Ask the Pediatrician: Is it normal to feel overwhelmed after having a baby?

Ask the Pediatrician: Is it normal to feel overwhelmed after having a baby?

Q: I’m a new mom and I’m really struggling. Is it normal to feel so overwhelmed after having a baby?

A: If you are feeling swamped and tired after giving birth, that is more common than you might think. You may be learning to cope with less sleep, eating on the run, breastfeeding, new family dynamics, and less intimacy with your partner.

You might occasionally be feeling sad or anxious for no reason since having your baby. At times you may feel like you are just going through the motions of your day.

If you are always feeling really sad, anxious or hopeless, and it’s hard to get through your day, these may be signs of postpartum depression.

You can get help by talking to your pediatrician during your baby’s visit or you can call their office. You’re not supposed to go through this alone. Building a support team is key to helping you to be the best parent you can be. Your primary health care provider and your child’s pediatrician are important members of your team. The way to be a good parent is to get any needed help right away.

In some cases, you may need medication. It is important to know that there are medications that are safe to use while breastfeeding. Talk to your doctor about which medications are right for your breastfeeding goals and mental health status. Doctors also can talk with you about non-pharmacological options, including individual or group therapy. Your pediatric provider, an international board-certified lactation consultant, or your OB/GYN can assist in getting you breastfeeding support, if needed.

Postpartum depression is more intense than “baby blues,” which lasts about two weeks. Postpartum depression lasts longer, up to a year after the baby is born. It is not OK to feel worried or anxious for no good reason and sad or miserable most days. It is important to talk to your pediatrician about how you are feeling during your baby’s visit or call their office.

The way you feel affects your whole family. Untreated depression can affect how you bond with and care for your baby. A healthy baby needs a healthy you. You are important too.

Parenting is hard and everyone needs help sometimes. Spending a little time taking care of yourself now will help you and your baby for a lifetime. Untreated depression can be stressful for the baby and may slow their brain growth and language development.

It’s common to struggle, and many people can feel depressed or anxious at times more than two weeks after giving birth. COVID-19 has made this an extra lonely and anxious time for everyone, especially pregnant people and new parents. However, it is not OK to always feel this way and cope with these strong feelings alone.

It is never OK for you to have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby. If you ever have these thoughts, you need to call the suicide lifeline 1-800-273-8255, text HOME to 741741 or call 9-1-1 as soon as possible.

Talk to your pediatrician about your troubling feelings during your baby’s next checkup or call to schedule a visit if it is not for a few weeks. Your pediatrician wants to know and can help you find resources for you and your baby to be able to feel happier, enjoy each other and grow.

Pediatricians are here to help you, your baby and your family thrive. You can also call Postpartum Support International 1-800-944-4773. You can also get help by calling or texting the National Maternal Mental Health Hotline at 1-833-9-HELP4MOMS (1-833-943-5746).