Recently, I was talking to a friend about our postpartum experiences. Both of us suffered with our mental health for months after having our first child before we realized that we had postpartum depression and anxiety. We both agreed we spent too much time preparing for labor and delivery and not enough preparing for postpartum. We learned from our mistake and did more preparation the second and third time around. I want to share with you how to prepare for better postpartum mental health.
It is estimated about 1 of every 7 new mothers experience postpartum depression. Click here for more information. With that many mothers suffering from postpartum mental illness, it amazes me that we do not do as much to prepare for the postpartum period as we do to prepare for labor and delivery. Today, I am going to share a list of 10 pre-baby things you can do for better postpartum mental health!
After you have your baby, you are going to need help. You might need help with dinner, someone to take one of your older kids to the park for an hour or two, or simply need someone to talk to. Before you have your baby, put together a list of people you can call when you need help. Talk to them and make sure they are ok with being on your list. Make the list easily accessible so you can quickly find help when you need it. You can share this list with your partner who can assist you in asking for help if you don’t feel mentally able to do so on your own.
Put together a list of easy recipes you can cook without much effort. You may even want to make some freezer meals you can just pop in the oven. Try to have the freezer meals made around one month before your due date. If you have never tried grocery pickup, I recommend becoming familiar with it. It is usually free over a certain dollar amount. This will make meal planning and meal prep even easier. I personally love grocery pick up because I don’t have to get my three young children in and out of the car. It saves me time and energy, two things all mothers want more of!
This was probably my biggest mistake the first time I had a baby. I rarely left my house after my son was born, and my mental health was affected greatly. Over time, I learned I felt better every time I got out of the house. The second time I had a baby, I made a huge effort to get out of the house as soon as I recovered enough to do so. And, guess what? My mental health was ten times better after my second baby! Make a list of ways to get out of the house before you have your baby so you aren’t trying to think of things to do when the time comes. Some of the things on your list could include going to the park and laying out a blanket under the trees, walking around Target, going to the library, or walking around your neighborhood.
How are you going to know you need help with postpartum depression or anxiety if you don’t even know what it is? Learning to recognize the signs and symptoms will help you catch it early and get help sooner. It is helpful to educate your partner/husband about the signs and symptoms as well. Sometimes it is hard to recognize in yourself, so having another person who is able to recognize it will help you catch it early. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America website has great information on postpartum mental illness you can use to educate yourself. Find all the information you need here.
Many seasoned mothers are laughing right now and it’s easy to understand why. How are you supposed to plan sleep with a newborn?! Yes, I know this one can be tricky, but it is crucial to helping you have better postpartum mental health. There is a high correlation between sleep deprivation and postpartum mental illness. I often go to bed before my husband, so I found it helpful to have him take the nighttime feeding before he went to bed. That allowed me to get 4-6 uninterrupted hours of sleep. I know that is not much, but when your baby is eating every 2-3 hours night and day this bit of uninterrupted sleep was vital.
Another thing you can do is quickly get your baby on a schedule. My second baby was in the NICU, and starting on day one of her life, they got her on a schedule and stuck to it. When she came home 21 days later, she was still on that schedule, and it made everything so much easier! I knew exactly when she would want to eat and when I could get her to sleep, which would also be when I could get a little extra sleep. Before you have your baby, collect ideas from your friends and family members and consult with your baby’s pediatrician. Then when your baby comes, you will already have many ideas of how you can get the sleep you need.
It was so hard for me to pick up the phone and make an appointment with a psychologist once I realized I needed help. I know I am not alone in this. The goal here is to make it as easy as possible for yourself if you decide you need help. Give a copy of the name and number to your partner/husband who can help you make the call. It is easy to feel like you don’t need outside help, but finding a therapist is an important step if you really want to prepare for better postpartum mental health.
If you’ve had postpartum mental illness in the past, it might be wise to talk to your doctor about it and explain your future concerns after the birth of your baby. He/she can help you put together a plan to help you if you do struggle with it again. This plan may include talking about possible medications. I did not talk to my doctor, but I wish I had. If I had talked to my doctor before having my baby, I would have been able to get the help and medication I needed much sooner.
Creativity is a great way to pull your brain out of depression. Some of the items you can include in your creativity kit are adult coloring books, crocheting or knitting supplies, painting materials, notebooks and pens for writing, and a sewing kit. If you feel yourself sliding into depression after you have your baby, you can go to your creativity kit and easily grab something to do that will lift your mind and spirits. I had to include a creativity kit in my preparation for better postpartum mental health because creating was what helped me the most after I had my babies.
Self-care is so easy to forget when all your time is taken up with caring for a newborn, but it is amazing how much better you feel even after 5 minutes of self-care. Put together a box of things you can easily grab and do within a few minutes. Some of these things may include a face mask, lotion, a new lipstick color, a cute scrunchie, good smelling bath soap, and nail polish.
I love the quote from Jane Clayson Johnson that says depression “thrives in secrecy but shrinks in empathy.” Make a plan to be with other people. Even though you will constantly be with another person, your newborn, the postpartum period can feel very lonely. If you have depression and you are lonely, it is easy to stay alone and keep your feelings to yourself. This will only make your depression worse. Plan a way to make sure you have time with other people. This can be anything from planning to go to a park with a friend to planning a girl’s night out a few months after your due date. Of course, give yourself time to recover from labor and delivery, but have a plan in place to be with others once you are recovered enough to do so.
It is a good idea to prepare for labor and delivery. It is equally important to prepare for the postpartum period. Postpartum mental illness is rough, but you are strong. These little preparations will give you the tools you need to successfully combat postpartum mental illness. Every one of the items on this list has been helpful for me and so many other mothers I have talked to. I am confident the 10 simple things in this list will help you have better postpartum mental health.
Maddison lives in southern Utah with her husband, Blake, and three children ranging in ages from 1 to 4. She earned a degree from BYU-Idaho in health science/public health and is passionate about helping others become happy and healthy. In her free time (which admittedly is very little with three young children!), she enjoys writing fantasy novels, watercolor painting, and sewing bows and dresses for her daughters.
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