All moms, especially new moms, worry. I mean, there are so many things to worry about. Am I feeding the baby enough? Are they warm enough? What if I accidentally drop them? New parenthood can be downright terrifying. For some moms though, as many as 10%, their worries and their anxiety are significant. They worry all the time and can't seem to stop the anxiety. It affects their sleep, their mood, their relationships. It affects their ability to be a parent. It can manifest in anger and irritability- which only feeds the guilt and shame spiral. (When you let yourself get so overwhelmed that you yell at your partner, your other children, or even your baby.... yeah that doesn't feel so good).
Good news is that postpartum anxiety is very treatable. Therapy, ideally with a specialist in postpartum mood and anxiety disorders, can get you feeling better soon. There are also some great medication options, most of which are breastfeeding safe. (Check Infantrisk.com for the latest research). Outside of therapy and medication- here are a few great tips to help new moms manage their anxiety better.
1. Sing to your baby. Yes, that's right, sing. It's ok if your voice is awful like mine. I can assure you that your baby loves your voice anyways. Singing has a physiological impact on our bodies. It can stimulate the vagus nerve, which is connected to the muscles in your throat and back of your neck. This causes the body to relax. It can also help release endorphins, those happy chemicals in the brain--especially if you add a few silly lines that get you laughing or some rad dance moves.
2. Limit Sugar. As new moms, you often don't get a chance to eat a nice, leisurely meal. It's easy to reach for junk food or sugary snacks. Unfortunately, those sugar highs and crashes can really make our anxiety worse. Instead, stock up on quick foods that you can grab that will keep you full and keep your blood sugar stable like roasted chickpeas, raw veggies with dip or energy balls.
3. Take a Tech Detox. The internet is a horrible place for a new anxious mom. Whether it is a judgy Facebook mom group or Dr. Google, it can only make our worries worse. If you need real advice, go to the people you trust in real life- maybe your mom, your doctor or a close friend. Spending more time in the real world and less time on social media can only help us feel better.
4. Blow some bubbles. One fact is true across all cultures- babies love bubbles. They are also cheap and widely available. Blowing bubbles for your baby can be a good distraction- one that helps to slow down your breathing, give you something else to focus your mind on, get you outside, and help your smile when you see how much your baby is in awe of the bubbles.
5. Self Soothe with the 5 Senses. Kids love sensory items like play doh or soft fuzzy blankets. But sensory items can also be really soothing for adults. Maybe a really great smelling candle or essential oil. Maybe a really nice soft blanket and comfortable slippers. Some calming music. Your favorite pictures or videos of your family. Really good dark chocolate. Gather some soothing items to keep close by when you need some soothing.
If you have anxiety and need someone to talk with or need to find a therapist- call 1-800-944-4773 to talk with the peer support volunteers at Postpartum Support International.