How to Fight the Baby Blues

by Kim on April 3, 2012

Before giving birth, I admittedly didn’t take postpartum depression or the “baby blues” very seriously. Why would I be depressed after welcoming a new little person into my life? After fiiiinally coming out on the other side of 10 long months of pregnancy? After getting back the ability to eat sushi and lay on my stomach at will?

But then, a few days after Mason was born, this weird, unsettling feeling started to set in. I felt anxious and weepy at totally random times–particularly in the evening, when I started anticipating the potential horrors of the night ahead.

But I could never pinpoint anything really specific I was upset about. Sure, being a new mom is overwhelming at times–the baby’s needs are constant and relentless, and the whole eat/sleep/poop cycle becomes painfully repetitive around, oh, day 2. Sure, it’s exhausting, and sometimes frustrating. Sure, you’re cooped up in the house all day, looking forward to the 2 minutes in the afternoon during which you can walk to the mailbox and back.

But it wasn’t really any of that that was bothering me. It wasn’t really anything at all. Just good old hormones! :)

To be clear, I just experienced a touch of the baby blues, which is a far cry from actual postpartum depression. Postpartum depression–a very serious condition–is considered when these feelings continue beyond a month after your baby is born. In my case, I was feeling back to normal within a week.

As it turns out, the baby blues are so common among postpartum women that they’re considered totally normal. (Because we aren’t going through enough already, right?)

Here are some of the things that helped me get through this crappy time:

  • Shower and put yourself together every day. It’s easy to think “well, I’m not leaving the house today, and there’s a 0.002% chance I’ll be seen by a soul other than my husband, baby, and the peeping toms in my neighborhood. What’s the point?” True, but the way you look and feel physically can have a huge impact on the way you feel emotionally, even if it’s happening totally subconsciously. And although having a baby is a great excuse to cut a few corners, you might not immediately realize how much your mood is suffering as a result.

    Plus, after 4+ shower-free, snarly-haired, pajama-bottomed days in a row, you’ve already started a small habit that might be hard to break once you’re back on your feet.I use the phrase “put yourself together” loosely here, because different women need different forms of this to feel good. In my case, I feel put together when I’m wearing makeup, my hair is clean, and I’m in some kind of nice, flattering top (yoga pants, however, are always acceptable–I happily wear them to work at my office job). Other women who are more naturally attractive and less vain than me might not need all of these things. :) Generally speaking, I would say do whatever you need to do so that you can look back on all the pictures taken of you during the first few weeks of your child’s life and think “well, I guess I didn’t look like a total ogre.”

    This is probably not necessary, but like I said, to each her own. If you need cat eyes and lips that scream “I’m definitely not breathing right now” to feel put together, then I say go for it. (Although I can’t help wondering what the time commitment on this is…would you squeeze this in between eat and sleep or sleep and poop?)

  • Put out fresh flowers. If you received some as gifts from friends or family, great! If not, just go shamelessly buy yourself some (or hint around at it to your husband until he does). Flowers can have a powerful impact on your mood, whether you realize it or not (according to my super scientific life experiences and studies like this one). Make sure you get something strong-smelling that’ll fill your house with the healing scent of FLOWER POWER!I just bought these gorgeous tulips from the grocery store the other day, and they give my spirits a little boost every time I walk past them. If only the junk that grows in my yard looked this good. *sigh*


  • Leave the house when you can. This can be challenging with a newborn, but it’s also soooo helpful if you can pull it off. After about 4 or 5 days of literally not exiting my house, I took a short trip to Target and it was heavenly. I roamed the aisles, stretching the trip out way longer than necessary, and came home a new woman. If the weather is nice, a short walk around the block is even better (preferably sans-baby, just for Mom Sanity reasons, although stroller outings are good too). I walked to the video store and back the other day (total trip: 40 minutes) and came through the door at the end skipping, when I’d gone out it crawling on hands and knees.
  • Eat (relatively) healthy and HYDRATE. If friends and family have delivered meals, you might be somewhat at their mercy on this one (hello, carb explosion casseroles!). But regardless of what you eat, eat small amounts of it often to keep your blood sugar levels under control, and chug a tall glass of water every hour or two. It helps to incorporate the water chugging into the eat/sleep/poop cycle somewhere to help you remember–so, every time baby eats, you drink 12 oz of water. (Just be careful drinking overbaby…I recommend plastic cups over glass :).) If you’re nursing, you should incorporate more water and protein into your diet than usual.

    These amazing fruit strips have been one of my top maternity-leave snack foods:

  • Let go of perfection (even just a little). I’m kind of control-freaky, so this is tough for me. When there are dishes piled in the sink and visible dust bunnies on our white carpeting (dang white carpeting!!), I start wringing my hands and whimpering a little bit. (I even get annoyed when my husband pulls the coffee maker out from against the wall to make coffee and then does not push the coffee maker back against the wall. Yeah, it’s that bad.) But my post-baby hormones are producing enough anxiety for me without me adding my crazy neuroses to the mix. I’ve already had to let go of the fact that our couch will never look the same after having Super Spit Up Geyser Mason around it for a week. It helps me to plan out my chores (on Monday, I’ll vacuum. Tuesday, I’ll dust…), always starting with a due time that is not now. So, I’ll tackle those dishes first thing in the morning. (And then, of course, the trick is to actually do it.)
  • Treat yourself. Think of something smallish that makes you happy and treat yourself to it. Better yet, think of a few things and treat yourself to one every day. These must be easily attainable things (I like beach vacations too, but come on…) that aren’t a huge time suck (20 minutes or less). Possible treats could be a chocolate frosty from Wendy’s (that’s mine), a little online shoe shopping, a glass of wine, or a couple gossip magazines. Or maybe you need to drive around the block blasting Bohemian Rhapsody and singing at the top of your lungs.

    I even prepared myself a little pre-treat by buying 2 cute non-maternity shirts when I was 9 months pregnant. It was such a mood boost when I finally got to wear them for the first time! (I’m one of those people who, when she buys new clothes, usually needs to wear them IMMEDIATELY and OFTEN. So it was also kinda torture while I was still preggo. But worth it!)So, listen to Tom and Donna:

  • Let yourself cry and know that the baby blues are usually temporary. Don’t beat yourself up. You don’t have to explain yourself to anyone. There is nothing wrong and nothing that your husband/mom/siblings/friends should try to fix (those dang helpful, caring people! Right??). Sure, you happened to have cried shortly after the baby peed through his outfit for the third time today, but that doesn’t mean that’s why you’re crying. (It means that you bought Huggies instead of Pampers–rookie mistake that we made too!) You will be just fine, and you know that, but right now, nothing would feel better than a good cry. So do it.
Oh, and you can also eat your placenta, which has been said to help level out emotions after pregnancy. But if you’re not super into that, as I’m not, then I’d say just stick to treating yo self.


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