Believe it or not, depression and anxiety in the postpartum period are the top complications of childbirth. Wouldn’t you like to start some good mental health practices in the postpartum period that might prevent those complications?
Postpartum mental health is a hot topic right now. It’s something that wasn’t really talked about for a long time. Now it’s time to bring it to the forefront!
I intend to talk about things in this article that will make you feel good in the postpartum period, but if you have ANY symptoms of postpartum depression or anxiety, do not hesitate to seek help and talk to your doctor or midwife.
The sooner you get help the better.
This post is not intended to cure those serious postpartum ailments, you really need to talk to your health care provider if you are suffering.
Postpartum mental health issues are actually more common than you think, about 1 in 5 women have postpartum mental health issues and even partners can suffer, about 1 in 10 dads have postpartum depression as well.
Read all about postpartum issues right here on Babytalk! Postpartum Mental Health
That being said, you can do things to make your mood brighter and lighter and I will cover them in this post. So read on!
The first postpartum mental health practice you need to do to is LESS!
Once you are home with your baby, it’s normal to go into automatic mommy mode.
You want to keep your house clean, cook dinner for everyone, do all the laundry!
It’s a normal continuation of nesting but now is a very important time to slow down. Get others to take care of the household chores and enjoy time with your newborn.
Whether you are breast or bottle feeding, your little one really needs you and this is time for bonding, not cleaning.
Plus taking care of everyone will burn you out, fast!
Will you really remember if your house was impeccably clean or not in those first few days after your baby came home? It really shouldn’t be your top priority and it’ll help you keep your sanity. Plus you’ll make fabulous memories with your little one. (Take lots of pictures too!)
Read about how to have a great postpartum period right here on the Babytalk blog! How to Have The Happiest Postpartum Period
I cannot stress how much fresh air will do you good. The founder of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale, believed that fresh air could cure any ailment! Now I’m not sure that is entirely true, but I know that fresh air will do everyone good.
Even if your baby was born in the dead of winter. It doesn’t matter. Try to get out, even if it is only for a few minutes every day. If you have a nice stroller and warm clothes for your newborn, maybe take him or her with you for a short walk. Or leave the baby with your partner and step outside for a few deep breaths.
Humans weren’t meant to spend so much time indoors and we just NEED some outdoor time for our sanity. It’s a must!
Move Your Body
Don’t start exercising until you get the okay from your health care provider. That being said, it’s will really help your healing if you stay at least a little bit active. A short walk can do you a world of good. It’s therapy for your body and soul.
Once your health care provider has cleared you for exercise, usually around 6 weeks after birth if everything was straightforward, you should start some sort of fitness routine. Studies have shown that fitness is one of the best preventers of mental health issues. You will look and feel great!
If you had a steady practice before you were pregnant, slowly start it up again. And if you never worked out, it’s never too late to start!
YouTube has lots of postpartum fitness exercises you can do with your baby. It’s a great way to play and bond with your newborn as well.
Sleep as Much as You Can
Sleep is a big one. Most of us don’t get enough of it and with time it can be a total drain on your mental health. This can be tricky with a newborn, I get it! But if you’re able to do less (as per our plan here above), it will be easier to fit it in.
Even 10-15 minute cat naps will do you a world of good. And if your baby is a good sleeper, have a longer nap. Whatever you need! Make sure you and your baby are practicing safe sleep and try to squeeze as much sleep in as you can. Even better, get someone else to watch the baby while you rest, that way you will enjoy a deeper more restful sleep.
Another way to catch up on your sleep is to go to bed earlier. Yes, you might not be used to going to bed at 9 pm, but sleep is that important. You can skip a few episodes of your favorite show on Netflix for an extra hour or two of sleep. Often times newborn have their longest stretch of sleep at the beginning of the night, so that’s when you can grab some more hours as well.
I think we underestimate the power of sleep on our moods and it’s not a good thing if you are getting too little of it. So please fit in a nap here and there for your mental health.
Eat Healthy for Your Postpartum Mental Health
Breastfeeding requires you to eat about 500 more calories than usual. But this doesn’t mean you should be indulging in all the treats in the candy aisle!
Oh no, for your mental health, it’s imperative to eat as healthy as you can.
Now, I like some chocolate every now and again, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think you should deny yourself of delicious treats once in a while. But on the whole, your diet should contain healthy proteins, grains, veggies, and fruit so that you are getting all the minerals and vitamins to keep your body and brain strong.
Your body is healing from a huge event (your baby’s birth!) and it is trying to restore itself. Depleting all your reserves is not a good thing. It will leave you ragged and worn and will definitely make you feel less than optimal in the mental health department. So put down the chips and pick up the apple!
If you have the opportunity, try to cook lots of healthy meals before you have the baby. Put them in the freezer so you don’t even have to think about cooking or preparing healthy meals. When people come to see the baby, ask for them to bring you fresh fruit, veggies or maybe nuts and raisins to snack on.
A really healthy way to deal with your emotions is to start journaling.
Journaling is very simple. Get a notebook or a pad and a pencil and start writing. Write about whatever comes to mind. You could write about your baby and about your experience at home or just about any thoughts that pop up. Journaling will help you get your emotions out before they get bottled up and cause you internal conflict and pain.
I know writing sounds daunting. It does not have to be a full story with correct spelling and all that jazz. Just sitting down for a few minutes and writing what is on your mind. Look into bullet journaling! It’s a great way to start.
This is a great article on Buzzfeed that goes into details about how to bullet journal.
Write Down Your Birth Story
This is a big one and goes hand in hand with journaling. A lot of women deal with trauma during their birth, writing their story down can be very cathartic and healing.
You might have some questions come up about events during your birth and when you write them down, you can address the issues with your health care provider at a follow-up appointment.
Also, it’s just awesome to have the story written down clearly while it’s still in your head. Your baby will want to read that story one day!
Talk To Someone
If you start to feel like postpartum depression or anxiety are sneaking up on you, talk to a professional.
But if you are just feeling emotional and overwhelmed (that’s normal!), chat with your partner or another family member. I’m sure people will want to listen and help you out.
Cry if you have to! Get it all out. Sometimes there is no solution, you just need to talk. After a good vent session, we often feel like the weight of the world is lifted off our shoulders!
Take care of yourself. Do something that makes you feel good!
Shower when you can. Read a book. Do anything that makes you feel like a human again. Taking care of a newborn is no joke! They demand a lot of your attention and sometimes it’s hard to know where they begin and you end! You start to wonder if the umbilical cord was ever cut.
It might be hard to find the time, but even just a few minutes of self-care can make a world of difference. Put on some makeup or polish your nails. Even better, go get your nails done! Do something that makes you feel like yourself, even if it’s just for a moment.
Snuggle Your Baby
Last, but definitely not least, hold your baby! When you touch and hug and hold your baby, your body releases the happy hormone oxytocin. This is not only great for breastfeeding, but also for your mental health. The snuggles are so awesome, especially if you hold your baby skin-to-skin.
All about the benefits of skin-to-skin right here on Babytalk! Skin-to-Skin: The One Place Your Baby Wants to be After Birth
I also recommend getting a baby carrier or wrap. That way you can enjoy your snuggles while getting other things done.
Let’s talk about your postpartum mental health, did you struggle with depression or anxiety? What helped or made it worse? Comment below and let’s start a dialogue to reduce the stigma!