I’m a mother of 3 children, and each child has brought different experiences into my life. When I found out I was pregnant with my first son, my husband and I were thrilled. The pregnancy went pretty smoothly, up until 38 weeks when I developed preeclampsia and had to have an emergency c-section. That aside, it was like living a dream. We bonded right away, I held him and had skin to skin time with him constantly. Yet, around 3 weeks, I noticed a change in myself. I was weepy. I cried over everything, had mood swings, and was just overall down in the dumps. I talked to my doctor and she told me I had the baby blues, which is normal, especially for a first time mom. I felt like crap, to be honest. I felt guilty for not enjoying motherhood like I thought I should be, but I eventually got past it, just in time for a surprise pregnancy. I wish I had known then all the ways that babywearing helps with postpartum depression.
My downward spiral began with an emergency C-section
I found out I was expecting just as my firstborn turned 7 months old. I had another emergency c-section at 35 weeks, and my newest son was born without the sucking and eating instinct. He was taken from me 12 hours after I had him brought into the world and put in the NICU.
Everything changed for me. I didn’t know how to handle it, or him, and thus began my downward spiral into depression. He was only in there for 10 days, but it was the hardest 10 days of my life. I was torn between staying at the hospital (which was 45 minutes from my home) with my newborn, or being at home with my 15 month old. Either way, I felt guilty for leaving one behind while staying with the other. I spent all but one of those nights in the hospital, by myself. I barely held my newborn baby, only stayed in the NICU long enough to feed him. I slept by myself in a hospital room, and found myself utterly alone and depressed.
Once our new baby was able to come home, things only got worse for me emotionally. With such a long separation at birth, we didn’t have a chance to form the bond that comes from the flood of hormones after birth.I felt like he didn’t want me or like me. I didn’t want to hold him. I was barely able to acknowledge except to meet his physical needs.
When he cried, I had no desire to pick him up, which only resulted in me crying too. During those 2am feedings, I held him, but I stared blankly at the wall with tears falling down my face and onto his tiny shoulders. I felt so guilty for not feeling any kind of love towards that precious little child I had carried inside me.
I finally mustered enough strength to admit of this to my husband. It took every ounce. I was afraid he’d judge me or call me a bad mom, but he didn’t. He suggested I get help, and I knew he was right. And finally, after a lot of work, I found myself smiling when that little boy looked at me, instead of feeling nothing.
When I found out I was pregnant with boy child number 3, I was terrified. I was so afraid of going through the same thing, of not being able to connect and love my newborn baby; but then a friend introduced me to babywearing. It seemed so simple! I fell in love with the idea of it, and of what it could do for me. I tried wearing him when he was only 4 days old, and it was love. I felt so connected to him. I cried in the middle of the night after having my 3rd child, not because I was exhausted, but because I was happy. Babywearing helped me in more ways than I thought was possible.
So now that my back story has been told, you know that all this advice isn’t coming from some random person who thinks they know what they’re talking about. Postpartum depression, even the baby blues, can be hard enough deal with on your own, but there are other women out there who have gone through the same thing. I’m here to try and help you, to let you know that you aren’t alone, and there’s a few things you can do and try to help feel like your normal self again.
There are countless ways babywearing can help relieve postpartum depression, but here are the 13 I want you know about – for yourself, or for a mom you love.
- Babywearing means your hands are free! This was what attracted me the most. I have two preschoolers that require a lot of attention and wrangling, along with a household that needs running. I don’t have time to sit my butt on the couch all day with a newborn who doesn’t want to be put down! Also, it means you can do things…and you don’t feel like a big pile of useless junk.
- Feeling cooped up? Take a walk! Cabin fever is real after having a new baby. If you’re at home alone while your partner is out at work, those walls can feel like a prison. Strap a baby to you and go outside, let the wind dry those tears on your cheeks.
- You can do your hair/make up without worrying if your newborn is going to wake up screaming at any second. Self-care is important, and when you don’t get that, things can get bad. After having a baby, self-care takes a back seat, and it’s at this time that you really need it! Your body is recovering from the amazingly hard work of growing and birthing a baby, and many moms struggle with self-esteem issues during this vulnerable postpartum period. But when you babywear, you can do your hair and makeup – or anything else that makes you feel good about yourself and puts a smile on your face — with that baby happily attached to you. (If hair and makeup is your thing, you should check out the Fashionable Housewife blog, btw!)
- Use a water sling and take that shower, mama! I remember going DAYS without a shower after I had my first born. I felt gross, icky, and it added to my grumpiness and overall bad mood. I wish I knew about babywearing and water slings, because you can take that shower instead of waiting around for someone to say, “Hey you smell really bad, I’ll watch that baby so you can scrub off that 3 day old spit up!”
- Babywearing can help you feel normal. Having a baby seriously throws you for a loop. You have to adjust your normal routine around your newest addition, and that can cause a lot of stress and anxiety. It’s 6pm and you’d normally be making dinner, but your baby is going through a “don’t you dare put me down or I’ll scream my head off” phase, so you sit there crying and holding him instead of doing what you want to be doing. No problem mama, grab your carrier, put that fussy kid on your hip, and you’ll be making meals that Gordon Ramsay would be proud of once again – or at least maybe a sandwich for yourself and your toddler.
- No more tired arms! Pacing and bouncing a 20 pound baby at 2am is hard work, especially in zombie/I-can’t-get-this-baby-to-stop-crying-so-now-I’m-crying mode. Wrap her up and you can bounce around the house with eyes half shut without fear of dropping her.
- It makes caring for your other kids easier. Another big thing that drew me in about babywearing was being able to keep my baby close, while still chasing my other kids around. So when your older kids need mom, strap the baby to you and take them to the park! You’ll be able to scoop sand from junior’s mouth and keep the baby happy all at the same time.
- Your partner (or a family member) can do it. Are you reaching your breaking point? Have you been crying so much that you fear your body will soon run out of water and became a raisin? Do you need to crawl under the covers of your bed and disappear from the world for a while, but your baby needs you? Well, show your partner how to wear your little one! Let them handle her for a bit so you can go clear your head. The beauty of babywearing is that anyone can do it! So on those days where she just doesn’t want to be put down and you need a break, have your partner, your mom, your dad, your sister, whoever, wear her so you can go take care of you.
- No fears of random people touching your baby. Anxiety of strangers touching your baby is a real thing. I didn’t think it was until I was walking through the store one day with my firstborn and a lady just walked up to us, stuck her hand in my stroller, and stroked my son’s face. I didn’t know how to react! Who did this lady think she was?! She complimented my adorable son and went on her way, but she didn’t realize that she just planted the seed of a new phobia; stranger danger. With babywearing, it’s a bit more difficult for strange people to walk up and touch your baby. You’ll be able to walk through a store with less anxiety.
- Breastfeeding while wearing. Although I personally haven’t successfully breastfed a child past a month, I know of a lot of moms who breastfeed and babywear. I’m sure it creates an even stronger bond between you and your baby. Plus you can do it while running errands!
- This is what I love most about babywearing; the bond you make and establish with your baby. Through the chaos of new motherhood, babywearing creates a safe haven, a quiet moment, one that you’ll remember and cherish for your entire life. There’s nothing sweeter than having your little one curled up on your chest or back, snoozing away soundly because they’re with you.
- Great sense of community. Motherhood is rough, and there are a lot of judgemental moms out there, but in the babywearing community, we all have one thing in common, wearing our babies. I’ve made so many friends, in person at my local meet ups, and online through groups and forums. It’s nice having someone to geek out with over wraps, carriers, and everything in between. Your partner won’t understand your babywearing obsession, but we do. If you’re feeling lonely, there’s always someone to talk to.
- Feeling safe. Last, but definitely not least, is the safety that babywearing produces. Those dark thoughts that creep into your mind in the middle of the night, the “what ifs” and scenarios, can be extinguished. Your baby will be safe with you, and you’ll be able to keep him safe, especially if he’s strapped to your body.
Babywearing is a wonderful thing, and it can help you in more ways than you can imagine. Sometimes all you need is to be close to your baby, and suddenly things don’t seem so awful.
If you’re feeling lost, alone, depressed, sad, weepy, please, take care of yourself and talk to someone. Postpartum Support International is an organization that can help right away and also connect you with local resources.
Summary of links:
- Peanut-Butter-Jelly in a baby sling (or: Babywearing made me a sandwich)
- The Fashionable Housewife blog: On mothering, fashion and food
- WrapDuO: water, land, and sport wrap by Wrapsody
- Showering, Swimming, and Babywearing: The Complete Guide
- Breastfeeding and Babywearing: by QuirkyBaby
- International listing of Local Babywearing Groups
- Support for and information about Postpartum Depression at Postpartum Support International
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