Worried That Post-partum Depression Will Affect Mother-Child Bonding? Here’s What You Can Do

Posted: February 8, 2016
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Even as you cope with baby blues or post-partum depression, it is still possible to develop a bond with your child. Learn how.

No matter how much you look forward to it, having a baby is stressful and will turn your world upside down. When you bring the baby home from the hospital, everyone expects you to celebrate and be joyous. But instead of being filled with new mom bliss, what if you feel like weeping? You may have a case of baby blues.

Mood swings, irritability, and anxiousness are fairly common in new mothers. “If postnatal blues are not taken care of, it might progress into post-partum depression,” says Dr Veena Choodamani, consulting gynecologist at SK Hospital, Trivandrum.

The typical symptoms of postnatal blues include sadness, irritability, sleep and appetite changes, and general moodiness. For mild cases of postnatal blues, all you need is the support of your loved ones and plenty of rest. In some women, baby blues can progress into postpartum depression.

“Though the exact cause of post-partum depression has not been identified yet, it is commonly seen in women who have a family history of depression, a troubled marital life, poor spousal and family support, and those who have had a difficult pregnancy or childbirth,” says Shivani Misri Sadhoo, a Delhi-based psychologist.

Depressed mothers tend to interact very little with their babies and are less likely to breastfeed or play with the child. Though they can be very attentive at times, they often slip into phases where they do not feel any attachment at all. This inconsistency in behaviour can disrupt the emotional bonding process which is very important during infancy.

New mothers with post-partum depression often feel guilty and blame themselves because they’re unable to establish a loving bond with the baby. This aggravates the situation and the mother spirals into a deeper depressive phase.

But even with post-partum depression, it is still possible to establish a deep and loving connection with your child. Here’s what you can do.

Do what you need to handle the depression

“Nutritious food and vitamin supplementation, such as vitamin B and folic acid, can help improve the mood. Emotional support and understanding from the family members also helps the new mother come out of this depressive phase,” says Dr Choodamani.

Ask for help

Get all the help that you can so you may feel ready and be able to bond with your newborn. Ask your friends and family members to pitch in, have nutritious food, and get adequate sleep.

“Stress is the biggest trigger of depression and anxiety. Try breathing exercises like pranayama to bring your stress levels under control,” adds Ms Sadhoo.

It’s okay to not be with the baby all the time

Don’t feel guilty that you’re not able to tend to the infant 24 hours a day. What matters is the quality of time that you’re able to spend with the baby. By putting the unrealistic expectation of being with the baby all the time, you are depleting yourself in a way that makes quality bonding impossible. All that your baby needs is complete presence and attention during the times that you are taking care of her. This will develop the attachment and the bond will grow stronger.

Do not beat yourself up over mistakes

If you make a mistake, let it go. Do not dwell on it endlessly. Mistakes are a normal part of any relationship, and that includes relationship with your baby as well. When you develop the ability to acknowledge your mistake and initiate the process of repair, it will help build a strong and deep attachment. Mistakes give you the unique opportunity to learn about humanness, forgiveness, and unconditional love.

Opt for medication if you need it

Some mothers refuse to get treatment for depression because they do not want to be on medication while breastfeeding. Remember that your infant will survive on formula, but if you let your depression go untreated it may cause more damage to the bond with your child. Take care of yourself first so you are in a position to take care of your child.

To breastfeed or not

There is an expectation on mothers all over the world that the only way to truly love a child is to breastfeed. Some mothers may want to breastfeed but cannot because of low supply of milk or because the baby cannot suck, while some others may simply not want to. For certain moms who are depressed, breastfeeding is what helps them feel connected to the child.

To breastfeed or not is a very personal decision that you have to take on your own. If you are breastfeeding, take this opportunity to enjoy the connection that you’re building with the child. If you are not breastfeeding, stop feeling guilty about it.

Post-partum depression is an important issue that needs to be brought out in the open. Many new mothers experience mood swings and depression, yet it is still not talked about openly. The good news is that help is available. It is possible to develop a strong bond with the baby even as you are coping with depression.

Image source: post-partum depression by Shutterstock.

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