If you’re a new mom and wondering why you feel so sad after the highly-anticipated arrival of your baby, you may be dealing with the baby blues. You may not have expected a dose of unhappiness along with your bundle of joy, but rest assured that these blues are normal and common. In fact, up to 80% of women experience them within a few days of giving birth. Baby blues can happen after subsequent births, too, but they can feel surprising the first time around.
Symptoms of the Baby Blues
If you experience any of these soon after your baby is born, you may have the baby blues:
- Fatigue and/or Insomnia
Why Do the Baby Blues Occur?
Think about times when your mood has been affected by hormones (hello, PMS), or a big life change like moving to a different city. Having a baby combines wacky hormones and perhaps the biggest life change of all, so it makes sense that you’re feeling out of sorts as you adjust to a very different new normal.
One of the hardest adjustments can be the sudden responsibility of caring for a baby around the clock, with little time to tend to your own needs. You also want your baby to be safe and healthy, and it’s easy to worry about every little thing.
Plus, it takes time to figure out this mom gig. No matter how many books you read ahead of time, parenting presents real-time challenges that require you to constantly adapt. You may be second-guessing everything you do, which isn’t surprising because you’ve never done it before!
And, you’re tired. Tiny humans eat, cry and poop a lot, night and day, and being tired can take a toll on your mood.
How Long Do the Baby Blues Last?
Symptoms of the baby blues typically stick around for about two weeks after they show up. If your blues linger for longer, feel overwhelmingly intense, or interfere with your ability to function, care for or bond with your baby, you may be dealing with postpartum depression (PPD). If you suspect PPD, it’s important to talk to you doctor. PPD is well-studied, and effective treatments are available.
What Can I Do to Cope with the Baby Blues?
The baby blues pass fairly quickly as you adjust. In the meantime these tips may help you feel better:
Ask for help. Many of us hesitate to ask others for help because we feel we may be judged as weak or incapable. If a friend or family member asked you for help during a difficult time would you judge them? Probably not! There’s no shame in asking a family member or friend to come over for an hour to help, listen, or even just be there with you. Generally, people like to feel needed, so it’s a win-win for both of you.
Do one small thing for yourself every day. Pay attention to things that make you feel better and try to do at least one of them every day, even for just a few minutes. This is where asking for help comes in handy. While your mother in-law rocks your baby, brew a cup of tea and sit quietly by yourself for a bit.
Go easy on yourself. Again, think about a friend going through a hard time. You’d be kind to her, right? Be kind to yourself. Housework may pile up. You may not feel confident in your new role as a mother. Not only is all of that okay, it’s a normal part of what you’re going through.
Eat well. Your diet can have an effect on your mood, so try to eat as well as possible as often as you can. You can find great tips and resources on postpartum nutrition here.
Exercise. Studies show that exercise can boost your mood. The easiest way to fit some in is to strap your baby into her stroller and go for a walk. As a bonus, sunshine or even just fresh air can lift your spirits.
Above all, remember that you’re not alone. Many, many mamas have felt the way you do and can tell you: These blues shall pass.