November 19, 2020
Welcoming a new baby into the family is a wonderful time for families. But it can also be stressful. No matter if it’s your first child or if you’re veteran parents, birth can bring unexpected stress and challenges. Even if labor and delivery goes exactly as planned (and when does that ever happen!), you may find that you feel differently than you expected.
It's very common for mothers to experience mood changes near the time of birth. Sometimes, they experience more persistent and intense emotional disruptions. It can be upsetting to feel fearful and sad in a time you expected to feel excited. How do you know if the mood changes you are going through are normal or something more serious?
Here are some important things to know about postpartum depression and anxiety:
Mood changes near birth are experienced by 85% of women, while 15% experience lasting, severe symptoms categorized as postpartum depression (PPD) or postpartum anxiety (PPA). In these conditions, depressive and anxious thoughts will often focus on the baby. PPD and PPA sometimes occur together, or mothers may have one or the other. The timing of onset can occur soon after a baby’s birth, before the baby is born, or much later, when the baby is up to one year old.
The symptoms of baby blues and PPD or PPA are similar and important to distinguish. “Baby blues” refers to a common sadness and mood change that lasts for a few days or a week. Baby blues is temporary and will go away on its own. PPD and PPA will generally not get better unless treated. Your doctor will provide a diagnosis and course of treatment.
When the symptoms last longer than two weeks, are severe, or interfere with daily functioning, it may be PPD or PPA.
Symptoms of PPD include:
Symptoms of PPA include:
Only a doctor can officially make a diagnosis. If you have any of these symptoms, talk to a doctor.
There are a lot of risk factors that contribute to developing PPD or PPA, including genetics, hormonal shifts, and life stressors. There is nothing a mother has done to cause PPD or PPA. If you have a personal or family history of depression, you are at a higher risk of developing PPD. It is important to get regular mental health screenings during pregnancy and after birth and talk to your doctor about how you’re feeling.
When you get professional help, a doctor will assess your symptoms and provide a diagnosis. Treatment options include medications and therapy. In addition to professional help, self-care is essential to aid in recovery. Poor sleep is both a symptom and can also amplify the conditions. Getting enough sleep, relying on your support system, eating well, and exercising can help you to feel better during the recovery process.
If you think you may have PPD or PPA, here are some steps to take:
If you ever have thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby, immediately call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention line at 1-800-273-8255 or text HELLO to 741741.
It is common for family members to notice the symptoms first. If you think someone you know may have PPD or PPA, here are steps to take:
With proper professional treatment, PPD and PPA sufferers and their families can find relief and comfort. It may take some time to feel fully back to yourself, but with support and resources you can get help and begin to feel better.
Baby Merlin wants to support parents’ health throughout a baby’s life stages. Taking steps for effective sleep, including helping your baby sleep better, can help support the recovery process alongside critical professional help. The Magic Sleepsuit provides help with swaddle transition to allow your baby to sleep more soundly in a time in which sleep is often disrupted.
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The team at NAPS helps you tackle the issue of early wakeups. *BONUS* NAPS is hosting a webinar on February 24th. Register here and use the extra-special code MAGICMERLIN and you can join the webinar FREE of charge!
The sound of cheery calls of “MAAAAMAAAAA” from the next room may be lovely at 7am. At 4am, or 5 am, not so much. Your baby may be up and ready to start the day, but you probably aren’t.
Answering the questions below may help you get there.
This might seem like an obvious question, but your baby’s sleep needs will change fast in the first few years of their lives. A quick look at the average nap number and duration might give you an idea:
Part of the reason you might be seeing earlier wakeups is that your baby has graduated from one nap cycle to the next.
We call this an “awake window,” and it can make a big difference. It might seem strange that your baby went to bed fine the night before, and you’re seeing a response to nap scheduling in the pre-dawn hours, but if your kiddo’s sleep is disrupted at night, it will impact the morning.
Black 0ut curtains can make a big difference here. Remember that our brains signal wakeup when the light changes. So if dawn is at 430am, and even a little bit of light comes into your baby’s room, their little brains will PING with wake up juice.
It might seem counter-intuitive, but a late bedtime can actually backfire on you. Overtired kids don’t sleep as well. If you made their bedtime later and it didn’t fix the problem, try an earlier bedtime and see if that helps. You might be surprised.
Try to make one change at a time; just one. Stick with that change for 3-5 days to see if it impacts things. (One night is usually not enough to see substantial change.) Be as consistent as you can with the change you made. For instance, if you decide to increase the space between bedtime and final nap wakeup, make sure to stick to the wakeup time you planned.
If your baby is waking up and chirping happily to themselves, feel free to leave them there for a little while. Let them get used to being alone in the crib. If you can, try to delay the start of the day by 5-10 minutes each day. This can make a big impact.
Everything else aside, remember that this is a short time in your kid’s life; as they get older, their sleep will become more regular, and so will yours. Don’t let yourself get too discouraged. Things are hard now, and you’re doing a great job.
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