How to support your partner through the Baby Blues!
by contributing author Kylie-Jo Elliott
The ‘Baby Blues’ is the common term used to describe a new parent’s feeling of depression that can usually develop between the birth of a baby and 3 months of age. It can affect 8 in every 10 new mums and studies have shown that 1 dad in 10 can also suffer from postnatal depression.
Whilst it is generally a temporary condition, the good news is that the Baby Blues is nothing to be afraid of and is completely treatable with awareness and focus.
Being prepared for what to expect will make all the difference in getting through this time and supporting your partner to get back to normal as quickly as possible. Here is your simple list to follow with some tried and true advice for any new parent.
Know what the baby blues are and what to expect - so there are no surprises.
The baby blues is a period of unwarranted sadness and irritability, bouts of crying, restlessness and anxiety. It usually arrives 3 days after giving birth, and can persist for up to 3 weeks. Its causes are many, but the main culprits are:
An extreme wave of hormones trying to adjust back to pre-baby levels (estrogen & progesterone drop dramatically after childbirth as they were produced by the placenta which is no longer there, and prolactin and oxytocin levels go up as your partner begins breastfeeding) This cocktail creates emotional HAVOC!
The physical effects of going through a natural birth or a caesarean can produce the same effect as going into shock.
Exhaustion and sleep deprivation can change the chemical balance of the brain, creating depressive like symptoms.
Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? So, the important thing to note here is that a new parent’s feelings during this time are not ‘all in their head’. Validate their emotions as real - and this will help them get through.
Understand that you cannot ‘stop’ this from happening, but you can support them through it.
Just like an injury takes time to heal, this too shall pass. It is a normal process that needs to run its course. Remember – you can’t just ‘fix’ this.
Assume the role of the ‘Gatekeeper’.
Give your partner the time and space they need to settle in to their new role. Don’t accept visitors out of obligation. You set the rules that suit your new family and that also gives your partner the space they need to adjust.
Ask your partner about the way they are feeling and let them talk.
Don’t try to solve their problems. Your role is to be the listener. Let them know you understand, and are there for them.
Help them get as much rest as possible.
Take the baby into another room or go for a walk with the baby and let them sleep. Even for just half an hour. Resting for a new mum or dad is NOT indulgent – it is ESSENTIAL to get these hormones back into alignment! Remember, rest regulates hormones.
“Nothing is as healing as the human touch”.
A 15-minute massage will do more than you could ever imagine to support your partner through this time. We need to have physical contact to survive, but it also has therapeutic qualities in that cortisol is the body's response to stress, and massage therapy lowers it by as much as 50%. At the same time, massage provides many benefits and can also increase the levels of serotonin and dopamine, which are both neurotransmitters that help stabilize your partner’s mood.
You both need to eat well!
Food is not only fuel – food is medicine. When your partner’s hormones have gone haywire, great nutrition is key. Limiting highly processed foods, caffeine and alcohol combined with increasing nutrient dense foods, will give their body the best platform to survive and thrive this challenging yet TEMPORARY time of tribulation! If you are not in a position to cook for a couple of weeks, then get the army of well-wishers from the extended family and friends on to the task of making the obligatory ‘casseroles’ and healthy meals that you can just reheat and serve. Bellisimo!
These pointers may take effort to execute, but you can do it.
This will not last forever and your support will be instrumental to making that time easier to cope with – for the 3 of you! And always remember, if you feel it hasn’t passed by 4 weeks – wait no longer.
If things get worse – reach out for help.
Be proactive and book an appointment with a trusted GP and talk them through what you are experiencing. Never be under the assumption that you will appear ‘weak’ if you ‘speak’.
While the baby blues is perfectly normal, there are a small number of new parents who can see this time of imbalance escalate to post-partum depression. This is treatable, as long as it is diagnosed.
You are about to enter the most exciting and challenging time of life as you know it – but you are not alone. Many have walked this path before … and survived … so will you!