Life with a new baby is rarely what we expect, and it can be hard to determine whether what we're experiencing is part of the normal adjustment process, or has crossed over into a mental health disorder which requires professional support.
In the case of a difficult but still normal postpartum adjustment, through to mild postpartum mood disorder, education (understanding what is normal) and self-care (a shower! or a cup of herbal tea! or physical activity); changes to your nutrition, lifestyle, and enhanced support systems may be enough to help you feel safe and grounded again. Hiring a postpartum doula to lighten the load and provide a listening ear may be exactly what you need to turn the tide.
There are a wide variety of herbal, homeopathic, and complementary support therapies which can nourish you in body, mind, and spirit to help you find your balance again. While taking time for yourself isn’t a cure for serious illness, a few moments of intentional self-care each day can make a difference to your outlook and ability to cope. No matter which path towards postpartum balance you choose, I highly recommend exploring the role of Mindfulness Meditation in your life as it can help you be more focused and calm, no matter the circumstances. Mindful Birthing by Nancy Bardacke is an excellent resource for this, even if you have already given birth. You could also consider yoga nidra meditation, which is known to help rewire the brain from the effects of pain, trauma, anxiety, and depression AND a 30-60 minute yoga nidra session is the restful equivalent of 3-4 hours sleep!
Peer support and/or professional counseling can be extremely beneficial for some women – especially those who feel isolated or alone and need someone to hear their story.
And of course, medications can be a legitimate and life-altering/saving choice! While not all medications are suitable for use while breastfeeding, there are MANY which are, and taking medications does not have to mean the end of your breastfeeding relationship if you don’t want it to be. Well-meaning people may tell you to give up breastfeeding because its too hard on you (or to stop co-sleeping or babywearing, or any number of other choices). Please keep in mind that weaning abruptly can make postpartum mood disorders seem even worse due to the rapid hormonal shifts which accompany the process. Weaning entirely or supplementing may be beneficial for some and if that’s you then please make that choice knowing that it IS the best choice for you at this time in your life. Don’t give up on breastfeeding or any other part of your relationship with your baby though, simply because someone tells you that you have to or should. Follow your heart mama. <3 You are still the expert on yourself and your baby - even in the midst of illness.
If you're not sure if what you're feeling is normal or not, please explore these links and REACH OUT for help.
Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale
Life With New Baby
Heart of Herbs - Natural approaches to Postpartum Depression
Midwifery Today e-news article on postpartum depression