone offers to watch your baby a couple hours, help with the chores, or just hang out to give you a little break, it all pays off.
Keep the baby near you (but not in your bed)
A nursery is great, but it might be better after the six-month mark. In those first months your baby will wake up every couple hours and one way to miss out on sleep is that long walk to the nursery to feed. SIDS is a serious concern and one of the biggest no-no’s is letting your newborn sleep in bed with you. So, whether you have a crib or bassinet in the room keeping your baby close will help you feed without too much hassle.
Don’t worry about the dishes
Having a baby does not mean you have lost your old life, but it does mean you need to adjust going forward. That might mean that if you were emphatic about getting all the chores done and having a spotless house, those chores just might have to wait until you are having a nice relaxing day as the kids play with the grandparents. This does not mean you should live like a hoarder but prioritizing your sleep over missing a night of sweeping the floor, means you should really get your zzz’s.
Author Bio: Lisa is a mom of two and freelance writer from North Carolina. She regularly writes for the sleep health website Mattress Advisor, which has taught her so much about the importance of sleep (especially as a working mom). When she isn’t working on commissions, she loves connecting, encouraging and learning with other parents through her writing.
Anxiety is a common condition among moms and not just in the postpartum period.
It can be difficult to recognize the symptoms of anxiety, especially for new moms. Once you become responsible for another life, it’s natural to worry about everything. So how do you truly know when your worries are a normal part of motherhood, or when they’re a condition that requires further treatment? You can read about the specific types of anxiety disorders and their symptoms, but what it comes down to is whether or not your constant state of worry is disrupting your life.
If they are, then check out some of these natural methods for coping with anxiety from mental health advocate Brandon Christensen of Modern Therapy.
Everyone faces anxiety daily, but some of us live with more persistent symptoms. Anxiety is actually the most common mental health issue, reportedly affecting more than 18% of US adults. Natural remedies and lifestyle changes are a great way to remedy some of these symptoms, but they are never meant to replace or stop any treatments you are currently receiving. If you are already getting treatment, check with your doctor, psychiatrist, or therapist prior to implementing any changes.
Exercise helps anxiety by burning off anxious energy. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, there is evidence that physically active people have lower rates of anxiety and depression than those who are sedentary. The reason that exercise may improve mental health is because it helps the brain cope better with stress. The study actually showed that those who exercised regularly had a 25% less chance of developing depression or anxiety over the preceding five years.
Meditation eases anxiety by slowing racing thoughts, which is a very common symptom. Once you are able to slow your thoughts down, you can manage your stress and other anxiety symptoms more effectively. Brain imaging has been used to show that meditation is associated with the activation of the anterior cingulate cortex, ventromedial prefrontal cortex, and anterior insula. These areas of the brain are involved with executive function and the control of worrying. When meditation activates these three regions, it shows a relief linked to anxiety.
Journaling is simply writing down your thoughts and feelings with the intent of understanding them more clearly. Keeping a journal allows you to reflect on the way certain situations make you feel, which can help you regain control of your emotions. Sometimes even just expressing your anxious feelings makes them more manageable. As you sit and reflect on how you are feeling, you are going to gain a lot of insight to yourself.
4. Time Management Strategies
Having too many commitments at once is a big cause of anxiety symptoms. Time commitments usually involve family, work, and health related activities. When you are able to manage your time effectively, you can focus on just one task at a time, while being sure to leave room for self-care. With online calendars, it is becoming even easier to plan your days and weeks out. This can help you avoid multitasking, which leads to anxiety symptoms.
Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils that are found in plants, which are used for their healing properties.Essential oils are great to smell, but can also be absorbed through the skin through massage or inhalation. It is widely used to reduce stress because certain scents, such as lavender, are known for their calming effects by reducing the heart rate in the short term. Behavioral psychologists will also tell you that if you associate a certain scent with being calm, you will naturally begin to feel those effects over time.
6. Herbal Teas
Chamomile tea is widely used as a natural remedy to decrease anxiety and treat insomnia. It is actually regarded as a mild tranquilizer or sleep inducer. The calming effects can be attributed to an antioxidant call apigenin, which is found in chamomile tea. There is direct effect on the brain, including reduced anxiety. Some people also find the process of making and drinking tea soothing.
7. Time With Animals
Research confirms that pets can be beneficial to people with anxiety because they offer companionship, love, and support. Pets and therapy animals can help to alleviate stress and anxiety because they provide a sense of security and routine that provides emotional and social support. Pets are generally facilitators of getting to know people, friendship formation, and social support networks.
8. Talk Therapy
Research shows that talk therapy is usually the most effective way to treat anxiety disorders. Therapy will do more than just treat your symptoms, it will help you uncover the underlying causes of your worries and fears, help you learn to relax, look at situations differently, and develop coping skills. When you engage in talk therapy, you get the tools to overcome anxiety. If you are ready to work with a talk therapist who specializes in anxiety treatment, click here!
Brandon Christensen is a passionate business leader and mental health advocate who is on a mission to leave the world a better place than he found it. Brandon is the co-founder of Modern Therapy, a mental healthcare company that provides talk therapy services in person or online through messaging, phone, and video sessions. Brandon has been featured as a keynote speaker on mental health topics at colleges like NYU, Skidmore College, and Columbia University. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Ramapo College of New Jersey.