How to Manage the Baby Blues
People talk a lot about the Baby Blues, and often they are confused with Postnatal Depression. However, they are two very different things. So what are the Baby Blues, why do they occur and how can you not only survive them, but thrive?
What Are the Baby Blues?
The Baby Blues are a naturally occurring phenomenon and happen to around 80% of new mums. Generally they kick in anywhere from 2 to 10 days post birth. The good news is they usually only last a couple of days.
Symptoms to look out for include:
- Tiredness, often accompanied by sleeplessness, no matter how tired you are
- Feeling weepy and crying for little or no reason
- Mood swings and irritability
- Trouble thinking clearly and making simple decisions
- Loss of appetite
Whilst we don’t know why some women suffer from the Baby Blues and others don’t, we do have a pretty good idea of the causes and contributing factors:
- In the days following birth the hormones your body is producing fluctuate wildly, and these hormones control your mood to a large extent
- Following pregnancy and birth your body is often depleted of much needed nutrients, adding to the tiredness you will feel as a consequence of disturbed sleep
- If your birth was difficult, or did not go according to plan, you may be feeling disappointment, guilt or even resentment
- Worry about things other than the baby, like money, jobs and family or relationships
What You Can Do
Typically, the Baby Blues don’t require intervention and will resolve themselves once your hormones settle and you find a routine. However there are a few things you can do to lessen their impact.
- Eat well. Pregnancy will have depleted your body of a range of nutrients and the sooner you replenish them the better you will feel. There are also certain foods which contain nutrients that help balance hormones. These include lean proteins, leafy greens, eggs, avocados, almonds and cashews, flax, pumpkin, and chia seeds. And it’s important to stay hydrated. Particularly if you are breast feeding.
- Sleep. Yes, it sounds simple. But it’s not always so easy with a new baby. If you can, sleep when baby does. Don’t worry about the washing or the dusting – it will all still be there when you feel a little more on top of things.
- Fresh Air and Exercise. If the weather permits, put baby in a sling or a pram and go for a walk. Even if it’s just around the block. You will both benefit from the experience and you’ll feel better having escaped the house. Especially if the washing is piling up.
- Accept Help. Family and friends are almost always willing to help with a preparing a nutritious meal, doing a load of washing, or watching the baby while you get some rest.
- Make some time for yourself. This is particularly useful if you feel yourself missing your ‘old life’ (don’t feel guilty – it’s not unusual to feel this way). Even if you can only carve out 20 minutes to read, watch an episode of your favourite sitcom or disappear down the YouTube rabbit hole, do something you enjoyed pre-baby.
- Find a good Doula. An experienced Doula is trained at helping manage the Baby Blues and can not only provide physical and nutritional support, but a sympathetic and experienced ear for you to confide in.
Finally, cut yourself some slack. Don’t try to live up to some impossible standard of perceived ‘perfection’. Every new mum struggles with aspects of adjusting to parenthood, so don’t be fooled by the Insta-worthy impressions presented by others.
How to Tell if it’s Something More
As I mentioned earlier, the Baby Blues generally last no more than a few days. If you notice any of the following symptoms it may be a sign of something deeper like Postnatal Depression.
- If your low mood doesn’t lift for more than two weeks
- If there is no light and shade in your day – with the Baby Blues you will generally have moments of happiness, even if they are fleeting
- If you begin to experience these feelings more than two weeks after the birth of your baby, at any time in the first year after birth.
Postnatal Depression should be taken seriously, and you should contact your health care provider or community health nurse as soon as possible if you have concerns. You might also like to check out The Gidget Foundation.
If you feel in imminent danger of harming yourself or your baby, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14,
One Last Thing…
It’s not only birthing mums who can suffer from Baby Blues. Partners can also experience a bout of blues after the birth of a new baby, so it’s important to keep an eye on each other.
If you are pregnant of have just given birth and are concerned about how to manage the Baby Blues, I would love to help. Please give me a call on 0422 258 771, or contact me here for a chat:
What is Postnatal Depletion?
Postnatal Depletion refers to the physical and mental deterioration of a woman caused by the process of pregnancy, giving birth, breastfeeding, and caring for her child. Whilst there has been a great deal of discussion on Postnatal Depression, Postnatal Depletion is not as commonly understood. However, according to Dr Oscar Serrallach[i] more than 50% of women suffer postnatal depletion, and it can last up to 7-10 years. Which means, of course, it is highly likely you are still depleted when you have your next baby, further depleting your reserves.
So how do you reduce the risk of Postnatal Depletion, and if you do experience it, what can you do to help recover?
What Causes Postnatal Depletion?
During pregnancy, the mother’s body diverts essential nutrients first to the baby. This can cause a depletion of essential nutrients in the mother’s body. The most significant of these is essential fatty acids, which are required to support brain development in your baby but are also essential to your own wellbeing and brain function.
Other nutrients which are depleted during pregnancy include Vitamins A, B6 + B12, D, E, K, folate, iron, zinc, magnesium, thiamine, selenium, and niacin.
In addition, there are changes to the mother’s brain which rewire it for motherhood, and, according to some doctors, cause it to shrink up to 5%, which is the cause of ‘baby brain’. The continued loss of DHA fatty acids exacerbate this.
Once baby is born, the depletion of essential fatty acids and nutrients continues as these are diverted to producing breast milk for your growing baby.
Although they are two very different conditions, many of the symptoms of Postnatal Depletion are similar to Postnatal Depression. In fact, extreme depletion can lead to, or at the very least exacerbate, postnatal depression.
- Extreme fatigue – tiredness even when you first wake up, falling asleep without meaning to
- Mood swings
- Baby Brain – including poor memory, fogginess, inability to concentrate, and a feeling of being ‘lost’
- Hypervigilance – feeling constantly wired and on alert
- Loss of libido
- Feeling overwhelmed by motherhood
- Reduced immune function – which can lead to poor gut health, increased risk of illness and infections like mastitis
Reducing the Risk
The best way to reduce the risk of postnatal depletion is to be prepared:
If you are planning to become pregnant, make sure you are eating a healthy diet rich in the nutrients we mentioned earlier, and you are getting plenty of rest and exercise. The stronger and healthier you are when you conceive, the better for you and your growing baby.
Again, make sure you are getting the nutrition you need. Be especially careful to ensure you consume sufficient fatty acids. Seafood is high in these nutrients, and since pregnant women need to take care around eating seafood because of concerns about mercury, it is worthwhile looking for additional ways to include them in your diet. Try walnuts, flax seeds, chai seeds and egg yolks. And make sure you get plenty of rest so you are at your best when labour begins. This is also a time to think about how you will be supported once baby is born. Put in place some plans that will ensure you have the help you need.
The two most important factors here are nutrition and rest. Easier said than done when you have a new baby to take care of. But taking care of mum is just as important as taking care of baby. There’s a reason they tell you to fit your own oxygen mask first – you can’t care for others if you are not coping yourself. Don’t feel you need to leap back onto your feet. Many cultures around the world incorporate a full month of care for the mother post-birth. This allows time to recover strength and replenish lost nutrients, and return to health.
How to Recover
Whether you are experiencing Postnatal Depletion or not, taking care of yourself after you have given birth is vital to you returning to full health and being the best version of yourself you can be – which can only be good for your children, your partner, and your friends and family, not to mention yourself.
Here are a few things to help every new mum, particularly those suffering from depletion:
- Look carefully at your diet. It is not always easy to get the micro and macro nutrients we need, especially when you are tired and busy with a new baby, so choose your foods carefully. Enrich your diet with fruits, nuts, raw vegetables, and plenty of hydration. These can easily be eaten while you feed baby. Consider talking to a nutritionist who specialises in postnatal nutrition, or engage a Doula, who will provide you with meals rich in the specific nutrients you need.
- Incorporate gentle exercise in your day – whether it is a walk in the fresh air with baby in the pram, or a yoga class. A little light exercise will improve brain function and help balance hormones
- Rest – it’s hard to get enough sleep when you have a new baby. Think about whether there is a friend or family member who can watch baby for an hour while you nap each day, or split the night feeds with your partner so you can get a good run at sleep. There will be a routine that works for you.
- Call in support. This is the time when a woman needs the most support she can get, see if you have friends or family who can help once your partner goes back to work, or consider a Postpartum Doula, who will not only provide nutritional foods, but can help with caring for baby, light housework, advice on breastfeeding and sleep routines, but also with giving you space to get some rest yourself.
If you feel you may be experiencing postnatal depletion, or you are pregnant and would like to take steps to ensure you don’t experience it, I would love to help you. I have a Certificate in Botanical Medicine for Motherhood, which addresses Postnatal Depletion, and can provide a range of nutritional meals as well as physical and emotional support. Please give me a call on 0422 258 771, or contact me:
[i] Dr Oscar Serrallach – The Postnatal Depletion Cure: A Complete Guide to Rebuilding Your Health and Reclaiming Your Energy for Mothers of Newborns, Toddlers and Young Children
How to Prepare for Baby No 2
Baby Number 2 is on the way! You’re excited, nervous and a little anxious. A lot of mums wonder how they could possibly love another baby as fiercely as they do their first. Don’t worry. It just happens. But what will be different about baby Number 2? And how can you manage it?
The Same but different
Whilst the physical changes you are going through will be much the same, the preparation for baby Number 2 is different, as is the reality once they arrive. You’ve been there and done this before, so you will have a degree of confidence you didn’t have with baby 1, but bear in mind, all babies are different. So be prepared to be flexible.
How to Prepare You
During your first pregnancy you only had yourself and your partner to consider. If you were tired, you could rest. With your second pregnancy you won’t have that luxury. There are a few things you can do to help:
- If your firstborn is still napping – nap with them. Not only will this provide you with the opportunity to get some much-needed rest, but it can be a great bonding time. Start with a story then snuggle up together.
- Prepare the room early. Get all those hand-me-downs washed and the room set up as early in the second trimester as you can, so by the time you get to the third trimester you can rest. This also gives your first child time to get used to the changes in the household.
How to Prepare Your Firstborn
It is natural for baby Number 1 to be both excited and anxious about the arrival of a new baby. The key to a smooth transition from a threesome to a foursome is preparation, regardless of the age of Number 1.
- Let your child know early on about the coming baby so they have time to get used to the idea.
- If your child will have to move out of their cot or bedroom to make room for the baby, make it an exciting ‘promotion’ to being a big kid.
- Involve your child in the preparations. Ask for advice about room colours, allow them to choose some toys or clothing.
- If you have friends with newborns, try and spend some time with them so your child becomes familiar with how they look and sound, and what they need in terms of caring.
- If your child is coming up for a developmental change – like toilet training – either do it early in the pregnancy or wait until baby is home and a settled routine is in place. Don’t stress yourself or your firstborn by introducing an additional change when baby arrives.
Those All-Important Introductions
The first time you introduce your firstborn to your new baby can set the tone for the coming weeks and dispel any lingering anxiety on the part of your firstborn.
- When your firstborn meets the new baby for the first time, make sure you are not holding the baby. You want your arms free to give your first child a hug and a cuddle so that they know they are still cherished.
- Have a little gift from the baby to your firstborn to make them feel special.
- Depending on their age, let them have a supervised cuddle, so they are able to bond.
When Baby is Home
Juggling a newborn and a toddler or preschooler can be tricky. This is a time when getting some additional help can really make a difference. Friends and family can be invaluable, as can the services of a Postpartum Doula. A few tips:
- Set up a routine for your first child around your feeding of baby. It might be that they snuggle up with you on the sofa and you read a book together, or you may set up a puzzle or some colouring in next to you. This will not only keep your firstborn occupied, but help to make them feel involved.
- Arrange a time of the day that is just for your first child. Whether it be bedtime, a morning walk or play time, have your partner or someone else take care of baby for a while so you can spend uninterrupted time with your firstborn. Even if you hear baby crying, don’t immediately rush to them – your firstborn needs to know they are a priority.
- If visitors are coming and bringing gifts for the baby, ask them to bring something small for your firstborn so they don’t feel left out.
- Go a little easy on your firstborn. When a baby arrives older children sometimes ‘regress’ – if they have been toilet trained they might go backwards for instance. This is normal and should settle. Just show them they are loved and how proud you are that they are a ‘big kid’.
Don’t forget to enjoy baby Number 2 the way you did your firstborn. It’s a balancing act, but with a little planning your second baby can double your joy. A good Postpartum Doula can help you navigate this time with advice, help with household chores and cooking, and wise advice gained through years of experience.
If you would like advice or support in making your family a foursome, I am happy to chat about how I can help you in this transition. Give me a call on 0422 258 771 or:
Chiropractic and Acupuncture in Pregnancy
Pregnancy is an incredible time, but there is no denying it comes with its fair share of discomfort. It is also a time when it is best to try and avoid taking too many medications, as many of them can have adverse affects on your baby. So how do you cope with the aches and pains that can go along with pregnancy, without resorting to medications? Luckily, here are some great, safe options for during pregnancy, labour and even in your postpartum period – Chiropractic and Acupuncture.
Aches and Pains in Pregnancy
There are a number of aches and pains that you may experience in pregnancy:
- One of the first uncomfortable things about pregnancy is usually morning sickness
- Up to half of all pregnant women experience back pain. This is in part due to the extra pressure put on your spine by the weight of your growing baby and breasts.
- Lower belly and groin pain – this is caused by the stretching of the ligaments that support your baby. The pains can be sudden and sharp – almost like the snapping of an elastic band.
- Misalignment of your joints can be caused the change in your posture, and by the release of Relaxin, a hormone that relaxes the ligaments. This can cause lower back and hip discomfort.
- Compensating for the change in your center of gravity can cause neck discomfort.
- Misalignment of your pelvis can lead to a restriction of growing room for your baby, and during labour can make it difficult for your baby to get into the optimum birth position.
- As your baby grows, your lung capacity can be restricted, making you a bit short of breath.
Chiropractic Care in Pregnancy
Chiropractic care can take care of all these concerns in a safe, drug free way.
Early in your pregnancy Chiropractic has been shown to help with both morning sickness and heartburn. As your pregnancy progresses and your baby takes up more room, it can ease breathing, and as baby grows relieve the discomfort you might feel in your back, hips and joints. Ensuring your back and pelvis remain correctly aligns will ensure your baby has room to grow, and move into the best position for birth. Chiropractic can also help ensure you have a strong pelvic floor, which will help during birth and afterwards.
Once baby is born you will be lifting and bending probably more than you ever have before. It is a good idea to continue your chiropractic treatment postpartum, especially in the first 6 weeks when your muscles and ligaments will still contain Relaxin. This will help achieve the adjustments you might need more easily and relieve any neck and upper to mid back pain, which is common during this time.
Not only will a chiropractor treat you during your visit, but he/she will be able to advise you on gentle stretches and exercises you can do at home to help keep your muscles strong and supple and reduce tension and pressure where it shouldn’t be.
When looking for a chiropractor, look for a women’s centred practice with experience in treating pregnant women. I can’t stress enough how important optimal pelvic alignment is for natural birth! Check out my resources page for some suggestions.
Acupuncture in Pregnancy
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese treatment that uses fine needles inserted in the skin to achieve ‘balance’ in the body. The needles are inserted corresponding with deep nerves that are stimulated by the needle, releasing chemicals that suppress pain symptoms.
As with Chiropractic, Acupuncture is a great way to alleviate some of the less appealing symptoms of pregnancy. These might include:
- Morning sickness – or all day sickness!
- Anxiety and stress
- Difficulty Sleeping
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – a swelling of the ligaments in your wrist
- Sciatica – pain in the back, pelvis and leg
Towards the end of your pregnancy Acupuncture can be used to reduce fatigue, increase stamina, help prepare your uterus and cervix for birth and even gently encourage the onset of natural labour. There is even some evidence that acupuncture can help reposition breech babies, and lead to shorter, easier births.
Some Chiropractors also provide acupuncture, and may refer to it as Dry Needling. This is essentially the same thing, but uses slightly different principles to place the needles.
When should I get Treatment?
When and how often you should get treatment really depends on how you are feeling and what your concerns are. Typically your practitioner might suggest monthly visits until around 34-36 weeks when visits would become more frequent. Your Chiropractor or Acupuncturist should be able to guide you here.
Word of Warning
As with any form of treatment during pregnancy, it is important for you to discuss your plans with your doctor or midwife. Sometimes there are reasons to avoid certain treatments – for instance if you have had bleeding, or have placenta previa. So chat with your medical practitioner to make sure it is safe, and if you experience any cramping, increased pain or bleeding after treatment, call your doctor or hospital straight away. There are also certain areas that should be avoided if you are pregnant, so make sure you tell the chiropractor or acupuncturist if you are pregnant before they start treatment.
If you are pregnant and feel you would like to try Chiropractic treatment or Acupuncture, I have a list of experienced practitioners on my Resources page.
If you would like to chat, you can contact me via our Contact page or call me on 0422 258 771.
Our third and final blog on Nutrition from Stacy Heckenberg BHSc Nut. Med. – for now at least! – is all about how to take care of your nutrition once baby is born. Good nutrition is important now not only to help you get back on your feet after pregnancy and birth, but to help combat the inevitable sleeplessness, and to make sure you are producing the quality and quantity of milk your baby needs to thrive.
Why Postpartum Nutrition is Important
The big day has come and gone and you are home with your beautify baby. On to the next part of the journey – parenthood! A lot of big decisions happen during this time, all while you are learning about this new little person, managing more changes to your body, and the new normal of your life.
Good nutrition will not only help ensure you have a good milk supply, but will aid in recovery and repair of your body, and help with fatigue and the moods that come with hormonal fluctuation.
Choosing to Feed
Choosing how you are going to feed your little bundle is deeply personal, yet everyone will have an opinion that they are happy to share with you! Whether you choose breast or bottle – FED is best. Some women struggle to breastfeed, others choose not to. As a nutritionist I am here to support either choice.
Breast milk has benefits to both mother and child, it’s easily digested, and less likely to cause tummy upset. But, some women may experience, pain, low supply, excess supply, or suffer mastitis. If you find yourself experiencing any of these issues, Alison can recommend a great lactation specialist who will help you.
What to Eat While Breastfeeding
If you decide to breast feed, but are finding your milk supply is low you might need to increase your sources of what we call lactogenic foods. These are foods, also known as galactagogues, which help your body produce more milk. Things to include are:
There are also foods you should avoid as they may cause a drop in supply:
Taking Care of Yourself
This is a busy time, and it is easy to get overwhelmed. Here are a few tips for managing to ensure you get the rest you need:
- Do your grocery shopping online so you don’t have to worry about struggling around the supermarket
- Ask for help with meals – a Doula will always bring you a meal, and will know exactly what you need nutritionally. If you have friends and family perhaps they can drop in the odd hot meal
- If you are making a meal, make double and freeze half for a day when you are tired or just too busy with baby
- Keep plenty of healthy snacks in the house – fresh fruit, cheeses and trail mix are great and easy to eat one handed while you feed baby!
- Often the evenings are unsettled times for babies. So if you have a slow cooker make use of it!
Part of my job is to make meal plans that support all stages of conception, pregnancy and postpartum. So I thought I would share a couple of recipes that I love. There are also a couple from Alison that you might like. Check out the Recipes section of the blog to see the recipes.
I hope these suggestions help you make it through that special time in your life. For more ideas go the Healthy Eating Guideline for Pregnancy at www.eatforhealth.gov.au.
Yours in health,
I hope you enjoyed our Nutrition series. If you have any questions, or want to chat about any aspect of pregnancy, birth or postpartum, message me at: