There’s nothing like being a new mom and having a baby to completely mess up your head.
The biggest thing is knowing that feeling weird, out of place, and completely scrambled is a normal part of early motherhood.
That’s not to say that you are expected to succumb to the craziness in your head and accept it as a new way of being.
Before you jump on that crazy train, here is a checklist that can help you sort out the struggles you are facing:
The fact is that, after you have a baby, your previous notions about good sleep hygiene are null and void.
However, even when you’re taking care of an infant, you should be able to get a decent amount of sleep, whether it’s between nightly feedings or when your baby sleeps.
When you don’t get adequate sleep, the lack of rest can lead to exhaustion and mental health issues. In fact, sleep is strongly connected to mood. So, when you don’t sleep, your mood plummets.
And that can open a whole other can of worms.
If you’re having trouble sleeping, ask yourself these questions:
- Is my lack of sleep caused by physical discomfort?
- Is my lack of sleep caused by racing thoughts?
- Can I not sleep when my baby sleeps?
One rule of thumb is to sleep when the baby sleeps. Sure, this is a great time to get stuff done but it’s also a good time to, you know, sleep.
If there are physical issues preventing you from getting a good night’s rest, speak to your doctor about what you can take or do to alleviate the discomfort.
Between the physical exertion of giving birth, as well as the emotional experience of doing so, many new moms feel too tired to eat after their baby is born.
While this loss of appetite is normal, completely losing your appetite in the days following your little one’s birth can be an indication that you are dealing with extreme levels of anxiety.
It can also have a negative impact on your child’s health if you are breastfeeding since breastfeeding requires that you consume more (healthy) calories than normal.
If you notice that you are having a hard time eating, or just don’t feel hungry, ask yourself these questions:
- Do I have an appetite?
- Am I not eating because I don’t have time to eat/prepare meals?
- Am I not eating because it makes me feel nauseous?
The quick-fix here is to try and plan and prep as many meals as possible or keep easy-to-make meals on hand. Although you want to ensure you are eating as healthy as possible, both for breastfeeding and for your own health, sometimes just eating is better than not eating.
If you are experiencing nausea and cannot keep food down, it’s time to see a doctor. There could be an underlying medical issue that is dampening your appetite.
Also, consider speaking to someone about your mental health. Postpartum depression can easily squash your desire to eat.
Postpartum adjustments involve more than simply becoming comfortable in the role of mother. Along with major physical changes, you’re going to experience emotional changes as well.
During this period of time, you may experience the baby blues or postpartum depression. While there are major differences between the two, they can both be a struggle for new moms.
You may find yourself crying more than usual or even feeling a bit numb.
However, if you find these feelings are impeding your life as a new mom, ask yourself these questions:
- Have I been crying for no reason?
- Do I feel anxious or worried most of the time?
- Do I feel a lot of guilt and shame?
If your emotions are running amok, now is the time to speak up. Whether you choose to talk to a friend, family member, or doctor, you can’t hide away these struggles.
Your support circle can help alleviate the pressures of motherhood and give you some time to process your emotions – even if they simply cook you a meal or two, do some light housework, or hold your baby so you can have a shower by yourself.
If you are struggling with postpartum depression, a doctor can help you by prescribing an appropriate medication (I took an antidepressant during my postpartum – game changer!) or get you in touch with a therapist or counselor.
The Relationship with Your Baby
The big changes that come with motherhood can be overwhelming, so while you’re trying to sort out your new feelings and routine, it’s understandable that you may not feel bonded to your baby immediately.
I’m not talking about having a complete disregard for your child. On the contrary, you’re likely going to be so hyper-focused on caring for your new little one that the mother-baby bond may not happen right away.
But if you are concerned that you are not feeling a connection with your baby, ask yourself these questions:
- Do I feel like I’m not bonding with my baby?
- Am I worried that I’m not a good mother?
- Am I afraid to be alone with my baby?
So, first of all, if you are afraid you may cause harm to your baby, talk to a doctor right away. You’re not going to have CPS busting down your door if you get help right away for these thoughts. Medical professionals understand that this is a known symptom of postpartum depression.
Second, give yourself a bit of a break. You’re busy trying to keep this tiny human alive during those precious early days – feeling deeply in love with them will come.
Third, understand that you are not going to be a perfect mother.
Lastly, rally a tribe that understands the struggles of motherhood. You’ll quickly learn how universal the struggles of motherhood are.
Did you know that “mom brain” is actually a scientific phenomenon? Not only is your life turned upside down, but the neural connections in your brain are re-wiring as you become a new mother.
For a while, you may feel scatterbrained and forgetful. You may have a difficult time keeping your thoughts in order.
However, like anything you’re going to deal with after having your baby, if your mental state starts to get in the way of living your life, you’ll want to talk to a healthcare professional.
Before you do, ask yourself these questions:
- Do I feel disconnected from my life?
- Am I having difficulty concentrating or focusing on things?
- Have I had thoughts of hurting myself?
If you feel that your mind is all over the place, consider journaling as a way to organize your thoughts. Try something called Brain Dumping – where you just word-vomit your thoughts and feelings onto paper.
For new moms with thoughts of hurting themselves, it’s best to speak to a medical professional. This can be linked to postpartum depression and should be treated right away.
If you feel that you are disconnected from your life, take some time to focus on self-care. You may not think you have the time, but even spending 5 minutes a day on an activity you enjoy can make a difference in your life.
Mental Health for New Moms
Yes, motherhood is hard but we don’t have to normalize the struggles. No new mom should be expected to battle mental health issues while trying to care for an infant.
There are resources out there to help you keep your life on track as you navigate these unknown waters. Turn to your support system, as well as your healthcare provider, so ensure that you are taking the best care of yourself as you can.