You’ve had so much advice, it’s left you reeling in confusion. Every-one else seems to know exactly what you should do, but this doesn’t really help you to feel in control of the tiredness and emotional changes taking place. Here are some psychological tips to help you through those turbulent early days.
- Never say “I have done nothing today”. You’ve been there for your baby. You’ve been instantly interruptible (probably a new skill for you), and instantly available for soothing, comfort and nutrition. Research shows that soothing and comfort are as powerful for baby’s well being as food.
- Never strive to be perfect, always good enough. On a bad day, say to yourself “I was good enough, and that is good enough”.
- On a good day, capture the moment and bank it in your memory. Remember how special you are, to be a mum.
- Gather friends around you – especially ones with little babies too. Any-one else will have forgotten what it’s really like, and it’s the biggest protector against postnatal depression.
- Never chastise yourself for needing sleep, rest, a break, a night out, a rant, or whatever you need. Find a way to get it, because it will strengthen you and help you be a good enough mum.
- Being “mindful” is a psychological term which is used to deal with frustration and low mood. It means focusing on what this feels like, now, and moving away from thoughts of later, or tomorrow such as things that need doing. So while you are cuddling your baby, focus on the cuddle, the feel of it, the warmth, the movement as your baby breathes etc. Push away any thoughts of what needs doing and when. Just “be” with the here and now. Practice this for ten minutes each day and you will realize how powerful it is.
- Prolactin (the mothering hormone) makes you a little more anxious, a little more irritable, and more submissive and loving. So never try to be all giving and all loving – there will have to be some irritability and anxiety thrown in. We’re back to never trying to be perfect!
- The effects of prolactin, coupled with a striving for perfection may mean that you find it hard to let your partner do his bit with baby. However, if you want him to help you when the baby is older and if you want him to understand why you feel so drained and why the house is in a mess, then start to give him time alone with baby now. How else will he become confident and competent with his baby?
- If you begin to feel that you aren’t coping and that you are not okay within yourself, or if others start to tell you so, don’t hesitate to see you GP or Health Visitor, or find a counsellor. Post natal depression passes much quicker with help and support, and no one deserves to feel awful, so why not go and get the support to help yourself through it sooner rather than later.
Good luck – and enjoy the journey.