Despite preparing herself for childbirth and breastfeeding, a new mother can still be faced with feelings of helplessness and uncertainty when her baby is born.
Becoming a mother is a stressful life event. Sometimes we underestimate how much our lives will change when our babies are born.
The reality of continuous care and attention needed by an infant can seem overwhelming, especially in the early days when we are so affected by exhaustion.
The change from being independent women to having our lives revolve so completely around our babies is difficult.
Many mothers have mixed emotions about motherhood.
The bonding process with your new baby can take time. Even when a deep connection is present, the so-called ‘baby blues’ affect many mothers the first week or two after birth.
You may burst into tears for no apparent reason, experience mood swings, become extra sensitive, have difficulty concentrating, and/or feel discouraged.
You may wonder what you’ve gotten yourself into having a baby.
These symptoms can come and go, so you may feel perfectly ‘normal’ and happy at times, and very down at other times.
The baby blues are caused partially by hormonal changes, but also by the exhaustion every new mother faces.
You can overcome this with proper rest, a healthy and balanced diet, and most importantly — support from your family, friends, and groups, such as La Leche League.
Do not be ashamed to ask for help when you need it. The baby blues should be transient and should disappear within a few days or a week.
Some mothers, however, have more troubled feelings that last longer than the short-term baby blues.
Postpartum depression can hit anytime within the first year after birth, although it tends to start around 10 weeks postpartum and can last for several weeks or more.
It is more prevalent in women who have suffered depression in the past and may be connected to a traumatic birth, mother-baby separation, an infant with a ‘high-need’ temperament, or breastfeeding problems and in cultures where new mothers have little family and social support.
The most common symptoms of postpartum depression are:
- A persistent sad, anxious, or ‘empty’ mood
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Reduced appetite and weight loss, or increased appetite and weight gain
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities you once enjoyed
- Excessive irritability or crying
- Persistent physical symptoms, such as headaches, digestive problems, or chronic pain
- Feeling guilty, hopeless, worthless, helpless or pessimistic
- Excessive fatigue or loss of energy.
Take care of yourself
Continued breastfeeding is one of the best things you can do for yourself to reduce or avoid depression.
Breastfeeding is part of the way nature encourages us to take care of our babies and to transition from birth.
There is a surge in hormones, prolactin and oxytocin every time you breastfeed, that helps you to feel loving and nurturing.
These hormones not only foster a connection with your baby, they also help you to recover from the emotional and physical stress of birth.
Without these hormones, mothers tend to talk to their babies less, interact less and touch less.
If you are suffering from the baby blues or postpartum depression, continued breastfeeding is also the best option for your baby, as bottle-fed babies of depressed mothers are more likely to have developmental challenges than babies of depressed mothers who breastfeed.
In mild cases of depression, support, friendship and breastfeeding assistance may help.
Being a mother is a 24-hour-a-day job, and it can be hard. This is why having a support network in place is so important.
You need people who will take care of you, so you can mother your baby.
If you still feel sad despite getting assistance from your support network of friends, family and/or LLL, you may want to talk to your physician.
He/she may recommend medication, but most antidepressants are compatible with breastfeeding.
You can always have La Leche League check Dr Thomas Hale’s Medications and Mothers’ Milk guide for further information on a specific drug.
Try to take motherhood on a day-by-day basis.
Breastfeeding can build your confidence and mothering skills. You are your baby’s food source and you are the one who can comfort him or her the best.
This can be a scary prospect, but you will learn to gradually trust your instincts and get to know your baby’s body and personality better than anyone else.
For breastfeeding assistance, contact La Leche League at 236-1120, via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit us on Facebook at La Leche League of Bermuda.
Oh Baby 2012!