The arrival of your baby is no less than a joyous moment. The wait is finally over and you look forward to the next chapter of your life – motherhood.
However, this burst of excitement can be overshadowed by feelings of sadness, despair, and mood swings. Around 70 to 80% of new mothers experience these feelings soon after giving birth and this is often referred to as ‘baby blues’.
If thoughts like ‘what’s happening to me’ or ‘why am I feeling this way’ suddenly come to mind, know that you’re not alone and there’s a valid reason for it.
What Are Baby Blues?
Baby blues, occasionally referred to as ‘postpartum blues’ are feelings of sadness or unhappiness that many mothers experience post-delivery.
Baby blues can be seen three to five days after the baby is born and you may experience certain symptoms for about a few weeks.
Sometimes, baby blues and postpartum depression are used interchangeably. However, they aren’t the same.
Baby Blues vs Postpartum Depression
How are baby blues different from postpartum depression?
Baby blues and postpartum depression differ when it comes to severity and duration of symptoms. While baby blues generally subside after few weeks, postpartum depression can last up to a year or longer.
Baby blues can manifest in different ways and can’t be equated to ‘just feelings of sadness’. Every mother is different – some may experience subtle and gradual feelings of melancholy while others may go through a sudden rush of different emotions.
You may feel grouchy, unhappy, stressed-out, overwhelmed, and confused. Having experienced the calm and slowness of pregnancy to tending to the baby round the clock can come as a jolt, especially if you’re a first-time mother. Basic things like drinking coffee and bathing can get difficult, making this a phase of huge adjustment.
How can you tell if you’re dealing with baby blues?
- Crying for no reason or crying over something like wearing a blouse inside out or taking a while to swaddle the baby.
- Feeling irritable for no apparent cause or getting angry and frustrated at something that would usually be easier to deal with.
- Ruminating about being trapped inside the room and no ‘me time’ may give rise to frustration since new borns requires mothers to be at their beck and call.
- Getting paranoid and scared almost all the time since the baby is delicate and fragile. This may look like: worrying about the baby’s health, obsessing about the quantity of breast milk, or being fearful of dropping the baby.
- Experiencing trouble sleeping due to the baby’s inconsistent sleep schedule, though this is something most new parents experience!
- Finding it challenging to focus on things required in the grocery list and trying to remember the exact location of the diaper bag or baby wipes.
- Having sudden episodes of panic attacks followed by feeling dizzy, nauseous, and out of breath.
What causes Baby Blues?
Hormones at play
Given the fact that your body and mind have gone through many changes, you may experience a plethora of emotions. Hormonal imbalances in the body are one of the major factors of mood shifts. Fluctuating estrogen and progesterone levels post-giving birth are linked to mood changes resulting in baby blues.
Life pre-and-post pregnancy
Getting pregnant is a major life change to deal with. Some women accept this shift instantly while for a few, it takes a considerable amount of time for the feeling to sink in. So, if you were fussed over by family and friends for 9 months, and now suddenly see the focus shifting towards the baby can be a lot to take in visually and emotionally.
Your pregnant brain
Pregnancy alters the brain. The volume of grey matter in a pregnant woman’s brain changes to a large extent making it easy to recognize a woman who’s been pregnant to a woman who hasn’t via brain scans. When you’re pregnant, the pinkish-grey tissue in the brain that’s dense with neuron cells shrinks, and takes months to return to its pre-pregnancy size making you susceptible to baby blues.
Unpredictable sleep patterns
Sleep changes with a newborn are unavoidable especially during nighttime when the baby wakes up either because of hunger or for a nappy change or, simply because they are adjusting to the world outside. Since you require at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep, one can imagine how challenging it can get when you experience erratic sleep patterns.
Managing Baby blues - What Can Help?
Self-care – as best as possible
Suffering from baby blues can feel overwhelming but can be managed. New motherhood is often accompanied by chaos and you may find it challenging to remember to eat. Ensure not to go beyond 3 to 4 hours without having a nutritious meal so that you prevent dips in your blood sugar levels.
Nutrition during this time is of utmost importance as the body is simultaneously producing food for the baby in the form of breastmilk. Not eating during the day may exacerbate physical and mental challenges making it more difficult to get adequate nutrition if you’re suffering from baby blues. Some foods may help regulate mood so, set reminders on the phone to give yourself a gentle nudge to feed yourself enough throughout the day.
If possible and if time permits, start with giving your body some movement by taking a walk either at home or by taking a stroll outside. Once you start doing that, a change of scenery will help you shift your thoughts.
Take a break
Sleep when it’s possible especially when the baby is asleep. If that doesn’t seem doable, ask a partner or a family member to watch the baby while you snooze for 30 minutes to recharge your batteries. Power naps are effective and can help in making you feel better to take on the other half of the day.
Seek help from family and friends. Let them know what they can do for you. See if they’d like to run some errands for you like helping out with grocery shopping, paying bills, or watching the baby while you take a shower or, unwind.
Find solace in the company of new parents
Try and reach out to new parents by joining a support group. You’ll be surprised to see similarities between the issues and concerns they have. These groups have helped quell a lot of mothers’ anxieties as they meet to listen and guide each other.
Convey your feelings requesting support and validation from partner and family
Motherhood can be the most rewarding experience if you get the help and understanding you need during this time. Therefore, give yourself time and space to get used to this change. You’ll soon realize your baby has a different time clock than yours.
So, while you tend to your baby, let your partner and family know about the emotional, physical, psychological support and validation you require during this time. An honest conversation can do wonders to your well-being and help you in your journey of managing baby blues.
A message to partners and caregivers
Mothers experiencing baby blues go through a roller-coaster of emotions – from extreme happiness in a moment, to frustration, exhaustion and heart-bursting love in the very next instant. All they need is to be dealt with patience, tolerance and empathy.
Unfortunately, a lot of women have suffered in silence because they didn’t know how to process their feelings associated with baby blues while some are left to themselves assuming they’ll ‘figure it out’ without getting any external guidance or help.
Partners and families need to realize that many mothers feel lonely despite being around loved ones. Although you are physically present, some of you may have no idea of what it feels like to go through childbirth. Therefore, it’s essential to be sensitive during this time with women who’ve just given birth. Their body and mind are going through a lot and all they need is time to recuperate (mentally and physically), and get adjusted to new life by taking care of themselves and their bundle of joy.
Bringing a life into this world is no small feat. Inadvertently, a lot of time is spent asking about the baby’s overall health. It’s about time, we shift our focus a little and start asking, “What about the new mom?”
Sidenote for few mothers
Ladies, give yourself time to cope. It’s only human to go through this. Remember that you are not a bad mother who feels no love for the baby. You are just coping with too much change at the moment. Bonding with the baby is a gradual process and will happen as you spend more time with them. So, go ahead and give yourself that warm hug and try not to be too hard on yourself.
Motherhood has its moments of highs and lows. Therefore, it is important to check on how you feeling as days go by. If by any chance your sad feelings persist longer than a few weeks, reach out to a mental health professional.