You were feeling fine in the first few days after giving birth, or maybe just really distracted. Now that you’ve been home with your baby for a few weeks, you’re really feeling… bad. Having a newborn is nothing like what you imagined it would be, and the reality of your new normal is hard to accept.
First and foremost, understand you are not alone. Some 80% of new moms experience the ‘baby blues’, and sometimes those blues can last longer.
When the baby blues become more severe, it’s known as postpartum depression. While it can be debilitating, it is usually short term and there are definitely steps you can take to get help, and get relief.
Dads and other caregivers aren’t exempt, either. Known as paternal postpartum depression, this condition affects new fathers and partners who have a direct role in the caregiving of a new child. If your child develops colic, a condition that involves long periods of incessant crying, the symptoms of postpartum depression can be even worse.
What is postpartum depression?
Postpartum depression is a condition brought on by the birth of a child (usually the first) that causes feelings of deep, overwhelming anxiety, grief, sadness, and worry.
As previously mentioned, this type of depression isn’t just limited to mothers; fathers and other caregivers directly responsible for caring for a new baby can also feel a similar depression.
Common symptoms of postpartum depression can be:
- Depressed mood or mood swings that seem to happen without reason.
- Crying and having feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, shame, or inadequacy, irritability, and/or anger.
- Difficulty bonding with your baby or even caring for your baby.
- Insomnia not related to your baby’s feeding routine.
- Loss of interest in friends, family, and activities you once enjoyed.
- Lack of energy and ability to focus.
- Thoughts of harming yourself and/or your baby.
While this list is not exhaustive, if you have postpartum depression, you will likely be able to identify with several of these symptoms immediately.
Is postpartum depression the same as the baby blues?
“It’s just the baby blues,” your well-intentioned friends and family members suggest, “you’ll get over it in time.”
They could be right. As previously mentioned, 80% (or about 4 out of 5) new moms experience the ‘baby blues’. The baby blues are best described as difficulty adjusting to a new baby. You may feel exhausted, irritated, fatigued, anxious, and even have periods of feeling sad and crying.
The difference between the baby blues and postpartum depression is that the baby blues are mild and tend to only last a few weeks. Postpartum depression can last for months and the symptoms usually increase in severity, and interfere with your day to day life and potentially your ability to care for your baby.
If you feel like what you are experiencing is more than just the baby blues, don’t be persuaded otherwise. It’s important to be your own best advocate as a new caregiver. Taking care of yourself is the best way to ensure proper care of your baby.
Things you can do at home to help ease postpartum depression
While you should be talking to your doctor about your postpartum depression, there are ways you can be proactive to help reduce the amount of stress and burden you feel at home.
Get more exercise: Walking and yoga can be especially helpful
Movement helps. In fact, researchers have found that exercise can have an antidepressant effect on postpartum women, and also in the general population.
We spoke to Jane Van Dis, OB GYN and Bobbie Medical Advisor. She believes that, “For nearly 100% of women, walking is actually recommended following delivery and helps with healing, circulation, mood and sleep.” Van Dis continues, “Walking with your new baby is recommended, more strenuous activities should be cleared by someone who knows your medical and obstetrical history. ”
Another great option? Yoga. Taking time to get quiet, meditate, and connect with your body (preferably away from the baby) can help you recenter, feel better, and give you a clearer head.
Set aside time for self-care and have your partner or a family member look after the baby
Many caregivers and parents imagine they are supposed to be able to “handle it all” in terms of caring for their new baby. This simply isn’t the case. Balancing an already full schedule of work and home life, the potential needs of other children, and other obligations is compounded with the addition of a new baby.
It takes a village, and getting time by yourself is absolutely crucial for new parents, especially if you’re struggling with postpartum depression. You need time away from your baby and their cries.
Employ your friends and family to help — even a 30-minute break can help you feel refreshed.
Be open with your partner and family members about postpartum depression
Don’t keep your feelings bottled up.
Let your partner and your friends and family members know that you’re struggling.
There is zero shame in having postpartum depression — you didn’t cause it and you can’t control or change it without help.
Consider seeing a therapist for postpartum depression, even virtually
Therapists provide unbiased, professional support during emotionally difficult times. You can schedule a virtual or in-person visit with a licensed therapist who specializes in postpartum depression to talk about your feelings and get insight on what you can do to feel better.
There are therapists that specialize in the postpartum experience that can help you gain a deeper understanding of what’s going on and teach you coping skills to work through these challenging experiences. To connect to one, visit Postpartum Support International. They also have a free chat line and are available 24/7 in both English and Spanish.
Natural remedies to help with postpartum depression
We know you want to feel better fast, and we’re confident you’re on your way. Postpartum depression does not last forever; in fact, when treated, postpartum depression usually subsides within a few months.
Here are a few things you can try at home to naturally alleviate feelings of postpartum depression.
Make sure you’re eating a nutrient-full diet
Your diet changes after the baby comes. Even if you weren’t eating a balanced diet before your baby arrived, chances are your diet is even worse now. Skipping meals to get some much needed sleep, grabbing whatever is quick and convenient instead of what is healthy and nutrient rich are all hallmarks of new parent diets.
Your diet is important, especially if you’re struggling with postpartum depression.
Make sure you are eating enough nutrient dense calories. Avoid excessive amounts of sugar and alcohol, as they can cause you to feel even worse.
Up your Omega-3 fatty acid intake
Some research suggests that increasing your omega-3 fatty acid intake can help reduce feelings of postpartum depression. It is important to check with your doctor to see if omega-3 fatty acids are safe for you to use.
Music therapy for postpartum depression
The use of music to help with postpartum depression has shown promising results in helping patients feel better and deal with feelings of postpartum depression. There are different methods and types of music therapy available, and even ways to use music for therapeutic benefit at home.
Light therapy for postpartum depression
The use of light therapy has also been studied in the treatment of postpartum depression. Exposure to bright, sunlight-type light can play a huge role on mood, and can increase mood levels in some patients.
If you don’t want to spring for light therapy, you can make a point to get outdoors in the sunlight for half an hour each day.
If you live in an area that doesn’t get much sun, or if you’re experiencing postpartum depression in the dead of winter, you can opt for specialized lamps or lightbulbs that help change and brighten the lighting in your own home.
Final takeaway for those suffering from postpartum depression
What you feel after a new baby arrives is real and raw. Adjusting to a new normal is never easy, but sometimes what you experience is more than just a case of the ‘baby blues’. When you feel overwhelmed, stressed, and hopeless, it’s time to get real and get help by talking to your OB GYN.
Don’t suffer in silence. This isn’t good for you or for your baby. The most important thing you can do as a new caregiver or parent is to seek help so you can feel better and take the best possible care of your newborn.