In the days and weeks following my son's birth, I experienced a range
of intense emotions including pure bliss, deep love, exhaustion, sadness, confusion, fear, resentment, and even jealousy. I felt pure bliss when holding my newborn son in my arms, and a deep, ever growing love for him each time I gazed at his face or smelled his newborn smell. I felt exhaustion from giving birth, and from lack of sleep. I felt sad about losing who I used to be before I became a mother and the life and freedom I once had. I felt jealous that my husband could pop up off the couch so easily and walk around without being in pain, that he could come and go from the house with ease, and even that he got to work, while I was tethered to my couch and my son was tethered to my breasts 24/7. I felt a sense of loss for my pre-pregnancy body and pre-baby self. I felt fear when my husband did return to work and I was left to care for this tiny human on my own. What was I supposed to do with him? Was I really responsible for this tiny person's every need? What if I did something wrong? I felt resentful towards other mothers who were out and about just days after giving birth while it was still taking me five minutes just to stand up off of my couch, and another five to walk to the bathroom. In the midst of all of this I also felt proud and empowered. I had just endured days of labor and hours of pushing. I had brought a human into this world and that was amazing. I was utterly confused by all of these cycling emotions.
I had a hard time with breastfeeding for the first few months of my son's life (see my previous post about My Breastfeeding Experience) and I often felt like I was failing him because I was unable to feed him enough. I shed so many tears over our breastfeeding struggles, and spent so much time worrying about what to do about it. It felt all consuming. I felt like no one understood what I was going through, how could they? My husband couldn't understand because he has never tried to breastfeed a child. My mother couldn't understand because my brother and I are adopted and were not breastfed. I felt alone in my struggle in those early weeks, and that ugly green monster called jealousy would rear its ugly head again when I would see or talk to other mamas who's babies were breastfeeding like champs, or who had a huge milk supply.
The worst of my emotional roller coaster passed after about three weeks. I began to feel more like myself again. I was healing, I was getting used to this new person living in my home, and understanding his cues better. We were really bonding and I was finally getting out of the house. Soon enough I felt more like myself again. Of course, I am not the same person I was before my son was born. I never will be that person again. I am a mama now, and I fully embrace and love that role and everything that comes along with it.
What I was going through in those early weeks of my son's life is commonly referred to as the "Baby Blues." The baby blues are very common after a woman gives birth to a child. Your hormones are all over the place, you have a little person you are suddenly fully responsible for taking care of, you are sleep deprived, and probably pretty sore. For the past 9 months you have been sharing your body with someone else, and if you are breastfeeding, then you are still sharing your body with someone else. That can be overwhelming at times.
What Are The Baby Blues?
The Baby Blues is a normal, common, short lived period of feeling sad, emotional, and moody. It generally lasts anywhere from 2-3 weeks after giving birth. 70-80% of women suffer from the baby blues after having a child, while only 10-20% suffer from postpartum depression.
During pregnancy, estrogen and progesterone levels are super high, and after the delivery of the baby and the placenta, these hormone levels plunge rapidly. This normal neurological process is what triggers the baby blues. Luckily, there are some natural ways to treat eh baby blues that will help you to feel better in no time.
10 Ways To Beat The Baby Blues Naturally:
Time - Be gentle with yourself and give yourself some time. You just brought a human into the world, that's huge! And becoming a mother is a major life change. Its only natural you need some time to adjust.
Placenta Capsules - If you hire a doula to be with you at your birth, many of them are certified to encapsulate your placenta for you to take after the birth of your child. The placenta contains oxytocin - a hormone that helps reduce pain, depression, and increases bonding with your baby. If oxytocin levels are low after giving birth, a woman is more likely to suffer from the baby blues and even postpartum depression. Taking your placenta capsules can help boost your oxytocin levels and help make the shift in your hormones smoother. The placenta also contains thyroid stimulating hormones which boost energy levels, increase immunity, speed recovery time, and increase your milk supply.
Rest - This can be hard to do with a newborn at home, but getting as much rest as you can will do wonders for you emotionally and physically. How many times have you been told to "sleep when the baby sleeps"? Trust me the dishes, laundry, and other household chores can wait (or let your partner take care of them!) Getting rest is much more important.
B vitamins - B vitamins, especially folate, B6, and B12 have been shown to help alleviate symptoms of depression. A deficiency in these vitamins can also cause depression, so taking a B complex is important both during and after pregnancy.
Acupuncture - Acupuncture can help to balance the hormonal and emotional systems of the body after giving birth and can reign in your hormones quicker. Acupuncture has also been shown to prevent postpartum depression and relieve symptoms of depression both during and after pregnancy.
Fish oil - When taken during pregnancy, fish oil can help prevent postpartum depression and the baby blues. Having low levels of DHA has been linked to depression due to lower levels of serotonin and dopamine; two chemicals in the brain that are linked with mood. If you have been taking a fish oil during your pregnancy and are still experiencing symptoms of depression after the birth of your child, you may need to increase the amount you are taking. Eating fish that are higher in DHA such as salmon and halibut can also help.
Eat a healthy diet - By eating a nutrient dense diet high in essential vitamins and minerals that promote brain and emotional health such as zinc, selenium, B vitamins, and vitamin D, you may be able to prevent postpartum depression and speed along any symptoms of the baby blues. Eating a whole foods, healthy diet also speeds recovery time, helps you build a healthy milk supply, aids in losing the baby weight quicker, and will even help you sleep better. Foods to incorporate into your diet daily are dark leafy greens, fatty fish, eggs, whole grains, fruit and veggies, nuts, seeds, and legumes. Do your best to avoid refined sugars and processed foods both during and after pregnancy.
Talk to other mamas - Unfortunately, the baby blues and postpartum depression are rarely talked about, but sharing those experiences with other women can be hugely helpful and even therapeutic. When my son was born it helped me a lot to relate with other new moms who were experiencing something similar to what I was. So don't be afraid to talk it out with other mothers you know. Chances are they know exactly how you feel.
Get outside - It is so easy to get stuck in your home after having a baby. Siting in your house all day can bring you down and cause you to feel more sad and isolated. While the thought of leaving the house with a newborn is terrifying the first few times, getting outside, filling your lungs with fresh air and daylight, seeing other adult humans and interacting with them, and getting some light exercise with a walk will all do wonders for your psyche. And after the first couple of times getting out with your baby, you'll feel like a pro. Don't be afraid to get out of your house alone too. Leave the baby with your partner and take a short stroll around the block, run a quick errand to the store... getting outside alone can provide a much needed break and give you time to reconnect with yourself.
Have visitors - Don't overdo it, but have your mom, sister, best friend, or anyone else you feel comfortable with come over and spend some time with you and your baby. Company can be amazingly therapeutic and helpful, especially if you are feeling overwhelmed or nervous about being alone with your new baby at first. Knowing someone else is there can be hugely comforting.
Could It Be Something More Than The Baby Blues? Signs You May Have Postpartum Depression:
*Please note that I am NOT a doctor, nurse, or Psychologist. The information in this article is not intended to treat, diagnose or be used in place of medical care. If you think you may be suffering from postpartum depression please contact your doctor right away.
The baby blues and postpartum depression have similar symptoms. However, the baby blues is short lived (2-3 weeks) with fair mild symptoms, and then you should begin to feel better. Postpartum depression on the other hand, is a serious medical condition that should not go untreated. Postpartum depression (PPD) symptoms are severe enough that they can disrupt your ability to function. Some of the symptoms of PPD given by the Mayo Clinic are ~
Depressed mood or severe mood swings
Difficulty bonding with your baby
Withdrawing from family and friends
Loss of appetite or eating much more than usual
Inability to sleep (insomnia) or sleeping too much
Overwhelming fatigue or loss of energy
Reduced interest and pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
Intense irritability and anger
Fear that you're not a good mother
Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt or inadequacy
Diminished ability to think clearly, concentrate or make decisions
Severe anxiety and panic attacks
Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or think that you may have postpartum depression, please contact your doctor right away.