Hush, Baby, Don’t You Cry

With my temporary reprieve from Facebook (which only lasted, er, 5 days in which I deactivated my account for the first time ever) and my angst over the election simmering down just a tad, as I watch folks dropping from the T administration…..first Flynn resigns and now it looks like KellyAnn is sidelined (I hope permanently), I think I have it in me now to come up with a fresh blog post!  It’s also great to hear about Simon & Schuster dropping Milo’s book deal.  For a while, the toxicity of this administration was making me hit an all-time low and I feared I was on the verge of depression for the first time since my postpartum depression (PPD) battle in 2005.

A couple of days ago, I saw a video pop up on my timeline of babies being calmed by this device called the Babocush that seems to have an incredibly sedating effect on babies who are colicky.  You see one baby after another crying hysterically, who after being gently strapped tummy down on this soft, diagonal and vibrating (to mimic being in mama’s moving belly) contraption, they stop crying.  I discuss the very interesting fourth trimester and why some babies, especially the ones who aren’t full-term babies and hence fully developed and with a higher birth weight, need that extra few more weeks developing here and here.

Here’s the video:


This amazing, calming effect instantly reminded me of Dr. Harvey Karp’s 5S’s I blogged about here.

And while we’re on the topic of calming crying babies, I’ve had the tab open to the article “Singing to Babies Calms Them Longer Than Talking” for a few months hoping that I would one day find the time and energy to blog about it.  This article is about–and I’m sure it’s not new news to many folks–the calming effect that singing has on babies.  I didn’t really like to sing or even hum Rockabye Baby or the Lullaby Song….what I did sing to my daughter nearly every day to get her to go to sleep was Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.  It was during those days of singing that song that I realized that the alphabet song had the same tune!  Singing my daughter to bed became a helpful bedtime ritual and for years, she automatically hummed whenever she was tired and ready for bed. Even today, we know she’s tired when she starts humming to herself.

I have to hand it to Dr. Karp and the Babocush inventer, Kerry Nevins, for coming up with these solutions to try to help struggling parents calm their colicky babies. People swear by their experiences with the Babocush, just as people swear by Dr. Karp’s 5 S’s (when you click on the link above to my previous post about that, you’ll see the video of many parents succeeding in calming their hysterical babies by way of the 5 S’s technique).  If only these solutions existed back in 2004 when I had my daughter! 😦

I’ve had mothers tell me that the machines shouldn’t replace holding and comforting babies.  But let me tell you something.  Until you’ve had to try to cope with a colicky baby for hours a day, every day for days/weeks, you won’t know how easier said than done that is. Human touch/holding doesn’t cut it in those cases. Nothing really does except for some of these sometimes life-saving (for mothers especially those who are very sick with a postpartum mood disorder) devices/techniques.  I know because colic happened to my baby when she was but a few weeks old. I tried every trick I could think of and that I read about, but to no avail. It was right after her colic went away just as suddenly as it started that my PPD journey began, and my life would never be the same again.  I did post previously about colic as a risk factor, among many other factors, that put me on that scary PPD path.  I also talk about it in more detail in Chapter 6 of my book.

Baby Fussy or Colicky? Try the Amazing 5 S’s!

One of the most exciting–and at the same time quite belated–discoveries of recent days–is the amazing effectiveness of Dr. Harvey Karp’s 5 S’s.  Had I known then what I know from his appearance at the recent Postpartum Support International (PSI) conference in Seattle last weekend, my daughter’s colic–to which I’ve referred as the straw that broke the camel’s back–may not have sent me spiraling quickly into a sudden, and quite unexpected, trip down PPD lane. 

 

Dr. Karp started his session with the PSI attendees with an introduction on how he began studying colic and newborn crying in the early 1980s.  He mentions that all infants are born with an “off” switch for crying, but as the brain develops, it becomes less of a reflex and more of a behavioral thing.

Here are the 5 S’s:

1 – swaddling (with 42″ blanket) – to simulate the in utero experience for the baby. Click here for my previous post on swaddling (which happens to be extremely popular).

2 – side/stomach – again, to simulate the in utero experience (baby’s do not lie flat in the womb, but that’s what we expect them to do in their cribs).

3 – shushing (or white noise CD) – again, to simulate the in utero experience (Dr. Karp explains that shushing and the white noise CD generates sounds of a certain frequency, which reminds the baby of the sounds he/she used to hear while in the womb.

4- swinging/swaying (or rocking or gently bouncing) – similar to the YouTube video below

5 – sucking – one of the only instincts the baby is born with, other than swallowing (to survive, one must eat) and breathing. You can have the baby suck on mom’s breast, a bottle, a finger or a pacifier.

In the videos I saw of the 5 S’s in action, the baby instantly stops crying by step 3 (shushing).  Some babies stop with the first S (maybe not necessarily if they are colicky), some stop by the 3rd S, some stop by the 4th S, and some need all 5 S’s.   Every baby is different.  I REALLY wish I had known about these steps.  I would’ve tried them.

See the amazing process in action being performed by parents on YouTube. See it to believe it!  It’s fascinating how the baby would be deliriously screaming like there’s no tomorrow to instantly (I kid you not) ceasing as soon as the 3rd step is carried out.  As soon as that baby hears the shushing, their eyes grow big and round and crying instantly stops.  Everytime I see that, I get the chills.

Before I saw the videos, I would’ve absolutely been skeptical. I have a copy of his Happiest Baby on the Block book.  But did I read it?  Yes.  Well, actually, I speed-skimmed my way through relevant points I was looking for.  But you can only get so much out of reading.  You really need to see it being done by someone else and doing it yourself…which is why Dr. Karp created a DVD.   He’s also developed a Happiest Baby educator program, in which his is used to teach others how to perform the 5 S’s, whether it be parents or infant educators to become certified to teach a Happiest Baby class.

I just can’t believe I didn’t know the 5 miraculous steps that can instantly elicit a newborn’s calming reflex. I believe that if all parents were to be trained this technique as part of every hospital’s childcare training,  we should see a decrease in the number of moms suffering from postpartum depression.  Heck, we may even see a decrease in divorces from stress suffered by parents…and on an even more somber note, a decrease in the number of babies shaken to death.

If you are a new parent and need help with soothing a baby that may or may not have colic, give the 5 S’s a try. Click here for a very informative article on Parentmap.com that I just stumbled across.  And click here to read my previous post on colic.  Click here for visit Dr. Karp’s website for more information.

Happiest Baby Tips That Can Help Curb Anxiety Levels in Parents

Wow, has it been nearly 20 days since my last post?!  Eeks.  Time is going by way TOO fast!   A belated Happy Summer greeting to you!  And boy, am I thrilled it’s summer! 

Well, here I am with a topic I’ve been wanting to post for the past couple of months.  What ultimately reminded me that I haven’t yet posted it was when I went to register for the Postpartum Support International conference today and saw that Dr. Harvey Karp, yes, THE Dr. Harvey Karp of “The Happiest Baby on the Block,” is going to speak at the conference on September 15th!   If you’re in the area then, be sure to sign up soon!
 
Two months ago today, I was contacted by Emily Weece of The Happiest Baby, Inc.  to share this information on my blog.  It’s important to remember that knowing how to cope with the curve balls nature throws our way– like colic and struggling with having to calm fussy babies– is key in lowering the risk of postpartum depression (PPD) in the new mom that is at risk for it.  See my past post for more on colic.

It Pays to Be Aware About Infantile Colic

Our experience with colic was such a frightening experience for both me and my husband that I decided to write this post on colic. I’m sharing this information with you so you won’t be caught off guard like we were. Again, knowledge is power. Ignorance is what causes fear and anxiety, which in turn can contribute toward PPD. Fortunately the colic that paid us a surprise visit lasted only a week, but, during that time, my intense exhaustion paved the way for PPD to start a week later.

One of the most difficult and stressful experiences parents may experience at some point during the first three months of their baby’s life, colic is very intense crying in an otherwise healthy infant that—per Wessel’s rule of 3s—cries for more than three hours a day for more than three days a week for more than three weeks.1  What the parents with a colicky baby must realize is that they did not cause the colic to occur. There are many babies out there—more than you know—that are colicky. In fact, it is one of the most frequent problems presented to pediatricians in the first three months of an infant’s life. Based on Wessel’s rule of 3s, some 16 to 26 percent of infants are categorized as colicky.2

Usual signs of a baby with colic, while crying:

  • face is red and grimacing
  • fists are clenched
  • legs are pulled up over the abdomen
  • back is arched

Let’s give you some background on why nearly every parent will tell you that the first three months postpartum are the toughest and most challenging for new parents, not just because babies don’t really sleep through the night but also because they tend to cry more on average.  To start with, infants aren’t born with very sizeable brains or it would make the baby passing through the birth canal and then the even tinier cervix a much more difficult process than it already is.  As such, what the newborn is capable of doing for the first one to two weeks is limited to sucking, drinking, peeing, pooping, and sleeping—the minimum with respect to instinctive behavior a baby needs to do for survival with a brain that is not fully developed.  In short, the baby runs out of room inside the womb and has to come out to continue developing. The first three months are like a fourth trimester as the baby continues to develop—with brain size increasing,  nervous system developing, and muscle control increasing—all while trying to adapt to the world outside of the womb.  Unlike the environment in the womb filled with swishing noises, motion, and being curled up and in tight quarters, the baby is expected to sleep flat on their backs, with arms and legs unrestricted, in a quiet, still room.  This is a period of adjustment with which many babies have a lot of difficulty.  Crying is their way to let mom and dad know that they’re hungry, uncomfortable, hurting, or otherwise needing to be comforted.   

Even after fifty years of research, no one is really sure what causes colic. There have been many theories as to the cause(s) behind colic. Pediatricians, when faced with having to examine the baby of panicked parents over the literally non-stop crying, have come up with all sorts of possible reasons, including gastrointestinal issues (e.g., lactose intolerance, allergy to milk, gas pain, acid reflux) and the baby’s continued development, both physically (immature nervous/digestive systems) and psychosocially (temperament, emotions, behavior). It’s no wonder that the majority of colic remedies address the possible digestive issues behind baby’s colic—colic remedies that would include probiotic/gas drops, herbal teas, bicycling legs, rubbing baby’s tummy gently, applying warm compresses to baby’s tummy, hypoallergenic formulas like soy milk, and having the breastfeeding mom avoid certain foods due to baby’s possible allergies.  Then, to address the “fourth trimester” theory, they suggest womb experience simulation techniques like slings, rocking, white noise generating, bouncing, and swaddling.

There may be a correlation between colic and size at birth relative to gestational age, which may be due to a small placenta, which may be due to the mother failing to take in adequate nutrition during her pregnancy—as in my case wherein I was constantly nauseous from the very beginning to the very end of my pregnancy, and my daughter was born two weeks early and weighing in at five pounds eleven ounces.

According to research by Dr. Ronald Barr, who has performed numerous studies on the causes and cures for colic, less than five percent of babies show evidence of a physical/medical problem that would explain the crying.3 Nevertheless, a pediatrician should be consulted to rule out any potential illnesses or medical causes. Parents should expect the pediatrician to ask about the baby’s behavior, including when crying episodes begin and how long they last. Parents will need to be able to indicate how often and how much the baby spits up in order to rule out acid reflux.

In line with the theories on colic, our pediatrician mentioned the possibility that our daughter’s colic could be due to the following:

  • Her still immature and developing nervous system
  • Her temperament
  • Digestive issues
  • Difficulty in adjusting to her environment
  • Overstimulation in terms of sights and sounds

Since no one really knows what causes colic, there is no real cure at this time. The following suggestions may or may not improve matters:

  • Colic hold – place baby face down along your forearm with inside elbow supporting her head and hand supporting baby’s pelvis (doing this puts gentle pressure on baby’s tummy) while gently rubbing baby’s back with other hand.
  • Bicycling legs – Gently press his legs up to his chest, one at a time, in a peddling-type movement.
  • Rubbing tummy gently.
  • Applying warm compress on tummy.
  • Simulating the womb experience (baby spent so much time in the mother’s womb but, once born, we expect that they can adjust to being left in a quiet room to sleep, lying flat):
    • Create motion via carrying in a sling, rocking (in arms while shushing, infant swing, or car seat), setting baby in car seat on drying machine, bouncing (in car seat on drying machine, driving around), swaying, or dancing.
    • To simulate womb sounds that the baby might be accustomed to hearing all the time, generate white noise via shushing or a white noise machine.
    • Swaddle.
  • Pediatric chiropractic care (make sure the chiropractor treats infants).
  • Infant probiotic drops or gas drops. (We used Mylicon.)
  • Herbal teas, like chamomile.
  • If breast-feeding, try formula (consulting with pediatrician about whether or when you should try a hypoallergenic or soy formula) or try eliminating caffeine, dairy, eggs, nuts, certain vegetables, and even wheat products from your diet.

Our pediatrician suggested that decreasing exposure to noise and interaction is what our daughter needed after what is considered a long day for an infant. Then, even after the colic went away, our daughter was quite cranky over the course of several weeks due to what the pediatrician attributed to gas. Being the antimedication advocate that she was, she recommended making light chamomile tea a couple of times daily, though we gave that up after a couple of weeks and ended up using Mylicon as it seemed to help. The doctor also recommended bicycling our daughter’s legs, and we did that for the duration of her abdominal issues, never knowing for sure whether that helped or not. We also had to keep her head elevated while she slept at night in case she had reflux, so we invested in sleep positioners, which also helped keep her sleeping safely on her back to reduce the risk of SIDS. 

It goes without saying that a baby that cries inconsolably—crying so hard that his body distorts—can cause parents to feel alarmed and fear that there is something seriously wrong with the baby. It’s easy to understand how a mother of colicky infants would experience feelings of guilt, anxiety, frustration, desperation, and helplessness for not being able to find a way to console her baby. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Several days of sleep deprivation and/or a baby crying inconsolably for hours can make practically anyone deprived of sleep for several days straight—even fathers and mothers who don’t have PPD—feel like they’re going crazy and join their babies in crying themselves.

Studies have shown a definitive link between colic and depression. Whether colic contributes to PPD or PPD contributes to infantile colic is yet to be definitively determined. As a parent, you think you’re supposed to not only be able to know what your baby wants and needs but also how to fix the problem. After a few days of crying with seemingly no end in sight, at her wit’s end with anxiety and exhaustion, the new mom may slip into depression. They say that babies can sense their parents’ anxiety, so they only cry harder, louder, and longer, which is all the more painful for the parents to bear. It is a vicious cycle. 

In addition to a link with depression, colic can put a huge dent in the confidence of both parents in terms of their ability to care for their baby. Due to the process of elimination to determine an underlying cause of colic, mothers end up weaning earlier and possibly even changing formulas multiple times. With colic, there is unfortunately also an increased risk for shaken baby syndrome.

If you feel like you’re having trouble coping, the best thing you can do for yourself and your family is to ask for some help. Make sure you have enough support lined up to take over when necessary. Have someone else watch your baby for a little while so you can get a break. If finances allow, consider hiring a postpartum doula. Postpartum doulas are usually experienced with colicky babies. If no one is around at the time, put the baby down in the crib and go to another room to take five minutes to calm down and take a few deep breaths. You are allowed (and it’s important) to take a break. It’s the best thing you can do for yourself and to retain your mental well-being!

– – – — – – – – – – –

1 Morris A. Wessel et al., “Paroxysmal fussing in infancy, sometimes called colic.” Pediatrics 14 (1954): 421–434.

2 Grace Monfort, “How Much Crying Is Normal?” Parents.com.

3 Ronald G. Barr, “Crying behaviour and its importance for psychosocial development in children.” In: Tremblay RE, Barr RG, Peters RDeV, eds. Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development [online]. Montreal, Quebec: Centre of Excellence for Early Childhood Development; 2006:4.

Insomnia – My Very First PPD Symptom

The very first sign that I was about to begin my postpartum depression (PPD) journey was a sudden development of insomnia one day six weeks after I had my baby.   One day I was fine, the next I wasn’t sleeping.  It was like my mind decided to stay on, despite the fact that I was exhausted beyond words.  Especially since I never even really had a chance to “recharge my batteries”–if you will–from my 7-day stay in the hospital after suffering from complications during delivery.  Some people may think that I developed PPD as a consequence of the trauma of having a partial hysterectomy only 3 days after having my first child and realizing I would never be able to have any other children.   Well, sure, the fact that she was going to be our only child and we had gone through a difficult IVF process (more on that in a later post) certainly didn’t help matters.  It was not, however, the only factor that caused PPD to rear its ugly head.   While I was in the hospital, the hospital staff always had to come in during the middle of the night to take my temperature and sometimes blood.  I’d be sleeping and they’d come and wake me up.  Didn’t they understand how important sleep is to a new mother?  I was never able to get a block of 4-5 hours of sleep during that dreadful week in the hospital.

After the past four years of introspection and journaling my thoughts and feelings into a book, I wholeheartedly believe it was the constantly interrupted sleep and prolonged hypervigilance that kicked off my PPD journey.  The first 1-2 months postpartum is a period in which the new mother is particularly vulnerable to stressors particularly if she doesn’t get the rest she needs to recover from childbirth.  She needs at least 4-5 hours of uninterrupted sleep a day during this time to allow her body to reach the deep sleep it needs to help her body recover.  I’m not saying this to be funny, as I realize all new parents are sleep-challenged during the first 3 months.  It’s what the subject matter experts are recommending, which is why practical (and emotional) support is important for new mothers during that time (see previous post).

For the first month, my husband and I wanted the baby to sleep in our room.  She could only sleep in her car seat, which we kept in a pack n play next to our bed, which made sense because the car seat kept her in an “in-utero” like position.  She also had to be tightly– and I mean tightly– swaddled–also to simulate the in utero experience to which she was accustomed for much of her existence up to this point.   She couldn’t sleep lying flat.  Of course, we learned all this through trial and error.   She also kept making strange animal-like sounds all night long. It’s a shame we didn’t record any of those sounds, which were like little grunts and chirps and what-not.  Anyway, every little sound she made startled me awake, while my husband slept through it all out of sheer exhaustion. After all, we had gone through hell in the hospital and he was just about as sleep deprived as I was.   A natural concern for my baby’s health and fearing SIDS probably contributed to my hypervigilant state (though I understand this is a relatively common phenomenon among new mothers).  We eventually had no choice but to move her into her room so I could sleep better.

When the baby was 36 days old, she developed what seemed to be colic.  She’d cry non-stop for hours at a time, sometimes after 5:00PM, sometimes starting from 8:00PM.  One day that week she didn’t stop crying until 4:00AM.  It was the scariest experience, not knowing what was wrong with her…what was causing her to cry non-stop like that.  We wanted to comfort her, but nothing we did would stop the crying.  We had heard some horror stories of babies crying non-stop for 15 hours at a stretch for months.  We thought we were doomed to the same experience.

Exactly one week later,  just as suddenly as her colic started, it stopped.  Of course, we weren’t sure when/if the colic would return.  So I guess you could say we were both quite wary from the time the sun went down and all through the night.  Just as with everything in life, there’s always a negative where there is a positive.  The colic stopped, so we both thought things could go back to normal.  I would get up for the late night feedings so that my husband could go to work.  Turns out, things wouldn’t work out the way we planned.

Two days later–or the 45th day (or about 6-1/2 weeks) postpartum– my insomnia started from out of the blue.  I couldn’t fall asleep until after 3:00 AM.  In fact, I wasn’t sure whether I slept at all.  It certainly didn’ feel like it.   I didn’t know why this was happening.  Perhaps I was waiting for the baby to cry.  I thought it was a matter of calming down, telling myself that the baby’s colic was gone and probably would not return.  I should relax.  Other mothers were telling me that they were always in a state of shallow sleep and jump at the slightest wimper from their babies.  I was like, great…..I’ve got a lot to look forward to.

I’ve never not been able to fall asleep before.   It’s painful for me to reflect back on those days of not being able to fall asleep all night, tossing and turning, knowing that everyone else is asleep, looking at the clock as the time to get up and feed the baby approached, and seeing the sun come up–all the while knowing that this all didn’t make any sense because, after all, I was exhausted beyond words.  At one point, I got less than 9 hours of sleep over 3 days.  My fear was I’d be physically and mentally impaired from not getting any sleep for so many days in a row that I wouldn’t be able to take care of the baby.  I just wanted to tear my hair out.  I wanted to go screaming into the night, running until I reached a point of exhaustion and just pass out.  I couldn’t endure all those hours of tossing and turning any longer.  The feeling of loneliness was so overwhelming and almost too much to bear.  I was desperate for company, for someone to comfort me and help me overcome this dreadful condition.  I couldn’t expect my husband to keep me company much because he had to go to work early in the AM and had a long day of work, so he needed his sleep.  I only woke him up when I felt I was at the end of my rope.

It didn’t help that every time a friend/relative asked me how I was doing, I’d tell them exactly what was going on….with the insomnia and all.  And each time, I would get this look and a wave of the hand and the comment:  “You’re a new mother….new mothers never get any sleep.  But you should definitely sleep whenever the baby sleeps.”  And I’d say the same thing over and over again…..I wish I could sleep when the baby sleeps, but I can’t.”  Then I’d get the same response:  “Just try harder…..put your feet up, lay back and you’ll fall asleep….all you need to do is relax.”  To which I’d say:  “You just don’t understand.  The baby’s been sleeping through the night since she was 2 months old, which is great.  But I will lie there all night, tossing and turning until the sun comes up, arms numb and cold, heart beating fast/palpitating – all of which is, needless to say, disconcerting.  How can I take care of the baby when I can’t get any sleep at all?”  Then infuriatingly, they’d say:  “Just take a nap during the afternoon, when the baby sleeps.”  Then I’d end the conversation (because I would’ve had enough at that point):  “You don’t get it….I can’t nap.  I can’t sleep, even if I wanted to and even if the baby sleeps.  She sleeps fine.  I have INSOMNIA.”  Telling them that was just about as easy as telling them that I had PPD.  You could see from the look on their face that they still didn’t get it, even though they’d nod to give the the appearance of understanding.

I didn’t know anyone who’s had insomnia, so I never had the support I needed to get me through those dark days.  All I needed was some understanding and reassurance that I wasn’t losing my mind.   My doctors were no help in that respect.  NO HELP AT ALL.  My husband tried to comfort me, but of course, he had no way of knowing what it was like and how scared I was.  I think this was the only time in my life in which I felt so scared and helpless.  All other times in my life, I had some amount of control whether it was a problem at school, problem at home, problem at work, nastier-than-hell fight with a boyfriend, or illness (there was always a cure, like medicine for my recurring bouts of bronchitis and colds throughout the year, or major surgery to remove my dermoid cyst).

Had I read all the books that I’ve been reading these past 4 years BEFORE my PPD journey began, I probably could have avoided the panic attacks that developed 1-2 weeks later (more on this in a later post).  The books all say that insomnia–the inability to fall asleep and/or stay asleep EVEN IF the baby is sleeping– is one of the first symptoms of PPD, especially if it occurs beyond the 3rd week postpartum.  Had I known what I know now, instead of simply taking the Ambien that was prescribed to me by my OB/GYN, I would’ve insisted that he screen me for PPD.  Ultimately, after the insomnia spiraled into panic attacks and the Ambien started to lose its effect, I had to find a GP (this is the one I referred to in an earlier post) who prescribed Paxil and Xanax (I was still on Ambien at the same time).    Thankfully, within a month I was sleeping without the Ambien.  Such a relief that I was not dependent on Ambien as I feared I’d be for the long haul!

There is a tremendous difference between sleep deprivation–which ALL parents experience in the first 3 months–and insomnia which is not being able to fall asleep and/or not being able to stay asleep, even when the baby sleeps. Insomnia can be caused by a fear of falling asleep because something bad will happen if you do, or a constant state of anxiety with busy thoughts and worries that keep you running on high energy like the Energizer ® rabbit that keeps going and going and going. I suppose after 4 weeks of constantly interrupted sleep and such a state of extended hypervigilance–both of which my body was unaccustomed to–were enough to turn on the insomnia switch.   I read that adrenaline, which is produced by the adrenal glands during stress, can increase the body’s fight or flight response, and persistent high levels of adrenaline can cause palpitations, insomnia and anxiety or panic attacks.     I also read that an extended period of sleep deprivation and/or constantly interrupted sleep is a form of torture used on POWs to extract information from them.  Not that I’m trying to draw an analogy here to my first motherhood experience as torture.  It wasn’t.  It was just that my body was not used to enduring sleep deprivation and high levels of  anxiety over an extended period of time, without fully allowing my body to relax and recover from childbirth and all the drastic hormonal changes that went along with it.

When I was well on my road to recovery, I asked my GP and OB/GYN (and staff) why they didn’t think I had PPD even though I had some of the symptoms (e.g., insomnia and extreme anxiety), they said I didn’t exhibit the typical signs of PPD and I didn’t communicate my problems sufficiently to them.  Well, hello….but why do I, the patient, need to tell the healthcare professional that insomnia lasting beyond the 4th postpartum week should act as a telltale indication for PPD?  Symptoms persisting beyond the 3rd-4th week is no longer the baby blues.  Crying, the trademark of baby blues, is not necessarily a primary symptom for those suffering PPD.  It certainly wasn’t for me.  If they had asked me to describe my symptoms and better yet, if they knew enough about PPD to put one and two together, they would have diagnosed me then instead of starting me on a painful voyage seeking answers, compassion and treatment.

Here’s my advice to you if you are experiencing insomnia and you are beyond 3 weeks pospartum:

  • Seek medical help before it has a chance to spiral into something worse.  Don’t just take Ambien or some other sleep aid, and leave it at that.  Ask your doctor if he/she has experience treating PPD.  If he/she doesn’t but you’d prefer to stick with this doctor, tell him/her he/she needs to screen you for PPD and reach out to Postpartum Support International for information/resources.   You always have the option to find a psychiatrist who can screen you for PPD, provide you with a listening ear and advice, and prescribe any medications as necessary.  If this is your first time experiencing a mood disorder, don’t be afraid to seek therapy.  What matters is you must do what it takes to get well.  Certain PPD patients do well with a combination of medication–especially if they are very symptomatic and need treatment for their symptoms before therapy can be beneficial–and therapy.
  • Be honest about all your symptoms when talking to your doctor. Leaving out key details will only impede your recovery.
  • Ask all the questions you feel you need to ask.  No question is a stupid question when you are a patient.  If your doctor doesn’t give you the opportunity to ask questions, rushing off before you’ve had a chance to ask any, that’s a sign you need to ditch that doctor.  Doctors are paid to provide you with the care that you need and deserve, which includes consultation about your diagnosis and treatment.

Remember this:  You need sleep to stay healthy and to be able to take care of your baby day in and day out. I had it bad and I wouldn’t want you to go through what I went through.  You’d think that sleep deprivation would cause exhaustion which would cause you to fall asleep readily and at first opportunity. That couldn’t be further from the truth for me.  With insomnia, I couldn’t fall asleep even when the baby was sleeping. I couldn’t nap during the day, even with someone taking care of the baby for a few hours.