Baby blues also known as postnatal depression is a form of depression which occurs after giving birth. Around one in six mothers suffer from this condition although it not always diagnosed, let alone treated. As to what exactly causes postnatal depression, no one is entirely sure and it could well be that a number of different factors play a part. Biologically, after giving birth there is a sudden drop in hormones, such as oestrogen and progesterone, which can cause a depression-inducing chemical imbalance in the brain. Psychologically, if you have suffered from, for want of a better word, ‘normal’ depression in the past, this may make you more likely to suffer from postnatal depression as well. Socially, after the excitement of the baby’s arrival and the streams of visitors start to fade, this can leave the new mums feeling somewhat lost and alone.
While it is normal to suffer mood swings in the first few weeks after birth, if these symptoms do not clear up within a month this could be a sign of postnatal depression. It usually develops in the first month and a half after giving birth, but it is not restricted to this timeframe and there are many cases where it does not fully set in for a number of months. Partners and others close to the new mother need to keep an eye out for the symptoms of postnatal depression so it can be diagnosed and dealt with as swiftly as possible. And if you are suffering postnatal depression yourself, it is important to bear in mind that it is an illness and try not to feel guilty about how you may feel towards your new baby.
Signs of Postnatal Depression
- Feeling very low, or despondent, thinking that nothing is any good, that life is a long, grey tunnel without end or hope.
- Feeling tired and lethargic, or sometimes feeling numb, not wanting to do anything or take an interest in the outside world.
- A sense of inadequacy – of feeling unable to cope.
- Feeling guilty about not coping or about not loving your baby enough.
- Being unusually irritable, which has the unfortunate tendency of making the guilt worse.
- Being tearful and crying, or at least wanting to cry.
- Being hostile or indifferent to your husband or partner.
- Being hostile or indifferent to your baby.
- Having panic attacks, which strike at any time, causing rapid heartbeat, sweaty palms and feelings of sickness or faintness.
- An overpowering anxiety, often about things that would not normally bother you, such as being alone in the house.
- Obsessive fears about your baby’s health or wellbeing, or about yourself and other members of the family.
A Natural Way to ease your Baby Blues
If you are looking for a natural way to help cure your baby blues it’s worth giving baby massage a try. Baby massage is widely known to provide many benefits for baby, but there are also great benefits for the mother too. Studies have shown that mums who are suffering from Post Natal Depression hugely benefit from baby massage. The increased eye contact with baby, along with the calm one to one time has proven to improve mood and strengthen bonds between mum and baby.
Massaging your baby could help you to feel better. Baby massage can help mums who have mild depression, as well as those who are more deeply depressed.
Having PND can also make it harder for you to communicate with your baby. For example, your baby may gurgle and then leave space for you to respond. But if you’re feeling depressed or anxious, it’s easy to miss your baby’s cues. You may be feeling distant from your baby, or think that you’re not quite in tune with what she needs.
The good news is that baby massage can help you to bridge this communication gap, and allow you to focus on your baby.
Massage stimulates the release of your body’s natural feel-good chemical, oxytocin. When oxytocin floods your body, it helps you and your baby to form a close bond. Oxytocin is known as the love hormone and can help heal the horrid feelings postnatal depression brings.
Making eye contact with your baby, and chatting to her, may come more easily when you’re massaging her. This close physical contact can help you to be sensitive to your baby’s needs, and your baby will start to respond more to you, too. Those everyday tasks that have been a struggle should gradually become more manageable.
How to get started
You do not need to be a professionally qualified masseur, but some parents may initially feel daunted by something they are not experienced with. If this is the case, speak to your health visitor or local baby group to see if there are any classes that you can attend. Alternatively, there are lots of instructional videos online that you can refer to for techniques and tips. It’s a good idea to read up on baby massage before you start, so that you are able to understand the principles behind it, and how it may benefit you both.
10 Steps to Basic Baby Massage
- Always start with the legs, as this is the least intrusive area. Begin by holding baby’s right foot in your left hand, gently stroking up the leg with your right hand from the outside of the ankle, up over the knee and to the inner thigh, then sweeping down the inside ankle, repeat 3 -4 times.
- Now use a kneading technique to move up your baby’s leg. Hold their ankle with one hand to keep the leg in place, and use your other hand’s fingertips and thumb pad to knead from ankle to thigh. Make sure you don’t put pressure on the knee joint, and it is very delicate. Once done, glide your hand back down and start the process again. Repeat 2 – 3 times
- Gently use your thumb to lightly circle the soles of the feet, gently squeezing and releasing baby’s toes one by one.
- Glide your hands up to the tummy area. This is an ideal time to introduce little circles with your fingertips around your baby’s tummy. Helping break down trapped wind. Massage a baby’s tummy clockwise as this is the way the digestive tract runs.
- Complete the front by placing both hands in the centre of baby’s chest and sweep up and out over the centre of the chest, over the shoulders and hugging the entire length of the arms finishing off at the fingertips. Massage each finger from base to tip but do not attempt to restrain your baby if he/she curls fingers, kicks or moves arms.
- Gently turn baby over and use the whole hand to stroke from the shoulders, down baby’s back to the buttocks. To take care of baby’s delicate spinal area always work either side of the spine
- Use both thumbs to make small circles around the top of the buttocks using both hands, starting in the middle and moving towards the sides.
- Move to the back of baby’s leg glide up and down the leg gently. Switch hands as you move to ensure continuous contact and pressure.
- Using a long, light and rhythmical strokes glide from the head to baby’s toes, this finishes off the back area.
- Carefully turn baby over, wrap them in a warm towel or blanket and pick them up and give baby a lovely cuddle.
Here’s a perfect bedtime massage routine to connect with your baby.