photo of Lenore Goldfarb
Parenting

The Baby Blues

By Elizabeth Pantley, author of Gentle Baby Care

I remember when I was lying in my hospital bed after the birth of my fourth child, Coleton. I had endured a full day of labor and a difficult delivery (who says the fourth one comes easily?), and I was tired beyond explanation. After the relief of seeing my precious new child came an uncontrollable feeling to close my eyes and sleep. As my husband cradled newborn Coleton, I drifted off; my parting thoughts were, “I can’t do this. I don’t have the energy. How will I ever take care of a baby?” Luckily for me, a few hours of sleep, a supportive family, and lucky genes were all it took to feel normal again. But as many as 80% of new mothers experience a case of the baby blues that lasts for weeks after the birth of their baby. This isn’t something new mothers can control - there’s no place for blame. The most wonderful and committed mothers, even experienced mothers of more than one child, can get the baby blues.

What are baby blues?

Your baby’s birth has set into motion great changes in your body and in your life, and your emotions are reacting in a normal way. Dramatic hormonal shifts occur when a body goes from pregnant to not pregnant in a manner of minutes. Add to this your new title (Mommy!) and the responsibilities that go with it, and your blues are perfectly understandable. You’re not alone; this emotional letdown during the first few weeks is common after birth. Just remember that your state of mind has a physical origin and is exacerbated by challenging circumstances - and you and your body will adjust to both soon.

How do I know if I have the baby blues?

Every woman who experiences the baby blues (also called postpartum blues) does so in a different way. The most common symptoms include:

Could it be more than just the baby blues?

If you’re not sure whether you have the blues ask your doctor or midwife, and don’t feel embarrassed: This is a question that health care providers hear often and with good reason. If you’re feeling these symptoms to a degree that disrupts your normal level of function, if your baby is more than a few weeks old, or if you have additional symptoms - particularly feelings of resentment or rejection toward your baby or even a temptation to harm him - you may have more than the blues, you may have postpartum depression. This is a serious illness that requires immediate treatment. Please call a doctor or professional today. If you can’t make the call, then please talk to your partner, your mother or father, a sibling or friend and ask them to arrange for help. Do this for yourself and for your baby. If you can’t talk about it, hand this page it to someone close to you. It’s that important. You do not have to feel this way, and safe treatment is available, even if you’re breastfeeding.

How can I get rid of the blues?

While typical baby blues are fairly brief and usually disappear on their own, you can do a few things to help yourself feel better and get through the next few emotional days or weeks:

Give yourself time.

Grant yourself permission to take the time you need to become a mother. Pregnancy lasts nine months, the adoption process can take even longer, and your baby’s actual birth is only a moment - but becoming a mother takes time. Motherhood is an immense responsibility. In my opinion, it is the most overwhelming, meaningful, incredible, transforming experience of a lifetime. No wonder it produces such emotional and physical change!

No other event of this magnitude would ever be taken lightly, so don’t feel guilty for treating this time in your life as the very big deal it is. Remind yourself that it’s okay (and necessary) to focus on this new aspect of your life and make it your number-one priority. Tending to a newborn properly takes time - all the time in his world. So, instead of feeling guilty or conflicted about your new focus, put your heart into getting to know this new little person. The world can wait for a few weeks.

Consider as objectively as you can just what you have accomplished: You have formed a new, entire person inside your own body and brought him forth; you have been party to a miracle. Or, if you’ve adopted, you’ve chosen to invite a miracle into your life and became an instant mother. You deserve a break and some space in which to just exist with your amazing little one, unfettered by outside concerns.

Talk to someone who understands.

Talk to a sibling, relative or friend with young children about what you are feeling. Someone who has experienced the baby blues can help you realize that they are temporary, and everything will be fine. A confidante can also serve as a checkpoint who can encourage you to seek help if he or she perceives that you need it.

Reach out and get out.

Simply getting out (if you are physically able and okayed for this by your health care provider) and connecting with people at large can go a long way toward reorienting your perspective. Four walls can close in very quickly, so change the scenery and head to the mall, the park, the library, a coffeehouse - whatever place you enjoy. You’ll feel a sense of pride as strangers ooh and ahh over your little one, and your baby will enjoy the stimulation, too.

Join a support group.

Joining a support group, either in person or online, can help you sort through your feelings about new motherhood. Take care to choose a group that aligns with your core beliefs about parenting a baby. As an example, if you are committed to breastfeeding, but most other members of the group are bottlefeeding, this may not be the best place for you, since your breastfeeding issues won’t be understood and you won’t find many helpful ideas among this group. If you have multiples, a premature baby, or a baby with special needs, for example, seek out a group for parents with babies like yours. And within those parameters, look for a group with your same overall parenting beliefs. Just because you all have twin babies doesn’t mean you will all choose to parent them in the same way, so try to find like-minded new friends.

Tell Daddy what he can do to help.

It’s very important that your spouse or partner be there for you right now. He may want to help you, but he may be unsure of how. Here are a few things that he can do for you - show him this list to help him help you:


This article is a copyrighted excerpt from Gentle Baby Care by Elizabeth Pantley. (McGraw-Hill, 2003)

print this page back


If you value this service, kindly consider a donation to the Canadian Breastfeeding Foundation (registered charity). Earmark the donation for the International Breastfeeding Centre (Newman Breastfeeding Clinic) and/or the Goldfarb Breastfeeding Program.

Donate online: canadahelps.org

Donate by mail: Canadian Breastfeeding Foundation, 5890 Monkland Ave, Suite 16, Montreal, Quebec, Canada H4A 1G2.


© 2002-2018 Dr. Lenore Goldfarb, PhD, CCC, IBCLC, ALC and contributing authors to AskLenore.info. All rights reserved.


Disclaimer: All material provided in asklenore.info is provided for educational purposes only. Consult your physician regarding the advisability of any opinions or recommendations with respect to your individual situation.

top