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What All New Parents Need to Know (that People Don’t Tell)

What All New Parents Need to Know (that People Don’t Tell)

People are lying when they tell you being new parents is completely fantastic. It’s not all the time and there are some things you really need to know.

Bank Your Sleep

Bank your sleep. Every second of it. Savour it. Remember what it feels like right now to be able to sleep in peace. People mention you need to wake up for feeds and knowing you need to do this, prepares you for the early stages of it, but it’s far worse than you can ever imagine. It starts off easy, but the cumulative effects of long-term sleep deprivation begins to really take it’s toll on you, your partner, and your relationship not to mention your job if you’re working.

You will reach a point where you no longer remember what it feels like to have a good night’s sleep instead suffering from the insomnia of knowing you will probably have to wake up shortly for another feed.

Advice: Take it in turns to do the night feeds. This shouldn’t be one person’s responsibility regardless if you are working or staying at home. Broken sleep is seriously damaging for health and makes it harder for the person doing it all the time to be productive the following day.

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Less Visitors is Good

The amount of times I’ve been to the hospital you would think my child should be on the “at risk” register for children. Children get ill really easily in the early stages and when they are born you have an influx of family and friends all wanting to hold them, kiss them and take pictures with them like it’s a social media contest to show them off. No.

My daughter ended up catching viral meningitis because of this and we were lucky it wasn’t the bacterial form which is deadly. How this happened we have no idea considering how we’re both clean freaks but we can only assume it was because of the many visitors. The learning point here is that visitors carry with them all manner of illnesses which although not serious for them, it can be deadly for children. When a baby does get ill, they don’t eat, they don’t sleep and all they do is cry constantly until the point of exhaustion for both them and you.

Advice: Refer to the assertiveness steps I outlined here to help you to speak openly to people about this issue and they will understand. Asking them if they have been ill recently or anyone they have been in contact with will make this discussion about visiting easier.

If friends tell you their kids never had any problems, they’re lying.

You’re going to start comparing your child’s development with other people, It’s going to happen. No matter how hard we tried not to do it we couldn’t help compare them against their peers developmentally. You may find your child’s development lags behind or other parents telling you how fantastically brilliant their kids are. Definitely take this with a pinch of salt.

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Every child develops differently and parents have a habit of wanting to boast about their own kids like some trophy. Parents are biased and will paint their own kids in such a positive light you may feel like bad parents.

Advice: Don’t get hung up on how fast or slow they are developing and most importantly, don’t compare against other children. This is unhelpful and everyone develops differently. The fact that you are worrying about this means you are probably good parents because you evidently care.

Sleep training is tough. Nail it early.

Trying to sleep train a child isn’t easy especially if you leave it too late. Children become conditioned to be fed regularly when young and this can make sleep training harder especially when breastfed as they are use to the warmth and comfort of having someone next to them to snuggle with.

Sleep training and feeding are all intricately linked. Try to alternate between breast milk and bottle milk so they become use to both and give the bottle just before bed and during night feeds. They will come to associate the bottle with falling asleep eventually and this will make putting them down easier.

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Advice: Learn the principles of how classical and operant conditioning work as children’s behaviours revolve around this up until they start to develop some self-awareness. You can learn more about how conditioning works on this psychology revision website here. This is really useful especially for sleep training.

Don’t make dinner time a battle.

Mealtimes can become a battle if you’re not careful. Trying to force a child to eat when they don’t want to eat creates it into a big issue and then the child starts to resist the food altogether. Force feeding children when they don’t want something can even develop phobias towards certain foods. As long as they are generally well, they should let you know when they are hungry and developing a strong routine (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) should make this easier. Don’t panic if they skip a meal as they normally make up for it later.

Advice: As long as they are not ill, you shouldn’t worry if they skip a meal every now and then. If they refuse to eat, just hold out until the next meal and you can try compensate a little for it then. Sometimes their mealtimes can be off by an hour or so, which means you just shift things later a little to adapt.

You know your child. Trust your gut.

You will get to know your child quite well and what their normal behavior is. Sometimes they are going to get ill and it may just be a harmless cold or teething. The worst thing you can do is go against your gut if you think there is something more that could be wrong. Sometimes even the doctors get it wrong so if you think there’s something else that is wrong, push to find out and keep going back to the doctor.

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Advice: Learn to spot the signs of serious illnesses like bacterial meningitis, whooping cough, or even less serious but discomforting ones like ear infections. Doctors make mistakes quite often too, they are human afterall.

Featured photo credit: Visit St. Pete/Clearwater via flickr.com

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Saj Devshi

Psychology Teacher

sleep patterns 4 Effective Ways to Fall Asleep Quickly new parents What All New Parents Need to Know (that People Don’t Tell) memory techniques 5 Memory Hacks To Remember Everything how to be more assertive 4 Proven Steps to Being More Assertive

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Published on November 30, 2018

Signs of Postnatal Depression And What to Do When It Strikes

Signs of Postnatal Depression And What to Do When It Strikes

Postpartum depression (PPD) strikes about 15% of women around childbirth.[1] Moreover, this mood disorder is estimated to affect 1% to 26% of new fathers.[2] The causes of which are thought to be linked to hormonal changes, genetics, previous mental illness and the obvious change in circumstance.

The stigma of mental health – with or without support from family members and health professionals – often deters women from seeking help for their PPD. In this article, I will show you 10 ways to begin overcoming PPD.

Symptoms of Postnatal Depression

Postnatal depression is defined as depressive disorder, beginning anytime within pregnancy up to the first year of the child’s life. The symptoms of post natal depression are the same as those of depression. In order to receive a diagnosis from the doctor, 5 symptoms must be shown over a two week period. The symptoms and criteria are:

  • Feelings of sadness, emptiness, or hopelessness, nearly every day, for most of the day or the observation of a depressed mood made by others
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities
  • Weight loss or decreased appetite
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Feelings of restlessness
  • Loss of energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Loss of concentration or increased indecisiveness
  • Recurrent thoughts of death, with or without plans of suicide
  • Lack of interest or pleasure in usual activities
  • Low libido
  • Fatigue, decreased energy and motivation
  • Poor self-care
  • Social withdrawal
  • Insomnia or excessive sleep
  • Diminished ability to make decisions and think clearly
  • Lack of concentration and poor memory
  • Fear that you can not care for the baby or fear of the baby
  • Worry about harming self, baby, or partner

Should you, a friend or your partner be showing any of these signs, I recommend you to seek medical advice.

Causes of Post Natal Depression

It is worth noting here that there is a difference between what is commonly known as ‘The Baby Blues’ and post natal depression.

Postpartum blues, commonly known as “baby blues,” is a transient postpartum mood disorder characterized by milder depressive symptoms than postpartum depression. This type of depression can occur in up to 80% of all mothers following delivery. The Baby Blues should clear within 14 days, if not it is likely an indicator of something more in depth.

It is not known exactly what causes post natal depression, however there are some correlating factors. These factors have a close correlation and haven’t been shown to cause PPD:

  • Prenatal depression or anxiety
  • A personal or family history of depression
  • Moderate to severe premenstrual symptoms
  • Stressful life events experienced during pregnancy
  • Maternity blues
  • Birth-related psychological trauma
  • Birth-related physical trauma
  • Previous stillbirth or miscarriage
  • Formula-feeding rather than breast-feeding
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Low self-esteem
  • Childcare or life stress
  • Low social support
  • Poor marital relationship or single marital status
  • Low socioeconomic status
  • Infant temperament problems/colic
  • Unplanned/unwanted pregnancy
  • Elevated prolactin levels
  • Oxytocin depletion

One of the strongest predictors of paternal PPD is having a partner who has PPD, with fathers developing PPD 50% of the time when their female partner has PPD. [3]

Ways to Overcome Post Natal Depression

1. Seek Medical Help

As knowledge of PPD grows, more and more physicians are becoming aware of the indicators and risk factors. This means that health care providers are looking for signs as early as their first prenatal care visit.

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If you are at risk, letting your provider know early in your pregnancy means that you’ll be given extra support and care throughout the process. It is best to seek treatment as soon as possible.

If it’s detected late or not at all, the condition may worsen. Experts have also found that children can be affected by a parent’s untreated PPD. Such children may be more prone to sleep disturbances, impaired cognitive development, insecurity, and frequent temper tantrums.

2. Therapy

This is the first line of defence against post natal depression and will commonly be prescribed alongside medication. Around 90% of post natal depression cases in women are treated with a combination of the two treatments.

You don’t need to do anything special to prepare. Your counselor will ask questions about your life, and it’s important you answer honestly. You won’t be judged for what you tell, and whatever you talk about will be just between the two of you. Your counselor will teach you how to look at some things differently, and how to change certain habits to help yourself feel better.

Therapy is personalized for everyone, but women in counselling for postpartum depression often discuss topics including; who you’re feeling, your behaviour, your actions and your life. (If you need immediate support please call the San Diego Access and Crisis Line at (888) 724-7240. The toll-free call is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.)

3. Medication

There have been a few studies of medications for treating PPD, however, the sample sizes were small, thus evidence is generally weak.

Some evidence suggests that mothers with PPD will respond similarly to people with major depressive disorder. There is evidence which suggests that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are effective treatment for PPD.

However, a recent study has found that adding sertraline, an SSRI, to psychotherapy does not appear to confer any additional benefit. Therefore, it is not completely clear which antidepressants are most effective for treatment of PPD.

There are currently no antidepressants that are FDA approved for use during lactation. Most antidepressants are excreted in breast milk. However, there are limited studies showing the effects and safety of these antidepressants on breastfed babies.

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4. Communication with Partner

Don’t blame yourself, your partner, close friends or relatives. Life is tough at this time, and tiredness and irritability can lead to quarrels.

‘Having a go’ at your partner can weaken your relationship when it needs to be at its strongest. It can be a huge relief to talk to someone understanding.

By spending time with your partner doing activities that you both enjoy, like going for a walk, can really help. This change of state, from moving location, can significantly elevate mood whilst providing ‘neutral ground’ in which to open up communication.

Be honest with your partner and show ways in which they can support you best through this time, even if it’s just talking or letting you have time to go take a shower.

5. Self Care and Rest

Don’t try to be ‘superwoman’. Try to do less and make sure that you don’t get over-tired. It’s common that women are the experts at ‘being busy’ and ‘doing it all’.

Rest whilst the baby is sleeping, and really take time to prioritise yourself. Throughout life, if you’re constantly giving out energy, you will be left feeling unbalanced. It’s important to become aware of one’s energy and making sure to give yourself energy first, before giving out is imperative.

Your body has just been through the trauma of the birth, which is very stressful. It therefore needs time to recover so taking time to yourself is important. Things as simple as a cup of tea, or shower or listening to music will really help.

6. Supplementation (especially DHA)

St John’s Wort is a herbal remedy available from chemists. There is evidence that it is effective in mild to moderate depression. It seems to work in much the same way as some antidepressants, but some people find that it has fewer side-effects.

One problem is that St John’s Wort can interfere with the way other medications work. If you are taking other medication, you should discuss it with your doctor. This is very important if you are taking the oral contraceptive pill. St John’s Wort might stop your pill working. This can lead to an unplanned pregnancy.

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It is also worth noting that fish oil (containing DHA) is being shown to correlate with lower instances of PPD. DHA consumption during pregnancy — at levels that are reasonably attained from foods — has the potential to decrease symptoms of postpartum depression,” conclude study researchers led by Michelle Price Judge, PhD, RD, a faculty member at the University of Connecticut School of Nursing.

7. Movement

Before starting any exercise program, you should consult with your doctor and find a fully qualified pre and post natal specialist. That being said, there is plenty of movement that can be done prior to ‘hitting the gym’, such as walking.

Not only does being outside positively benefit you by getting some fresh air and vitamin D. The same is said for your baby, who will likely sleep better once they’ve been outside. Exercise gets your endorphins going, which helps alleviate depression symptoms, It can also get you focused on something for yourself. In an analysis of data from 1996 to 2016, researchers discovered that moms who stayed physically active after birth experienced fewer depressive symptoms.[4] In contrast, one study found women who led a more sedentary lifestyle were, in general, more likely to experience postpartum depression in the first place. [5]

The type of workout doesn’t matter much. Yoga for pregnant women, stretching, and cardio are essentially equal in terms of making you feel better.

8. Socializing and Support Groups

Do go to local groups for new mothers or postnatal support groups. Your health visitor can tell you about groups in your area. You may not feel like going to these groups if your are depressed.

See if someone can go with you. You may find the support of other new mothers helpful. You may find some women who feel the same way as you do.

9. Accept Help

Some cultures believe that the symptoms of postpartum depression or similar illnesses can be avoided through protective rituals in the period after birth. Chinese women participate in a ritual that is known as “doing the month” (confinement) in which they spend the first 30 days after giving birth resting in bed, while the mother or mother-in-law takes care of domestic duties and childcare.

Whilst this may seem extreme, it’s worth noting that being able to accept help from your friends, partner and family can be extremely beneficial.

10. Avoid Smoking, Drink and Drugs

Which may seem common sense, however you may be tempted by the short term ‘fix’.

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Don’t use alcohol or drugs. They may make you feel better for a short time, but it doesn’t last. Alcohol and drugs can make depression worse. They are also bad for your physical health.

Final Thoughts

Most women will get better without any treatment within 3 to 6 months. One in four mothers with PND are still depressed when their child is one-year-old. However, this can mean a lot of suffering.

PND can spoil the experience of new motherhood. It can strain your relationship with your baby and partner. You may not look after your baby, or yourself, as well as you would when you are well.

PND can affect your child’s development and behaviour even after the depression has ended. So the shorter it lasts, the better.

Sometimes there is an obvious reason for PND, but not always. You may feel distressed, or guilty for feeling like this, as you expected to be happy about having a baby. However, PND can happen to anyone and it is not your fault.

It’s never too late to seek help. Even if you have been depressed for a while, you can get better. The help you need depends on how severe your illness is. Mild PND can be helped by increased support from family and friends.

Featured photo credit: Derek Thomson via unsplash.com

Reference

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