Baby blues are common
According to the American Pregnancy Association, approximately 70-80% of all new mothers experience some negative feelings or mood swings after the birth of their child.1 While the exact cause of baby blues is unknown, it’s believed that the hormonal changes that happen before and after birth are what cause some instability in your mood. The good news: Baby blues often improve on their own as your body recovers, but if your feelings become overwhelming or persist after 14 days, you may want to consult a physician about managing postpartum depression.
Baby blues indicators
These feelings typically kick in two to three days after delivery:
- Crying for no apparent reason
- Irritability and impatience
- Feelings of being overwhelmed
- Mood swings
- Insomnia even when the baby is sleeping
Why do some women experience the baby blues?
You’ve just given birth and there’s a lot going on—physically and emotionally. While your life has changed in so many wonderful ways, there are many reasons why this postpartum period can create a perfect storm for the baby blues.
Hormonal fluctuations: During your pregnancy, you had increased levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. Those hormone levels drop rapidly right after childbirth, and that can affect your mood, sleep, and concentration.2 Be kind to yourself as your body re-stabilizes and adjusts.
Adjusting to parenthood: As amazing as it is to become a parent, the adjustment period of having a newborn can be stressful and exhausting. Between round-the-clock feedings and diaper changes, your usual home chores, and a revolving door of well-meaning visitors, even the most experienced mom can feel overwhelmed. That said, many experienced moms can tell you that we’re often stronger than we give ourselves credit, and this too shall pass.
Physical healing: Whether you had a vaginal delivery or C-section, your body is healing and adjusting to its pre-pregnancy state. Physical discomfort from postpartum issues such as uterine cramping, urinary problems, or breast engorgement can affect your emotional well-being. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to rest and ease back into things.
Breastfeeding difficulties: Some common breastfeeding problems such as sore nipples and trouble latching can be frustrating and uncomfortable. A lot of moms worry that they’re doing something wrong or it’s their fault–when in reality feeding difficulties are just part of the learning process for both mom and baby.
Lack of sleep: Sleep is so important for your physical and mental health. But your baby’s needs, coupled with the worries many women have about being a perfect mom, can keep you awake. Developing habits, routines, and even sleep training techniques can help you and your baby fall asleep and remind any doubts you’re having that you are a great mom, and you’re doing everything you can for your family.
How to navigate the baby blues
The postpartum blues often improve within one to two weeks without any medical help, but there are a few steps that may help ease some of the issues.
Accept and ask for support: One of the most overwhelming aspects about baby blues is feeling like you’re alone, but there are always people around you who can help. Be sure to communicate your needs as clearly as you can–let everyone know what is and isn’t helpful, give them specific tasks or responsibilities if you can, and if you need space, don’t hesitate to set healthy boundaries.
Connect with other new moms: No one better understands what you’re feeling as much as those who are going through the same thing. Share your experiences with other postpartum moms or join an online or in-person support group for new mothers. It can be cathartic to have honest talks about the challenges of new parenthood. Your doctor, as well as the Postpartum Support International website, may help you find resources.
Get enough Zzzs: You may have heard that age-old advice, “sleep when the baby sleeps.” While it may be easier said than done, it’s a good tip—but you may need some support. Ask your partner, relative, or friend to take over some of your day-to-day responsibilities so that you can catch up on needed shut-eye.
Practice self-care: Nourish your body, mind, and spirit. Eat nutritious meals, take a hot bath, get some fresh air, and carve out some time to exercise, which can release those feel-good endorphins.
Stop comparing: There’s no such thing as a “perfect” mom. It’s tempting to think that the characters or personas we see in movies, TV, or social media embody perfection, but we’re only seeing a small window into their lives (or imaginary lives) and anyone who is a mom can tell you reality has plenty of ups and downs. Loving your children, wanting what’s best for them, and doing everything you can for them is the true foundation of what it takes to be a great mom.
Baby blues vs. postpartum depression
While the baby blues and postpartum depression share some similar indicators, postpartum depression is more severe and persistent. A few indicators that may point to postpartum depression could include:
- Baby blues that don’t go away
- Debilitating sadness
- Overwhelming feelings of hopelessness or guilt
- Severe anger
- Not bonding with the baby
- Trouble concentrating and making decisions
- Changes in appetite
- Feelings of harming baby or self
Postpartum depression is a serious illness that can put both the mom and her baby at risk. If you or someone you know is showing indicators of postpartum depression, talk to a healthcare provider to find support.
More postpartum health resources
As you transition to life with your sweet little one, keep in mind that experiencing the baby blues is normal. While most new mamas go through it and it’s usually short-lived, if you have any concerns for your well-being, reach out to your healthcare provider.
Explore our Tips and Resources section for more postpartum articles and videos, including:
- The Postpartum Period: What You Need To Know About The First 6 Weeks After Childbirth
- 6-Week Postpartum Checkup: Everything You Need To Know
- Postpartum Health: How To Care For Yourself After Pregnancy
- Potential Postpartum Complications To Be Aware of