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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My Blog’s 5th Birthaversary and Info on PSI Zumbathon Fundraiser

Some people call it a Blogoversary.  Some people call it a Blog Birthday.  The French say “Joyeaux Anniversaire” for Happy Birthday.   I don’t really care much what it’s called.  I just know that both Blogoversary and Blog Birthday hold the same meaning, and my blog has been around for 5 years!  Woohoo!!!  Actually, five years and one day, since the momentous occasion was yesterday.  But I was too tired to blog last night…..anyway, I’ll just compromise and call it a Birthaversary.  🙂

In these past 5 years, I’ve seen an increasing number of personal experiences with postpartum depression (PPD) posted on blogs, on Huffington Post, on online parenting magazines, etc.  Seeing these articles gives me hope that we are reaching more and more people about maternal mental health issues.

At the same time, however, there are still stories in the news of how we–despite being in 2014–are still failing our mothers all over the world.  Sometimes, I think that it’s willful ignorance that keeps people in the dark.  And like the UK  case I wrote about recently, misguided priorities and inadequate training are still leading to mothers falling through the cracks.

I want to implore all PPD survivors, PPD advocates and medical/mental health professionals to make a more concerted effort to:

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Work together
Remember that a healthy baby means a healthy mother
Really focus on the mother’s well-being
Break down silos
Encourage collaborative care
Support mothers and discourage mom-petitions
Embrace the fact that there is no one right way to mother
Ensure there is increased public awareness and research initiatives to improve early detection and treatment
Encourage a culture of sharing and banish stigma

Before I end this post, I would like to share information about an upcoming Postpartum Support International (PSI) zumbathon fundraiser being held in memory of Cynthia Wachtenheim, a mother whose life was tragically cut short last March.  All proceeds from the event will go to maternal mental health public awareness and support.  I am proud to be a member of PSI since 2006.  It is an organization that is very much at the forefront of all of the positive efforts above.

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back – Maternal Matters

*** This post may be triggering if you are suffering from postpartum depression (PPD) and are sensitive to negative news events ***

I felt like blogging tonight.  Partly to keep my mind preoccupied so I won’t be nerve wracked all night, worrying about a presentation I have to give at work tomorrow.  Some of you know that I absolutely HATE public speaking of any sort.  HATE.  😦

As my regular readers may have noticed, I don’t rant much any longer….I’ve mentioned before that my years of book writing and blogging have been EXTREMELY cathartic.  I mentioned in my last post that I will continue to share what I feel to be newsworthy developments in research and media that demonstrate a continued forward momentum in the mission to de-stigmatize postpartum mood disorders and provide mothers with the care that is so desperately needed and is yet so lacking, still.  I will also continue to share interesting tidbits I run across from my daily reading material that comes up in my Facebook news feed or elsewhere.

Tonight’s post shows how –despite valiant efforts in advocacy, public awareness and mother support on the part of many, some of whom I personally know–for every one step forward that’s made, there are forces out  there that are ever so ready to drag us two huge steps back.  I would like to highlight two examples of barriers to progress that were mentioned in news articles in the past couple of weeks.

FIRST ARTICLE
This week’s announcement of the closing of the Shuswap Family Resource Centre’s Mother’s Journey Prenatal and Postnatal Support Group in British Columbia, Canada, is an example of how, despite the known benefits of having a postpartum support group, establishing and maintaining such groups within communities that don’t observe social support customs and rituals when it comes to expectant and postpartum mothers has been an ongoing challenge, mostly due to lack of funding.  The postpartum support group offered mothers education (including self awareness and coping mechanisms) and support on 25-week open-ended cycles, meaning that mothers were able to freely join or leave at any point.  Despite the realization of the importance of such a postpartum support group by healthcare practitioners and the community, and the simple fact that there were so many PPD cases and not enough trained individuals to provide the needed care, this center is closing its doors for good.  Even while it was open, because there was no other support group like this anywhere in the area, PPD moms generally had to wait several weeks just to see someone.  If a couple of days felt like an eternity for me when I was in the depths of my PPD, having a mother wait several weeks is simply unacceptable.  Postpartum support groups should be opening, not closing, their doors to mothers!

We need more postpartum centers that focus on the needs of mothers and ensuring there is adequate support in the first one to three months after childbirth. Early intervention and women-centered health initiatives and programs and support services need to be the standard of care rather than the exception!

SECOND ARTICLE
The title of the article is “10 reasons why breastfeeding is out of fashion,” written by Beverly Turner in the The Telegraph.  I don’t get why women in media–or actually in this case a journalist who reminds me a lot of the other political developments that pop up in my Facebook news feed everyday that make me wonder how we could be in the 21st century and still be faced with so many anti-women initiatives (but I won’t go into there because I KNOW how right wing versus left wing thinking can terminate friendships at the snap of a finger, and this blog is not a political, feminist, or pro-choice versus pro-life blog) –want to be a barrier to progress for women?  What she wrote made me sit there and re-read certain parts of her article, all the while scratching my head and going “Huh?  I don’t get it.  This makes no sense whatsoever.  And she’s supposed to be a journalist?  This article is so poorly written!  How could she criticize other women when she doesn’t have a clue about their experiences?”

Now, as for her so-called ten points:

1.   “Lack of post-natal care to help women establish feeding pattern.”
Sure, we need an overall increase in the availability of postnatal and breastfeeding support for new moms in the first 3 months.

2.   “Lack of high-profile role models breastfeeding.  This is why I implore the Duchess of Cambridge to get out her royal orbs when she has her first next month.”
I actually think there are a good number of celebrities that have announced that they are breastfeeding, or breastfed, their babies.  Granted, there could be more, but we have more now talking about breastfeeding than ever before. Honestly, though, did she have to refer to the Duchess’ boobs as “royal orbs”….?!   Does she sound like a man, or is it just me?  From this point on, the article goes downhill very quickly…..never mind very quickly, try at warp speed.

3.    “Noisy loons creating ‘Brestapo’ caricatures to appease their own consciences.  These women are oddly vocal contingents, who bring their own neuroses to public forums shouting that women ‘shouldn’t be pressured…rather than helped (doh!). They are the same crowd who shout ‘women who have caesareans haven’t failed’! rather than, ‘what the hell is wrong with a system that is failing so many women’? It’s oddly misogynistic.”
WTF?  Hypocritical much? I don’t need to go into this in detail because the fabulous, er, Fearless Formula Feeder has already blogged about this in a brilliant letter addressed to this, er, so-called journalist.

Reasons 4-6 and 8-10 may make sense being included on this list but the points she makes for each are weakly written.  Not even worth mentioning, really.

4.    “Reluctance to give time to our babies.”
WTF WTF WTF?  This screams mommy war completely.  How does she know what each mother’s experience is like?   Get this woman a huge dose of empathy, STAT!  I wish people like her who’ve never known firsthand what it’s like to experience PPD or other postpartum mood disorder and/or serious breastfeeding challenges would just keep their flapping and condescending lips shut.

There is a correlation between success in breastfeeding and PPD occurrence, which is why I think it’s important that as many of us that have been there–suffering from PPD and/or experiencing breastfeeding difficulties, and having very little support for either–speak up and have our voices heard.  Because without our voices, we will forever be taking steps backward.  We want progress!  Mothers should support each other, not bash each other!

LET’S KEEP OUR FOCUS ON THE FOLLOWING:

  • End the mommy wars!
  • More breastfeeding support can increase breastfeeding success.
  • We need more postpartum support groups, not close their doors!
  • If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all!
  • Continue steps forward, no backward steps allowed!

Guest Post over at Mama’s Comfort Camp: Happy First Birthday!

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My friend Yael Saar is a mama on a mission to remove guilt and shame from parenting in order to make room for joy and love. She is the Founder and Keeper of the Mama’s Comfort Camp, a Facebook community that functions as a safe haven and refueling station for hundreds of moms from around the world. This community is free and open to moms of kids of any age, and we share our laughter, tears, and triumphs, all the while normalizing motherhood struggles and bridging the gap between expectations and reality in a uniquely nurturing environment.
I’m so happy to be one of the Campers, and I would love for you to join us.
Please check out my guest post written to celebrate the first birthday of the wonderful community that Yael and her Den Mothers have created.

Online Support Groups for Moms

Today is the birthday of a dear friend of mine named Yael Saar.  I promised I would write a blog post on her birthday, and I am just barely making it before midnight!

Yael is an amazingly kind, supportive, gracious, and caring individual that I have had the fortune of meeting first online and then recently at the Blogher12 conference in New York City.  She is the author of  the blog PPD to Joy and the founder/leader of a Facebook support groups for moms called Mama’s Comfort Camp, a closed forum consisting of over 300 moms from around the world who provide one another with encouragement, support, reminders to be kind to ourselves and a non-judgmental ear to listen and share the ups and downs of our parenting experiences.   It’s a place where moms can vent and seek advice on a situation with which they are experiencing difficulty (i.e., in-law challenges, childcare challenges).  There have been all sorts of posts, spanning the whole range of emotions from humor, elation and excitement to sadness, anger, concern, and anxiety.  Members have been encouraged to share pictures, stories and blog posts to help them get to know each other better. Yael calls the group a “refueling station: a safe haven of self care and self kindness for moms.” Hence, the name of the group.

Until I joined this group, I had no idea just how much company I have in terms of the feelings of being overwhelmed, fatigued, uncertain and anxious.  Yes, indeed, there are other moms out there with similar experiences as me.  I just needed to know where to look for them!  I didn’t join Facebook until 2009, and my daughter was over 4 years old already by that time and I no longer felt the need new mom support any longer at that point.  It’s great to see it’s not all just about mommy wars and moms competing with moms.  There are many supportive women out there.  Ideally, you should already have some in your life that are prepared to assist BEFORE you embark on your journey to motherhood.

I learned AFTER my postpartum depression (PPD) experience that:

  1. there are PPD blogs to provide support and help you feel less alone in your experience,
  2. social support is critical in the first weeks after childbirth and there are doulas and baby nurses for those who don’t have loved ones available to help in the first weeks postpartum, and
  3. there are PPD support groups (like Lauren Hale’s Facebook PPDChat Support group and #PPDChat on Twitter at 1:30 pm EST and 8:30 pm EST on Mondays), infant feeding support groups (like Fearless Formula Feeder and Bottle Babies), and mom support groups (like Mama’s Comfort Camp).

Oh, how I wish I knew about all this BEFORE my own motherhood journey began.  I could’ve used all these resources to help feel less alone, anxious, and miserable in thinking I was the ONLY mother who felt the way I did.   While everyone else around me gave the appearance that motherhood was a piece of cake, I felt like an utter failure right from the get-go.  As part of my commitment to spread awareness about PPD, I want to also spread awareness of these online support groups that are available as wonderful resources for new moms.

The Importance of Mothering the New Mother

Chinese call it Zou Yue.
Mexicans call it la cuarentena.
Greeks call it sarántisma.
Indians (Hindi) call it Jaappa.

Regardless of what it’s called or how long it is observed–be it 30 or 40 days–the goal is the same.  Taking care of the mother, so she can take care of her baby and get adequate sleep to recover from childbirth.

Many other countries in Asia, the Middle East, South America, and Africa observe a traditional mothering the new mother period.  40 seems to be a magical number, a number that has survived through the centuries and therefore has special significance….no doubt it has something to do with the fact that 40 days is the average length of time for a new mother’s body to recover from childbirth and return to a pre-pregnant state.  That is also why your OB/GYN will say to you once you’ve given birth that he will see you in 6 weeks.

The May 11th NY Times Well section included an article How to Mother a Mother by Tara Parker-Pope.  In it she talks about Claudia Kolker’s new book, The Immigrant Advantage: What We Can Learn From Newcomers to America About Health, Happiness and Hope and how practices such as la cuarantena can help Americans (if they are willing to learn from immigrants) to achieve–just as the title says–health, happiness and hope.

Cuarentena sounds like how the word sounds in English for quarantine, or a period of isolation for illness.  The term refers to the first 40 days after childbirth in which the female family members and friends of the new mother surround her and provide her and her baby with care, so that the new mother’s only focus is on getting rest and bonding with/feeding her baby. They also help around the house and prepare meals.  Certain rituals are observed that are similar to those observed by the Chinese Zou Yue, such as the preparation of certain foods, like chicken soup, to help keep her body/system warm, as chicken is viewed as a warm food.  Foods that are considered cold, like cucumbers, are avoided.  She is to be protected from feeling overwhelmed; hence, visitors are kept away (or kept at a very minimum) during this time (this is probably how the term la cuarantena was derived).  She is told to avoid bathing for fear of catching cold.  All these rituals have the mother’s well-being in mind.  I am rather surprised to see such similarities between the Mexican and Chinese customs….after all, the countries are nowhere near each other!  In terms of breastfeeding, female family members are on hand to teach her how to do it. In these other cultures, there is no expectation that the new mother know how to breastfeed instinctively and easily.  There is a reason behind the phrase It takes a village.

Since I blogged previously about the importance of social support and how through the years we seem to have lost perspective on things when it comes to the community coming together to help a new mother who has just had a baby, I won’t repeat myself here.  What I will say is–because we can’t emphasize it enough nowadays–that getting adequate social support–comprised of both emotional support (e.g., shoulder to cry on, listening non-judgmentally) and practical support (e.g., help with breastfeeding, cleaning, errands, laundry, taking care of the baby for a few hours so mom can take a nap or shower) IS CRITICAL FOR NEW MOMS.  Having enough support during the first 4-6 weeks–until your body recovers from childbirth and your hormone levels return to their pre-pregnancy state–can help keep anxiety levels down, help you get the rest you need from all the changes your body has gone through with childbirth, and minimize risk for postpartum depression.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help or accept help from your significant other, family members and/or friends.  Before baby’s arrival, you should try to line up 4-6 weeks’ worth of live-in help from a family member (mother, mother-in-law, sister) or at minimum help with night-time feedings those first few weeks is critical in allowing you to get adequate rest.  If you don’t have any family members nearby and/or willing or able to help, you may want to consider hiring a postpartum doula, if finances allow.  The presence of a doula that is experienced in infant care can help keep anxiety levels and concerns about infant care to a minimum, and provide comfort in knowing that both you and your baby are in good hands.  Click here to learn more about postpartum doulas and how to find one near you.

I devote a chapter in my book to the importance of social support, what social support entails, how to go about ensuring you get adequate support in your first postpartum weeks, postpartum rituals in various countries, and postpartum support services in this country (including support groups like Santa Barbara Postpartum Education for Parents, as well as doulas)–and unfortunate lack thereof and the trend of having postpartum doulas fill the void in support for new mothers.  I have Sally Placksin’s book Mothering the New Mother to thank for educating and inspiring me to write about social support in my own book and every chance I can get.

I started writing this blog post on Monday (late at night after my daughter went to bed), lost gas quickly and stopped.  I started it up again on Tuesday (late at night, again after my daughter went to bed) and lost gas quickly (the result of a combination of a long, stressful day and aging).  On Wednesday, I had a lovely time catching up with a good friend over dinner so I didn’t get a chance to write at all.  Just today, I happened to stumble across a website/blog named Mother Love Postpartum Doula Services that just recently linked up to me by way of its blogroll.  Thank you, Liz, for linking to my blog!    She happens to touch on the postpartum rituals I touch on in this post.  What fortuitous timing, as I just needed to finalize the post…and voila, I’m hitting the Publish button….now!

This Mother’s Day – Let’s Focus on What Really Matters

THIS MOTHER’S DAY – LET’S FOCUS ON WHAT REALLY MATTERS

What’s all this recent fuss?
This fuss with yet another ploy
By media to add fuel to the fire
Of moms who breast-feed versus bottle-feed
Of moms who attachment parent, the seemingly new trend,
And of moms like me who are like, what is attachment parenting (or AP) anyway?

Why the lingo?
Why the mompetition?
Why not community?
Why not support for each other?
Why don’t we honor mothers the way other cultures do?

Well, let me tell you why.
Our society is one in which the primary goal is success,
And who’s best at this or that.
Who’s best at motherhood.
Who’s best at their career.
Who breast-feeds the longest.
Who returns to their pre-baby body the quickest.

Our culture is more bent on pitting mother against mother
Than finding ways for them to support each other.
Through the years, our culture has lost its way.
Just think….
Why is good childcare hard to find?
Why is info on PPD so hard to find?
Why are support services for new moms so hard to find?
What are medical professionals who know how to recognize
And treat PPD correctly so hard to find?

Who gives a rat’s tush….
If someone breast-feeds for a few days versus three years?
If someone bottle-feeds because they choose to do so?
If someone bottle feeds because they and/or their baby had to have a….
Life-saving procedure
Or was sick
And had difficulty breastfeeding
And had very little support?
If someone does “AP” or doesn’t even know what the heck that term means
Does it really matter?
And why someone have to even come up with it in the first place?

Haven’t parents been parenting for thousands of years?
Babies have turned out just fine,
And in some ways, even better than they are today!
Were there electronic gadgets and fancy terms for childcare decades ago?
My peers and I grew up without all that
And I would like to think we turned out just fine!

If we want our babies to grow up fine
We feed, hold, kiss, hug, and interact (read/sing/play) with them.
We do the best we can given our personal situation.
Doesn’t matter how expensive our toys are
Or how fancy the name of the trend du jour is,
Or whether we end up bottle-feeding for whatever the reason may be.
Bonding will happen.
Babies will thrive.

Don’t give in to our society’s myopic ploy.
A ploy with a focus on situations that encourage moms to compete with each other.
A society with mothers feeling alone,
Mothers feeling stressed out,
And mothers feeling like they’re not mom enough.
A society that provides very little in the way of
New mom support services,
Comprehensive maternal health (mental/medical) care services,
And awareness campaigns to bust the stigma surrounding perinatal mental health!
And you wonder why the number of moms with PPD are one in eight!
We are bringing it upon ourselves!

What can we do to change things, you ask?
Let’s end the mompetition.
Let’s have moms be supportive of each other.
Let’s create support services to help new mothers and their families.
Let’s have a society that honors its mothers
Not just on Mother’s Day but always!

For all the moms out there, remember self care.
Without it, you cannot care for your babies.
They need you.
As long as you’re doing what YOU feel is right for you and your baby…
And given YOUR situation…
Then filter out all the media tactics and mompetitive attitudes…
Take a deep breath and repeat after me:
“I AM MOM ENOUGH, AND I WON’T FORGET IT.”

For all those who have a mom (or two) you care about
And will be celebrating Mother’s Day with her today,
Please remember (especially if this is a new mom) that the greatest gift
You can give her is emotional and practical support.
Don’t provide advice unless she asks you for it.
Do provide a shoulder to cry on if she’s having a rough day.
Do provide help so she can get the rest she needs
And/or time to do something just for herself,
And last but not least,
Remind her that SHE IS MOM ENOUGH AND SHE SHOULD NOT FORGET IT.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there!

A wish from one mother to another!

xx