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Dealing with postpartum depression

Becoming a parent triggers an array of emotions, from joy and excitement to anxiety and fear. Baby blues are fairly common among new moms, but how do you cope with postpartum depression, a long-lasting and severe mood disorder? Postpartum depression affects around 1 in 7 women. It can have an adverse effect on the well-being of both the mother and child, yet 1 in 5 women keep quiet about their symptoms and, therefore, remain untreated.

Unlike the baby blues, postpartum depression rarely disappears on its own. The condition can occur days or even months following the birth of your child and last for many weeks or months without treatment.

Postpartum depression is a treatable psychological disorder. It can be managed effectively, and you will feel better. But first and foremost, it is important to reach out to your health care provider and seek help. Do not struggle with postnatal depression alone. It is not your fault that you are depressed, and being depressed does not make you a bad parent. Here are some tips and tricks to help you better deal with postpartum depression:

  1. Build a secure bond with your baby.

Emotional bonding is the secure attachment that forms between parents and children. Successful bonding allows the child to feel safe enough to develop fully, and having this bond will affect the way in which they communicate and form relationships throughout their life. A secure bond forms when you tune in and respond to your child’s needs or emotional cues, such as picking them up, soothing them, and reassuring them when they cry. Being that dependable source of comfort allows your child to learn how to manage their own feelings and behaviors, which, in turn, helps to strengthen their cognitive development.

Postpartum depression can have a significant impact on early bonding, making it difficult to get through each day and hindering your ability to look after both your baby and yourself. Some parents feel an instant rush of love the moment they set eyes on their baby, while for others, it takes time. If you have not yet bonded with your baby, do not feel anxious or guilty. Sometimes, it can take weeks – or even months – to feel an attachment, but it should come with time.

  1. Skin-to-skin contact

Regardless of whether you breastfeed or formula feed your baby, try doing so while their bare skin is against your own. If the room is cool, wrap a blanket around your baby’s back to keep them warm. You can also cradle your baby skin-to-skin.

Skin-to-skin contact relaxes both you and your baby, as well as enhances the bond between you. Additional benefits of skin-to-skin contact include prolonged periods of sleep and alertness, less cold stress, improved weight gain, better brain development, decreased crying, and an earlier discharge from the hospital.

  1. Baby Massage

Touch is an important part of your child's development and helps to support the bonding process. Baby massage has been shown to decrease the symptoms in mothers with postpartum depression. Learn how to properly massage your baby by signing up for a class, finding information or videos online, or reading a book.

  1. Smile

Your baby will likely lose their reflex smile and give you their first real one between the ages of 6 and 12 weeks. Research has found that when a mother sees her baby smile, areas of her brain that are associated with reward light up. Hold your baby approximately 8-12 inches from your face – so that they can see you properly – give them a wide smile, and offer them a warm “hello” in a happy tone to coax a smile.

  1. Sing

Regardless of the tempo, key, and whether you are the best or worst singer in the world, singing to your baby has many benefits. Engaging with your child through song is just as effective as reading them a book or playing with toys in keeping their attention, and it is more effective than listening to recorded music. Singing to your baby not only provides them with sensory stimulation that they need to focus their attention but also provides a distraction for you from the negative thoughts associated with depression, while simultaneously empowering you as a parent.

  1. Try psychotherapy & Medication

If you have tried self-help, made lifestyle changes, and sought support but have experienced no improvement, your doctor may suggest that you try medication, psychotherapy, or both. Psychotherapy, also called mental health counseling or talk therapy, can help you to discuss your concerns and feelings, set goals that are manageable, and learn to respond to situations positively. Antidepressants may be recommended if your depression is severe or when other treatments have not improved your symptoms. Your doctor will take into account if you are breastfeeding when prescribing medication.

If you are thinking about harming either yourself or your baby, put your baby down in their crib immediately and call a family member, friend, or one of the following helplines: 1-800-suicide (1-800-784-2433), 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255), 1-800-PPD-MOMS (1-800-773-6667)

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