Colic, Sleep Deprivation, Inadequate Support as Risk Factors for PPD

Just a quick post about colic, sleep deprivation, and inadequate support for the new mom as key risk factors for postpartum depression (PPD). There are many topics I want to blog about, but it’s another case of too many ideas, not enough time.  Since these risk factors make up some of the crucial pieces of the puzzle of my PPD experience, and since the Babble post titled “DR. HARVEY KARP ON WHY HE BELIEVES PPD IS MORE COMMON THAN EVER BEFORE” by Wendy Wisner showed up on my Facebook feed today, I decided to do a quick blog post about it. This blog post joins my previous post about Dr. Karp and his 5S technique “Baby Fussy or Colicky? Try the Amazing 5 S’s!“, a technique that helps babies sleep and parents cope with colic.  Colic causes sleep deprivation and feelings of incompetence from not being able to calm your crying baby (due to lack of prior baby care experience and lack of adequate support/guidance provided by someone with experience).  I basically said the same things in my book.

Dr. Karp also believes the following, which are also points that I mention throughout my book:

  1. Sleep deprivation can change brain physiology in the amygdala by causing it to become more hypervigilant and a triggering of the body’s fight or flight mechanism.  This state can cause a new mother to feel anxious and remain in a constant state of alertness, fearful that something bad may happen to her baby.
  2. Self care is as important as caring for the baby…it takes a village….a health mom means a healthy baby
  3. A mother’s getting enough sleep and support = key to reducing the occurrence of postpartum mood disorders

The bottom line is new mothers MUST get adequate support.  But with many parents struggling financially and not being able to afford help (via resources like doulas) and family members experienced with baby care not living close by and/or are too busy to help, it’s no wonder there are so many cases of PPD.  Please see my past posts about the critical role social support plays in minimizing the occurrence of PPD here and here.

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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.