Are you having a hard time breastfeeding? Feeling frustrated, awkward, and worried about your flow? I’ve been there, sister-friend. And let me tell you, from personal experience and with science behind me: if you struggle with breastfeeding, you’re more at risk for postpartum depression. So be extra-kind to yourself, ask for help when you need it, accept help when it’s given, and above all, know the signs of PPD so you can attack it if it strikes.
We have this idea of motherhood that’s a lot like our idea of marriage: it’s the happily-ever-after, and everything’s supposed to go well because it’s what we’ve wanted for so long. What reality can live up to such romantic scrutiny? And when we can’t live up to our ideals, sometimes we tell ourselves we’re failures.
But we’re not.
Being a mom isn’t easy. It’s probably harder than anything you’ve ever done: I mean, compare it to training for a triathlon. Do you train so hard, you have to get into a Jacuzzi or get an epidural just to endure the pain? Does your coach wake you every two hours in the night to scream at you and make you clean up poo? Does everyone smile at you and say, “You must be so happy to be doing this triathlon while exhausted, covered in poo, and in possession of a golf-ball-sized hemorrhoid?”
NO! If that happened, we’d freak out! If it happened to a friend, we’d rush over there and at least do her laundry while she took a nap! Yet this is what new moms deal with routinely. Yes, we handle it, we get on with it, and we get through it, mostly because lovely hormones and the snuggly feeling of our beautiful little peach-fuzz monkey makes it totally wonderful even in its day-to-day difficulty.
But that’s the stress we’re already dealing with. Now, add into the mix: cracked nipples, low flow, a baby that is having trouble latching, and maybe a little thrush just for giggles.
And add onto THAT the social pressure – either the feeling that all your friends are having no problem breastfeeding, as their nipples seem to spout like crazy fountains, or that nobody you know is breastfeeding, and they’re all telling you to give up and grab a bottle. In your mind, this is the most basic, instinctive thing that mammals like us do – as I muttered to myself, “a freakin’ meerkat can figure this out, why can’t I?” So when reality smacks you in the face with this awful, frustrating difficulty, you beat yourself up, because it must be your fault.
It’s not. There’s no fault here. Sometimes, breastfeeding is easy (but in those cases, I guarantee you, something else is frustrating and hard!). Sometimes, breastfeeding is hard to get the hang of, and drives you bat-guano crazy. If you can make it work, that is freakin’ amazing and wonderful, and you are a super-mom for working through it. And if you can’t make it work, it is freakin’ amazing and wonderful that you tried so hard, and you are a super-mom regardless. Now move on and try the next thing, because believe me, there’s plenty of hard things you’ll have a chance to conquer.
Here are some symptoms to watch for that might signal PPD. Of course, a lot of them are just normal baby-blues, the reaction to this huge life change and stress! But if they last more than a week, or feel like they are growing more intense, say something.
- Mood swings
- Feeling anxious or overwhelmed (for me, there was even panic)
- Crying spells
- Loss of appetite
- Trouble sleeping, even when you can
- Thoughts of hurting yourself or the baby
- Losing interest in the baby
Many women don’t seek help because they feel paranoid – like they will be seen as an unfit mother, like people will think less of them. Don’t fall into this trap. You have every reason to feel depressed, your hormones are going haywire, and it happens. Use the term “post-partum depression” with your doctor, and you will get help. You are a good mom for getting the help you need!
Uh-oh, baby’s crying. Pep talk over. Be kind to yourself!
Did you have trouble breastfeeding? Do you think it made you more prone to PPD?
Image via MJ/TR (´･ω･)/Flickr