Your pregnancy went perfectly, and delivery was a breeze. Now your baby is here and motherhood is nothing but rainbows and sunshine! Riiight. Motherhood is beautiful, but it is not always the perfect picture it is painted to be, and that can be very hard for some women to cope with.
Societal pressure, unrealistic expectations, shifting hormones, lack of sleep, and every other challenge that comes with new motherhood can lead to a serious condition that not every woman expects or knows about : Postpartum anxiety and depression. No one tells you that after having a baby, you might reach depths of despair you never thought possible, or feel panic-induced anxiety every time someone holds your baby. Let’s not even talk about bedtime, because that can be a very scary time for some parents. Sleep when the baby sleeps! Yeah, ok, maybe when I’m done checking to make sure that she is breathing every 2 seconds!
I am still facing an intense battle with postpartum anxiety. My experience with breastfeeding and having this disorder has been challenging, but also very rewarding. I’ve come up with a list of things that I think will help other women with postpartum depression and/or anxiety to have a healthy and happy breastfeeding relationship!
10 Tips for Coping with Postpartum Depression and Anxiety while Breastfeeding:
- Skin-to-skin: Having your baby on your chest immediately has many important benefits. It is a great tool for getting a baby’s temperature and breathing to regulate and to successfully initiate breastfeeding. Continuing this practice can be a great way to alleviate anxiety in both mother (or father) and baby. Here is an excellent article that explains skin-to-skin care and the benefits in great detail. This brings me to my next point:
- Babywearing: Using a sling or carrier to hold your baby close to you is all the rage right now, and for good reason. The close proximity between mother and child encourages healthy milk production (close enough to kiss!), and is a great tool for lowering stress and anxiety levels.
- Limit Visitors: If you want to have success breastfeeding, you have to do just that- Breastfeed. This can be uncomfortable to do in front of guests and for that reason it is good to limit the number of visitors in the first few weeks or months while getting breastfeeding established. Those first few weeks are absolutely vital to establishing a healthy milk supply.
- Eating Habits: According to BabyCenter, breastfeeding women need to eat an additional 500 calories per day. Your body and mind are a reflection of what you are putting into your body and a healthy diet and adequate water intake (around 100 oz a day) will not only make you feel better, it will lead to a more abundant milk supply, which can help alleviate anxiety and depression.
- Staying Positive: This one can be hard when you’re feeling depressed, but having a positive outlook and believing in your body’s abilities will make all the difference when it comes to breastfeeding. If you tell yourself you can’t do it, you won’t be able to. Try telling yourself that you can and you will be amazed by what you are able to accomplish. I can’t think of a better way to kick depression’s ugly butt!
- Find a Hobby: Do something that makes you happy! Taking a break to recharge your batteries once in a while is of the upmost importance. Taking an hour to paint, or go for a run, or whatever it is that you enjoy, can help shake the fog of depression or the pain of anxiety.
- Work with a Lactation Consultant: An LC absolutely saved my breastfeeding relationship. She helped me get through the awkward first feeding in order to create that all important perfect latch. Furthermore, having resources such as Kelly Mom or La Leche League at your finger tips can help diminish feelings of anxiety and depression by providing knowledge and confidence in yourself as a breastfeeding mother.
- Be Easy on Yourself: The first few months of postpartum life are hard. They are messy, painful, confusing, and not always the sunshine and fireworks that you expected. Learn to let go and forgive yourself when it doesn’t go according to plan. There are many complications that can arise, but that doesn’t make you a bad mother. Feeling guilty is a symptom, and forgiving yourself can be a very large step toward healing and overcoming your depression or anxiety.
- Make Mommy Friends: Having supportive friends who want you to succeed will be a game changer. If you don’t have anyone in your life who uplifts you, look for support groups online for both breastfeeding and PPD/A. I have made genuine friendships that have extended from Instagram to real life and it is aiding in my recovery tenfold.
- Seek Treatment: Seeing a therapist can really help. There are options such as antidepressants and cognitive therapy; or if you aren’t comfortable taking medicine while breastfeeding (like me), you can try alternative options such as yoga and exercise. If you still aren’t feeling better after 12-18 months postpartum, I recommend finding out if you are possibly suffering from other mental conditions that could be aggravating your depression and/or anxiety. Seeing a therapist has helped me a lot and even led to being further diagnosed with PTSD. Needing help is nothing to be ashamed of and it could totally change your life for the better!
I am hopeful for the future and I know that with the right treatment, I will be better someday. I absolutely believe the same for you.
We’d love to hear from you! How has postpartum depression or anxiety affected your breastfeeding relationship?
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Latest posts by Lissa James (see all)
- Motherhood: When Breastfeeding Doesn’t Work Out - December 15, 2015
- A Letter to my Daughter: Mommy is Here - November 23, 2015
- Holistic Treatment for Postpartum Depression and Anxiety - October 20, 2015