COMBATING the ‘New Mom’ Emotions

According to the American Psychological Association, an estimated 9-16 percent of new moms suffer from postpartum depression. Many others struggle with less general melancholy – the culmination of 9 long months of morning sickness, swollen ankles, and sleepless nights (not to mention the cravings and inevitable mood swings).  Couple that with a tiny newborn who needs to be fed, and changed, and then fed and changed again and again and again - and at all hours of the night and day, and it’s easy to feel over-whelmed.  Add in all the shopping, laundry, cooking, cleaning…oh, and if you have any other children…well, welcome to the Baby Blues.  

One main reason, according to Melissa Cohen, psychotherapist and founder of The Mommy Bond in Westfield, NJ, is that it is all too easy for new moms to be trapped by unreasonable expectations and the need to be perfect.

“Post-partum perfectionism is what tends to make moms feel overwhelmed,” Cohen explained. “Most moms don’t call it perfectionism but they have internalized the societal message that a mother is devoted and self-sacrificing, putting their children’s needs before their own at all times.  The message is pervasive, whether you identify with it personally or not.  Mothers unknowingly set themselves up for disappointment and overwhelm when they try to measure up this unrealistic, idealized version of motherhood.”

So what can new moms do to combat Baby Blues?  Cohen has a few ideas:

  1.  Make a connection - Connection is absolutely essential to combat the Baby Blues.  It really does "take a village” to manage the emotional and physical demands of motherhood.   Early motherhood can feel very isolating and moms often talk about feeling trapped in the house.  Find other moms and get together to nurture each other.  Cohen’s, The Mommy Bond, which offers a unique ‘Mommy and Me’ group that is focused on the mom rather than the baby, is just one example.  Many hospitals, community centers and libraries offer a place to come and talk with other new moms.
  2. Let go of the pressure - You don’t have to get everything done.  Cohen reminds us, “Is having all the laundry done, toys put away, meals made from scratch, etc. really fostering the growth of your child?” Your world will not crumble if you allow yourself to put off until tomorrow (or the day after).
  3. Make self-care a priority - When we don’t take care of ourselves, we burnout.  Being a parent is a tough job, one that is more difficult when you are physically and emotionally drained. 
  4. Prioritize “us” time – Don’t forget that before you were a family, you were a couple.  It is important to continue to work on your own relationship.

And remember we’ve all be there and felt that!  Looking for more suggestions to keep the Baby Blues at bay?  Here are some ideas we here at NJ Kids have used (and that have helped!) to get us through the emotional roller coaster of new motherhood:

  1. Take a walk – Go to the local park, park further from the entrance at the supermarket, stroll through the mall.  Fresh air, or just being out of the house, will help.
  2. Pop in a yoga tape and stretch away the stress.
  3. Give yourself a mini-massage (especially great for nursing moms’ sore shoulders and necks) – Put a tennis ball under your sore spots and roll up and down over the ball.
  4. Take a hot shower.
  5. Nap when your baby naps, and say the heck with dinner tonight (you can always order in!)
  6. Put in your favorite music and have a dance party.
  7. Have a good cry – let yourself cry! Don’t pretend you’re fine.
  8. Ask for help – if you can’t talk to a family member or friend, please call 1-800-944-4PPD, especially if you are feeling overwhelmed and at the end of your rope.