Postpartum, Pumping

The Pressure to Breastfeed: Feeding Choices of New Moms

Even in 2020, there is still a lot of pressure to breastfeed or explain how you choose to feed your baby. Phrases like “breast is best” and “liquid gold” circulate mommy blogs and instagram posts. Whether you are deciding between breastfeeding or formula feeding, deciding the best formula to give your baby, switching from breastmilk to formula, supplementing or mixing breastmilk and formula, or any other kind of feeding, the reality is there are a lot of opinions. If anyone talks to you about this by making you feel guilty for your feeding choices or needs, you have permission to ask

The Best Way to Feed Your Baby is the Way that Works for You

At Postpartum Together, we believe the best thing for your baby is taking care of yourself.
We believe in making choices that are informed and empowered.
We believe the pressure to breastfeed can damage new moms and families.
How you feed your baby is not the mark of how good of a mom you are (because there’s not a “better” way) and we believe that you deserve safe spaces to explore and make choices.

Below, 4 women have shared their stories about the feeding choices they made, the feelings they went through, and the ways they have taken care of their babies- all in different ways. If you are here for an answer on what you should do, you will not find that here. But what you will find are real stories, real moms, real choices and a ton of support for you as you take care of yourself and your baby.


Read More: How to Choose Between Breast and Bottle Feeding (My Zulily Blog Contribution)

Ashley’s Story: However You Feed Your Baby is Okay.
There Shouldn’t be Pressure to Breastfeed

What is the biggest thing I wish I would have known after having my son? That society puts way too much pressure to breastfeed or to feed your baby a certain way. That you don’t have to listen to what society thinks. ALSO…It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

At my son’s 1-week check-up the informed me that he had lost 10% of his body weight. His doctor said that this was because he wasn’t getting enough breastmilk and that I needed to start supplementing. In my head, I instantly blamed myself. “My body is failing me.” “It seems so easy for other moms.” “I am one week into being a mom and I already suck at this.”

Introducing Formula to a Newborn When You Planned to Exclusively Breastfeed

Introducing formula was devastating to me. I planned on exclusively breastfeeding. At this point, I was breastfeeding, pumping, and formula feeding every two hours. It was exhausting, my mental health was suffering, yet, friends and family STILL put an emphasis on how he needed my breastmilk. So, I kept on breastfeeding while I suffered silently with horrible anxiety and didn’t listen to my intuition.

At 4 months I decided enough was enough. We switched to 100% formula. It was sad but it was honestly the best thing I could have done. I wish I would have listened to myself earlier in the process. And, I wish I would have had someone say that it was okay and that I wasn’t failing.

Your Mental Health and Breastfeeding

Now, I wish that other moms who see this know that however they are feeding their baby is okay. That your mental health is also a priority. And that there is so much support out there to help you with whatever decision you make. Whether you breastfeed, pump, formula feed, or all of the above, you should never feel like a failure. You are doing what’s best for you and your family and nothing else matters.

Ashley Lyon
DONA Certified Postpartum Doula
Founder of
Bloom Mama

Devra’s Story: “Failing” as a Crunchy Mom
The Crunchy Pressure to Breastfeed

We had my first daughter in ’07, back when blogs were just beginning and there was no Facebook or Instagram. From what I’d been able to learn about feeding babies from books or talking to our midwife, I thought there were two options: nursing or formula feeding. Because I was in my crunchy-granola earth mother phase and thought formula was evil, I wanted to nurse so badly. But nursing was painful for me–like someone was pulling shards of glass through my nipples painful. Latch checks and weight gain all seemed to say she was getting enough milk but I was in tears at every session.

After about six weeks, I said to my sweet patient husband, “I feel like a failure but I don’t think I can do this anymore.” I’d already started pumping when I went back to work managing a live-performance theater, so he said “Why don’t you just pump more and we’ll bottle feed her?” And thus our journey with exclusive pumping began.

Turning to Exclusive Pumping

Jump forward 12 years and we were surprised with another precious daughter. Again, I longed to nurse, because that is what we’re built for, right? Thank goodness we now have Instagram and amazing people like @postpartumtogether, @exclusivepumping, and @pump_momma_pump. Along with Sarah Lester, my local IBCLC, when my second nursing try started to go the same painful way as my first, they were able to get me on a great exclusive pumping plan to keep LO thriving now for 10 months.

Jokes on me, too: dried up naturally at six months with the first and we won’t quite make it to a year of frozen milk with the second, so formula still made an appearance. I’m fully committed to “fed is best” and I know we’re doing everything we can to make sure our girls are healthy.

Katherine’s Story: Fairytale Motherhood Plans Changed
No More Pressure to Breastfeed

I believe most women imagine an idealized fairytale version of childbirth and motherhood. So many resources encourage developing a birth plan or at least thinking about your preferences. Unfortunately, so few resources tell you that your plans will change. The more prepared you are to go with the flow, the more at peace you will become.

Child birth and motherhood are so unpredictable. The birth of my son did not go the way I always envisioned it, but many of the decisions were my own. I didn’t realize how not getting any part of my idealized birth story would affect me. It manifested in an “obsession” to breastfeed. Thankfully, once my milk came in, breastfeeding was relatively easy. I had a dreadfully slow eater; most feedings in the beginning lasted an hour; but he steadily gained weight. This motherhood thing is definitely a marathon. 

I exclusively breastfed (and pumped a few times a day due to an oversupply and the desire to build a freezer stash) for six months. During this time, my husband and I had several conversations about timing around a second child and what it would take to get pregnant again. We needed the support of a reproductive endocrinologist to get pregnant with my son.

Weaning and Pregnancy

Many of these conversations got quite heated because I would have preferred to breastfeed for the entire first year. There was an ultimate compromise to start weaning when my son was six months old. I did not want to wean. But marriage is all about compromise, or so they say. The spacing between our children has always been extremely important to my husband. He is ten years older than me. We did not rush into marriage and we did not rush into starting our family (fur children excluded). Deep down I knew future me would appreciate our children being close in age. I know how much it means to my husband; he has a chronic illness and is overtly aware of his mortality.

Weaning was slow. And deliberate. Although extremely anxious and uneasy about weaning, I convinced myself that starting around six months made the most sense, as I was also starting solids with my son at this time. I could not stand the sight and smell of the first formula I started to supplement with, and so the research began. I was quickly able to settle on a much better looking and smelling formula that my son didn’t mind. 

Adding Formula to Breastfeeding

I was convinced my son would hate me forever. I felt the pressure to breastfeed. Cue the extreme mom guilt. I have no idea what I did to deserve it, but I was blessed with an angel from above. After about a week of my son being unsure about formula, we fell into a weaning routine. Every week or two, I would cut out a breastfeeding session and replace it with formula. At the same time, I slowly cut down on the duration of my pumping sessions. It took us two months to wean completely. My son then got frozen breastmilk twice a day until my freezer stash was gone, which was a little after his first birthday. Thankfully my son never really pulled at my shirt or chest. And there were never any real meltdowns about taking a bottle instead of my breast.

I hated having to deal with formula. Breastfeeding was easy while I was on the go with my son. If there wasn’t a private, quiet place to feed, there was always the backseat of my car. I found formula feeding annoying. Did I pack enough formula? Do I have extra if we get stuck or our plans change? Do I have enough water? What about a way to warm it up a little bit? Do I need to bring a hot water bath, or can I get something while we are out? This continued to feed my guilt and angst.

Shame, Guilt & Breastfeeding

My shame and guilt eased up as I saw how adaptable and resilient my son has become. His personality really made weaning easier on me. Cue Covid-19. All the shame and guilt came rushing back. Why didn’t I keep breastfeeding? My son would benefit immensely from the continued antibodies. How can I comfort him without breastfeeding? Then our fertility office shutdown. Cue even more guilt and frustration. Why did I even stop breastfeeding?! My son is going to get sick and I can’t even get pregnant now. Again, my son remained my anchor. Everything about him remained cheerful and resilient. He was growing and developing perfectly. With everything going on in 2020, this was starting to feel right.

Katherine A. Barbieri @kbarbie85 / @sahm.learning.to.thrive

Sarah’s Story: We are Both Alive Because She Formula Fed

I knew very quickly that something was wrong. My baby couldn’t latch and had earned the nickname “Miss. Chomper” from the many lactation consultants we saw. But I was determined. My mom is a big breast feeding advocate in the community, everyone knew my name and always asked how breast feeding was going. There was such an intense shame that it wasn’t going well. To top off my experience, no one warned me that let downs can come with this horrible sense of dread and overwhelming feeling of just nastiness. Let downs were few and far between, which at the time I was thankful for because it meant I didn’t get this overwhelming desire to just get my kid off me instantly.

RELATED: DMER: Weird feeling while breastfeeding

While still in the hospital, I knew something was wrong with both my baby and myself. I could not sleep and was having obsessive and intrusive thoughts within hours after birth. Baby couldn’t latch. I remember her screaming as the LC attempted to just jam her face into my breast. Crying and crying until this sweet nurse ask me if I wanted to try SNS. I said yes, and for a brief moment I felt relief as I knew my baby was getting something. Then, I had to sign a waiver to give my baby formula in the hospital. Unfortunately, postpartum OCD took away SNS feeding from me. Cleaning those tiny tubes is a pain and no matter how hot of water I ran through them, I was convinced they were not clean.

Trying a Bottle After Struggle to Latch

They held me a few days due to the fact my kid couldn’t latch and the LCs made follow up appointments so I could be discharged. The sweet nurse who saw my struggle asked me as I was being discharged if she could show me how to give her a bottle. I cried so much in that moment and the nurse showed me how to just pop the bottle in her mouth. Cue instant mom guilt but my baby was fed. I tried really hard to only give her one or two bottles a day and I honestly had no idea how much she needed to have per feeding. She was drastically underfed by both my body and by my lack of knowledge in formula feeding.

The next weeks were a blur but the highlights are:
1) being told that I am giving my baby a burger instead of a salad and I shouldn’t have such a problem breastfeeding because I was well endowed
2) a swarm of LCs and doctors appointments, including having to give my week old baby a suppository because she wasn’t getting enough from me to get the merconium out
3) a trip to the ER at 3 weeks with the official diagnosis of feeding problems.

At this point, 3 weeks into my daughter’s life, we knew breastfeeding just wasn’t for her even after had felt the pressure to breastfeed. And I tried exclusively pumping for a week. These feelings of just being out of my body and feeling just generally distraught with let downs just being came worse and worse as I tried to pump. Not understanding why I felt like this, I began to dread the pump. My postpartum OCD just spiraled out of control. No one ever mentioned D-mer. Never.

Mental Health and The Pressure to Breastfeed

I assumed that I just hated this experience so much that it was manifesting in physical symptoms. It felt like my mental health was slipping away 30 seconds at a time every pumping session. Finally, I snapped. My mental health was deteriorating to the point that I did not want to exist. That I regretted this choice to have this very much wanted and loved baby. I even thought about fleeing the country and starting a new life. I’m serious. It was a full fledged plan. That is when everyone told me to just stop. And I did.

I gave the baby to my husband, I slept 6 solid hours, pumped once for relief that day, and that was it. That was the end of my breast feeding journey.

I was able to start medication for my postpartum OCD and depression without fear of impacting my breastmilk. And, I was finally able to bond with my baby as she happily drank her bottles of formula and smiled.

Anyone who tells you bottle feeding hurts your bond, slap them for me. This can absolutely improve your bond. It can save your life. This can save your baby’s life. It is not this demon or great shame.. It is there for a reason. And in a heart beat, I would formula feed my child again. She is healthy, strong as an oxen (just as stubborn too), and our bond is strong and beautiful because of bottles of formula.p

My life and her life is better because she was formula fed. We are both alive because she was formula fed. The pressure to breastfeed could not take that away.

A Reminder To You, Momma

This motherhood shit is beautiful and it’s hard. No matter how you feed your baby. No matter what diapers you choose. If you stay at home or go to work… it’s beautiful and hard all at the same time. The pressure to breastfeed or bottle feed is just that, outside opinions and pressure. Really, it is a choice. It’s a choice that you are equipped to make. It is a choice that does not define who you are. It is a choice that you can use to prioritize your health and wellness and that of your baby. Feed your baby in the way that works for your family and do not let shame sneak in.

Read More: How to Choose Between Breast and Bottle Feeding (My Zulily Blog Contribution)
Feeding a Baby On the Go (My BabyCenter contribution)

dr browns feeding system bottle for colic
Postpartum, pregnancy

Disappointment as a Mom: How Gender, Birth Plans & Health Impacts New Moms

Gender disappointment and Birth Disappointment

In the taboo ABCs of postpartum D is for disappointment.

Disappointment can come a lot of ways when it comes to being a new mom. And we’re actually going to back this up and even talk about what disappointment can look like in pregnancy. This can impact our confidence and more specifically, our self judgment and criticism as new moms. Moms may feel sad about the outcome of something but those feelings can cause shame.We’re talking about gender disappointment, medical disappointment, and birth disappointment.

Maybe it’s just not being ready to be a mom yet.
Maybe it’s the disappointment of how something has gone differently than the way you anticipated.

The struggle I see here is that we don’t often feel okay to have joy and disappointment coexisting with gratitude. Many new moms have this feeling of grief and disappointment over how something has gone.

Gender Disappointment

Gender disappointment is one that is common one that I experienced myself. I always picture myself as a boy mom. And so when my second turned out to be a girl, for a while, I was disappointed. I couldn’t imagine what that would look like. It wasn’t what I had envisioned for myself. I was excited to have her. I love her to pieces now, but I did feel a little bit of that gender disappointment.

Whether it’s at a gender reveal party, or whether you wait to find the gender of your baby at birth, you can feel this disappointment, probably because you pictured it one way and it turns out to be another. If you really wanted a boy and find out you are having a girl of if you wanted a girl and found out you are having a boy, you can feel sad.

Medical Disappointment

You also may experience disappointment with something medical, maybe you’re in the NICU with your baby. Maybe there was something that became unexpected about your baby, and you’re just feeling this disappointment about things not being the way you pictured. When I gave birth again to my daughter, my first week was spent in the NICU and that is not how I envisioned it, I was disappointed. I was disappointed that there were medical complexities. I was scared, I was nervous. And I was also just feeling this loss of how I envisioned things.

Related: Being a heart mom

Disappointed in Birth Plan Not Happening

You may also experience disappointment about the way your birth went. Perhaps you had a birth experience that was way different than you anticipated. Maybe you planned for a certain way of birth, maybe you had your birth plan, maybe you had everything prepared.
And then it went differently. I hear this often from clients who planned a vaginal delivery had a belly birth (csection). I also hear this from women who planned unmedicated birth and end up with an epidural or other medical interventions. If you feel like your birth plan failed, you can be disappointed by the birth and your birth story.

Related: Hospital Unmedicated Birth Story

How to Address Disappointment in Pregnancy, Birth and Postpartum

So I want to talk about a few ways that we can address disappointment: whether it’s gender disappointment, birth disappointment, medical disappointment, or just circumstantial disappointment. I want to give you three tips on how to handle disappointment, whatever kind you might be facing.

  1. Get it out

One is to find a safe space to get it out of your head, maybe you’ve been carrying this thought and feeling guilty about it or not having a place to put it. This might be trusting in your partner or a good friend or a therapist. And if that doesn’t feel comfortable to you, that’s okay, you can write it out in a private place or find some way to get it from here (your head), out there so that it’s not just swirling around in your brain anymore. So that first step is to find a place to get it out.

2. Make peace with your disappointment and gratitude

Your second step is to tell yourself that it’s okay to have disappointment and gratitude and thankfulness. At the same time, you can be both disappointed and grateful for how things are. Give yourself the space to have both of those experiences at the same time.

3. What is possible because of the disappointment?

And third, I want you to ask yourself, what is possible because of the disappointment. So anytime we are disappointed it’s because something came or is that we didn’t expect so give yourself the space to consider this- write it out or talk about what is able to be because of the disappointment that you faced.

Disappointment is probably more common than you thing. Gender disappointment, circumstantial disappointment, birth, disappointment, all of these things happen because we picture in our head the way things are going to go. We are dreamers and have a vision and maybe sometimes that’s wrapped up in a little anxiety. We have an idea of how we think things will go, how we want them to go and how they should go. And so it’s natural and okay for you to have some disappointment when things don’t match up with the way you want them to. Give it some space. Give it a name. Identify the things that you can feel at the same time and then realize what is and what has come out of that unexpected disappointed experience.

Related: More than a mom

If you need a place to process the changes of new motherhood, a place to say the hard things and connect authentically with others, check out Postpartum Together Small groups. I help women just like you find peace and empowerment in the season after having a baby. I want you to be a confident, connected momma too.

Postpartum

Maternal Ambivalence: Mixed Feelings About Being a New Mom

Am I a Bad Mom for Feeling Maternal Ambivalence?

Do you feel like motherhood is not pure bliss 100% of the time? Is your joy is mixed with resentment and grief? ⁣Do you have 𝘮𝘪𝘹𝘦𝘥 𝘧𝘦𝘦𝘭𝘪𝘯𝘨𝘴 about motherhood? ⁣ Are experiencing maternal ambivalence? What does that mean and what does it say about you as a mother?

If this is you, chances are you feel a sense of shame or guilt about these feelings. It ss easy to feel like you are the only one going through an uncomfortable experience, especially the kind not many people talk openly about. Believe it or not, maternal ambivalence and what you are experiencing is probably more common than you know. This post will discuss what maternal ambivalence is, why you may have mixed feelings about motherhood, whether or not this makes you a bad mom, and how to work through conflicting emotions regarding motherhood.

a is for ambivalence postpartum together postpartum coach

What does Ambivalence Mean?

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, ambivalence means:

having two opposing feelings at the same time, or being uncertain about how you feel.

  • I felt very ambivalent about leaving home.

  • He has fairly ambivalent feelings toward his father

  • She has an ambivalent attitude to exercise

Ambivalence describes this opposition of feelings we can have simultaneously. When we discuss maternal ambivalence, this is the opposing or conflicting feelings regarding motherhood, ones role as a mother, you children, or a mix.

What if I don’t Always Love Motherhood?

It can be hard to say out loud, to say to another person, but likely there are times you don’t love motherhood and things you don’t love about it. Motherhood requires us to continually balance our children’s needs with our own needs for growth.

In a day full of gleeful social media feeds and “good mom” expectations, you might not feel safe in your conflicting feelings. ⁣

Motherhood comes with a long list of things to do, shortened time for the self, and a roller coaster of emotions. ⁣

𝗠𝗮𝘁𝗲𝗿𝗻𝗮𝗹 𝗮𝗺𝗯𝗶𝘃𝗮𝗹𝗲𝗻𝗰𝗲 𝗶𝘀 𝘁𝗵𝗶𝘀 𝗺𝗶𝘅 𝗼𝗳 𝗹𝗼𝘃𝗲 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝘆𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗰𝗵𝗶𝗹𝗱 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝘆𝗲𝘁 𝗮 𝗱𝗶𝘀𝗹𝗶𝗸𝗲 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝗿𝗲𝗮𝗹𝗶𝘁𝗶𝗲𝘀 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗲𝘅𝗽𝗲𝗿𝗶𝗲𝗻𝗰𝗲𝘀.

⁣Maybe someone says birth is “love at first sight” and you are filled with other emotions when your baby is first handed over to you.
Maybe your child’s need is keeping you from a job, a friendship, your partner, quiet time… things that make you feel resentment or anger even though you surely love your child.

Maybe someone says “isn’t motherhood just the best?!” and it leaves you wondering if you’re broken because you don’t always feel that way. ⁣

𝗬𝗼𝘂 𝗮𝗿𝗲𝗻’𝘁 𝗯𝗿𝗼𝗸𝗲𝗻.

The system of unrealistic expectations of the “good mom” is broken and ambivalence can be a very normal part of motherhood. ⁣

There are many things you don’t expect about postpartum, as discussed in the 10 Things No One Tells You About Postpartum, and those things can both take us by surprise and also create negative feelings towards motherhood.

Related: Postpartum Planner

I have Mixed Feelings Because I Miss My Old Life

Motherhood changes everything, and it changes it quickly. Mixed emotions are a part of any big change, yet it seems like with motherhood there isn’t room for these conversations and topics.

I first heard of maternal ambivalence when I was pregnant with my second child and it felt like a relief to learn about. It still felt “icky” and “unpleasant” to consider and I felt guilty even considering it. Heck, even today as I write I feel like there is darkness and guilt tied to thinking about the role ambivalence can play into our motherhood. And yet, the language that gives a name and permission to the resentment, boredom, anxiety in the midst of joy, love and gratitude. The term maternal ambivalence allowed me to realize this wasn’t something flawed in me. It was, and it is, a very natural reaction.

what does it mean if I have mixed feelings about motherhood with a new baby

I love My Baby But I’ve Lost My Identity

When we care deeply about things, we have emotional reactions. For many of us, there are things about ourselves and our reality pre-baby that we love. Maybe you love your career. You love your outings with your best friends. Or maybe you love spontaneous travel with your partner. It could be your love for reading a book in your PJs all weekend.

Then, motherhood hits and things we know, the things we love, are turned upside down. Being sad about the loss of those things doesn’t take away your ability and the reality that you love your child. It means you have mixed emotions worth recognizing.

While you are working through the change of your identity in many ways, you’re now taking on the identity of a mom. The opportunities for judgement and self-doubt run wild in our current society.

How does a good mom feel after birth?
How does she feel about her baby? Herself? Her changed life?
What are the things she does, says and feels that makes her a good mom?

Related: New Baby, Lost Identity

Society And Motherhood: Contributor to Ambivalence?

 Chances are, if you’re a mom, you want to be a good mom.

And truth is there are many messages, marketing structures and stories try to tell you what it means to be “good.” These messages pull you in different directions. The tell you that you need to DO more and BE more and BUY more. They tell you that there are 187 steps to being a good mom and this can set you up for failure. So now, not only have you lost a part of your identity, but society is constantly telling you that you aren’t good enough at this new part of your identity. It is no surprise if you feel anxiety, boredom, guilt and resentment even while feeling connected and loving towards your baby.

In the American society, maternity leave policies suck for the most part. Women are expected to breastfeed, lose the baby weight, get back to sex, pick up their jobs as usual and more in just weeks.
What.
The.
Fresh.
Hell?

Related: Am I Ready for Sex After Baby?

Motherhood and the Workplace

A mom who chooses to breastfeed but has a short maternity leave then often returns to an office with a less-than-accommodating pumping room and judgement for taking pumping breaks. Yet a woman who decides to cease breastfeeding “didn’t try hard enough” to “give her baby the best.” (Quotes indicate society terms, not my beliefs.)

A mom who wants to lie-in and spend time resting and recovering from childbirth is often frowned upon by a society that says you need to get newborn pictures, take your baby to meet the family, join a moms’ group and more before their 2 month birthday.

A mom who decides to heal her body from the inside out- starting with emphasis on pelvic floor and core recovery and “smaller” movements is often preyed on by weight-loss companies urging her to get her “body back.”

And all of these situations create a narrative that you aren’t doing well enough as a mom. How can we blame you, then, when you have ambivalence? When you long for the things you knew how to control, how to do well, and had spent years mastering? When you wanted a break from the pressure, the crying, the needs?

Related: Myths About Motherhood

You Can be A Good Mom and Feel Maternal Ambivalence

You can be a good mom and feel ambivalence. Having conflicting emotions about motherhood does not make you a bad mother. It makes you a human who doesn’t want to lose sight of her own existence and who wants to be able to grow her child and herself. You feel the joy and gratitude of motherhood while also recognizing the difficulty that can come with it. It is okay to recognize the loss of so many comforts and routines you once knew.

Personally, I believe this ambivalence can be recognized, appreciated and serve as a tool in the future. As am ambivalent mother, you have the experience and power to teach your children one day that it’s okay to have conflicting feelings. You can teach them to listen internally and not drown out their own voice. This is an opportunity to teach your children to make choices even when emotions are contradicting. You can teach them that good and bad, negative and positive, can co-exist. You can teach them to care both for themselves and for others even when it’s messy.

Momma- I believe that your ambivalence doesn’t have to take away from your motherhood journey. It can be a powerful part of it.

Postpartum, pregnancy

New Mom Therapist: Guide to Finding a Maternal Therapist You Can Trust

Finding Counseling Support for Perinatal Mental Health: Pregnancy and Postpartum

how to find a therapist when you have a baby

Having a baby changes many areas of your life- it changes your body, your mind, your energy, your relationships, your work, your identity. In the midst of these big transitions, many women benefit from having an outside perspective from a professional maternal health therapist. However, when you are knee-deep in new motherhood, it can be difficult to know where to turn.

If you are currently pregnant, I recommend utilizing a postpartum plan (free checklist download) to make sure you are thinking about your postpartum needs and prepare resources ahead of time.

When I realized I needed therapy, the last thing I wanted to do was reach out and ask friends for recommendations- I didn’t want to start a conversation about what is supposed to be the best time of my life by saying I was struggling and needed help.

Why it Can be Hard to find a Maternal Therapist

My brain was already fried on a daily basis and the thought of researching and looking for a maternal health therapist felt like a job I couldn’t take on. With so many things calling for my time and attention, I struggled to justify using that time for my own needs and care. If you’re feeling this way:

1. You aren’t alone, even when it feels like it
2. I’ve compiled ideas and resources to help ease the journey for you

Related: What Is Maternal Ambivalence?

how to find a therapist after you have a baby

What do you need in a maternal health therapist?

If you are a mother (or pregnant), you want a therapist who is trained in perinatal care. This is important because while not all of your conversations will be about the pregnancy, birth, postpartum journey, there are many changes in a woman during this time that has an impact on experience and you want a professional who understands that. You may also have strong preferences regarding a therapist’s background and areas of expertise.

Is faith important to you in this process? Look for someone who has an aligned faith background.
Does sexuality play a big role in your relationship and life? Find a therapist who has an understanding and an inclusive practice.

Do you have previous trauma that may be forming your life now? You want a therapist who has trauma training.

Not all therapists have the same approaches, values, etc. and you can be selective about what is most important to you.

What logistics do you need to consider when finding a maternal health therapist?

What are your scheduling needs? Are you at home? Will you be returning to work soon? Are you a working mom? Do you have childcare options?

Think about what logistics are non-negotiable and what you can alter in order to make this work. If childcare is an issue, you will want to ask the therapy office if you can bring your baby with you. Perhaps you can ask a friend to swap childcare with you so that you can both have a free afternoon to tend to your own needs. If you’re working or going back to work- what scheduling do you need to consider to make ongoing appointments work?

Would virtual appointments be more well-suited for you than in-person?

Related: Postpartum During Coronavirus


online search for therapist in your area

Where are the trained professionals in your city?

You can use Psychology Today and/or Postpartum Support International to guide your search for a good therapist. 

Using Psychology Today (Specific to United States)

  1. On PsychologyToday.com, enter your city and it will populate a list of therapists

  2. On the left side bar you can filter by specifics.

  3. You want to make sure to filter for “Pregnancy, Prenatal, Postpartum” under “issues.”

  4. On this side bar you can also filter for faith, sexuality, language, therapy type, ect. to increase your chances of having a good fit with your therapist.

  5. Browse therapist profiles- look at their areas of expertise, experience and the language they use to describe their practice.

  6. Look at the therapist accepted insurance plans if you are planning to utilize insurance benefits

  7. If someone feels like a good fit, call and see if he/she is accepting new clients

Related: What Is Postpartum Anxiety?

Using Postpartum Support International (Directions are in US terms, but international support is also available by country)

  1. On Postpartum Support International home page, click the “Find Local Resources” button
  2. Select “United States Map”

  3. Select your state

  4. Find a coordinator in your area

  5. Call and tell them you are looking for a perinatal trained therapist near you. They will help you find someone.

find a therapist trained for postpartum or pregnant women through postpartum support international

Finding a maternal health therapist to help you work through your big life transitions is one of the strongest things you can do. By taking this step you not only help yourself, but you allow yourself to be the best version of YOU for those you love.

If you are pregnant and thinking about your postpartum care and needs- good for you! Preparation and planning is such an important part. Part of my speciality is helping you walk you through the areas of transition. This postpartum planning eCourse was designed to give you a postpartum plan to help you think about what you “don’t know you don’t know” about postpartum, have a support team ready, be proactive in your relationship and more!

how to plan for postpartum- preparing for life after baby
motherhood, Postpartum

Baby Blues or Postpartum Depression? How to Figure Out What You Are Experiencing

How Long do The Baby Blues Last?

How do I know if my wife has depression or the baby blues

So you’ve recently had a baby and the emotions are setting in. Naturally, you’re feeling a lot of things and you might be wondering: “Am I experiencing the baby blues or postpartum depression?”Your life has changed drastically in a short amount of time and your body is also reacting. During pregnancy, your progesterone levels increase up to 200x their baseline levels and when you deliver your placenta, that progesterone is leaving the body causing a steep drop. Sounds a little bit like a roller coaster, right? So if you’re emotionally feeling like a roller coaster, this is probably why and you are not the only one.

How can you tell if what you are experiencing is a “natural” part of the transition of baby from inside to outside of your body and the drastic change in hormones that brings? How can you tell if you need to seek outside help or if this will subside on its own?

What Contributes to Postpartum Mental Wellness?

As mentioned above, there are natural swings in hormone levels when you are pregnant, during birth and after. Your body is changing along with the needs of a growing baby and the transition from inside the body to outside the body. Additionally, starting the process of breast milk production causes hormone fluctuation whether you decide to breastfeed or not. Late in pregnancy, many women struggle to sleep and when the baby arrives, many women experience ongoing sleep deprivation. This lack of sleep can make it harder for hormone levels and emotional responses to return to a baseline level as the brain and body do not experience restorative rest. This means it can take weeks and even months to stabilize.

RELATED: How long is postpartum?

What is Baby Blues?

-Typically within first 1-2 weeks after birth

-Sadness

-Crying

-Irritability

-Trouble Sleeping

-Can see feelings objectively

With baby blues, women can identify that this is temporary and marked by things like lack of sleep, big transitions and hormone shifts. The mom with baby blues recognizes that this is difficult, but knows it will pass and can see things objectively. She feels these things but does not feel that they are all-consuming.

Related: What are the Baby Blues (Zulily contribution)

chart shows difference between postpartum depression and baby blues

What is Postpartum Depression?

-Hopelessness

-Helplessness

-Ongoing crying

-Brain fog

-Rage

-Lack of interest in people or things

-Withdraw

-Difficulty bonding

-Intrusive thoughts (thoughts of harm to self or baby)

The mom who is experiencing postpartum depression will see symptoms beyond the first two weeks. Symptoms may onset after delivery to up to 1 year postpartum. This mom might feel that there is no end to the negative emotions. She feels withdrawn and not interested in people or things she was previously interested in. She may not be able to “find” or recognize herself in the midst of all of the emotions. This mom may have rage she cannot control. In some cases, this mom believes the baby would be better off without her and she struggles with intrusive thoughts of harm.

RELATED: Postpartum Depression and Anxiety Stories

PPD Risk Factors

While there are no guarantees about who will and who will not experience PPD, there are some risk factors that increase your likelihood.

Women who:

-Have a history of mental health disorders

-With a mother/father/grandparent/sibling with a history of a mental health disorder

-Pregnancy, birth, or postpartum medical complications-Mothers with baby in the NICU

-Mothers of baby with colic or medical complexity

-Women with little family/friend/community support

If you are pregnant and know that you are at risk for PPD, Burd Therapy’s Preventing PPD course may be the tool you need.

Everyone Deserves Postpartum Support

Whether you are struggling with baby blues, postpartum depression, or just going through the transition into motherhood, you deserve support and there is no shame in not having it “all together.” No one really has it all together, even if it appears that way on the outside. If you believe you may be struggling with PPD, contact your provider- either your OB or your Primary Care Provider, and tell her how you’re feeling. If possible, find a therapist  who can provide you with a safe space to talk about your transition and feelings. Share your experience with those who are close to you and care about you- many people want to be helpful and supportive and there is no reward for doing it all yourself.

Whether it is medication, therapy, a holistic approach to navigating this new stage, know that help is available and help doesn’t make you weak. As a medication-taking, therapy- going, yoga loving mom who loses her mind without these tools and resources… you’re in good company and no one wins a trophy for not needing help.

RELATED: Postpartum Resources for any mom

Postpartum Stories

Postpartum Anxiety: 8 Things Everyone Needs to Know

Life as a New Mom with Postpartum Anxiety

Celeste shares her journey with postpartum anxiety with us at Postpartum Together. Postpartum anxiety affects approximately 10% of postpartum women. 

only 15% of moms with maternal mental health disorders are diagnosed and therefore received proper treatment

Image credit: www.motherhood-understood.com

8 THINGS I WANT YOU TO KNOW ABOUT POSTPARTUM MOOD DISORDERS (PMADS)- CELESTE’S STORY

I had my baby eight weeks ago and I have Postpartum Anxiety (PPA). Here are eight things that I would like you to know about PMDs and being a new mother:

1) THE TRANSITION INTO MOTHERHOOD IS BLOODY HARD AND THIS ISN’T ACKNOWLEDGED.

For me, becoming a mother is a right of passage and far more challenging and daunting than I had imagined. I have lived, volunteered, and worked in ten countries, as a teacher, janitor, and an organic farmer- and having a baby and recovering from PPA (postpartum anxiety) was one of the hardest things I have done.

It took every ounce of my strength and courage and the learning curve was steep, Now, just two months postpartum, I am more confident in my ability as a mother. I know that every sleep regression and struggle of motherhood has a season- and it will pass. I learned through reaching out for help that I had a community of people who would support me- even if I felt like I was failing as a new mom. Although I am still in recovery, I have grown mightily during the past eight weeks. My experience has felt like becoming a phoenix- I had to walk through the fire to be transformed and remade.

The Early Days of New Motherhood

 When I first became a mom, I felt isolated and was in survival mode. I was not prepared to feel dark and complex emotions. Frequently when I tried to express them, I was met with judgment, shame, and silenced even by people meaning well. I learned to put on a brave smile to family and friends- even for my husband. There began my journey into emotional isolation and the immediate feelings of my inadequacy as a mother.

 Although a new mom may be eager and happy to be a mother, there is nothing to prepare her for all that she will lose. We have no cultural narratives, stories, or rituals to prepare her for this journey. We are a society that largely ignores the pain and challenges of motherhood, and instead, share images of smiling babies who are easy to nurse and rock to sleep in an oh-so-cute nursery. Oppression is achieved by silencing the experiences of a group of people, making them feel isolated, inadequate, or even crazy for what they are feeling.

Failure to Acknowledge New Mother’s Needs

I think our society has silenced the pain and suffering of new mothers because women have historically been seen as emotional and hysterical (in fact, hysteria comes from the Greek root hysteria, meaning ‘uterus.’)l. Women have been labeled as such, so that our pain could be overlooked. The burden and pain of motherhood is not deemed worthy of our attention or resources as a country. The lack of maternal support paid parental leave, and healthcare for moms postpartum are a testimony to this. Moreover, the power of being a woman, someone who births life, could be minimalized and forgotten, pushing the collective power and wisdom of women and mothers to the margins.

 However, we are doing some of the world’s most important and challenging work- cultivating the next generation! I have learned that it is incredibly important for new moms to ask for what she needs, without apology. We need to support and advocate for each other- the road of motherhood is far too burdensome and challenging to walk alone.

RELATED: PMAD Stories From Moms

 2) WE HAVE A LOT TO LEARN ABOUT PMADS.

 I’m grateful to the public awareness campaigns and women who have gone public about their experience with postpartum depression. This lead me to know that it is a real condition that can affect any new mother. We have come a long way, but we’re only beginning to understand PMADs and how to best treat them.

I was not aware, however, that there could be a wide variety of postpartum mood and postpartum anxiety disorders with an even wider variety of symptoms. Understanding the symptoms is important so that signs can be understood and recovery can happen sooner.

Most new moms get the ‘Baby Blues’ in the first two weeks. Baby Blues include restlessness, anxiety, and crying- caused by the hormonal shift post-birth, and arguably the incredible life transition of a new baby and sleepless nights. Baby Blues is a mild and temporary form of depression that evaporates when a mother’s hormones become regulated. PMADs can be more severe and last longer or even start during pregnancy. PMADs include postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, postpartum bipolar, postpartum OCD, postpartum psychosis.

3) IT IS HARD FOR A NEW MOTHER TO ACCEPT SHE HAS A PMAD.

 It took me until I was literally on my knees and unable to cope before I could accept I had PPA (postpartum anxiety). I considered myself a strong, independent, educated, healthy and emotionally intelligent woman.  I had prepared for the journey of motherhood physically, mentally and even spiritually. Surely I would not be a victim of a PMAD!  And yet, I did. I don’t think I could have done anything differently to prevent postpartum anxiety.  It is important for mothers to know that developing a PMAD is never their fault, but they are able to be proactive to overcome it.

Acknowledging the Symptoms of Postpartum Anxiety

I had no idea before giving birth that insomnia and anxiety are classic symptoms of postpartum anxiety. In desperation, I messaged a close friend who is a midwife and she told me that insomnia and anxiety were quintessential PPA symptoms. The realization that I had PPA paralyzed me. I had no idea how or why I had developed postpartum anxiety and I didn’t think I would recover.

I felt completely overwhelmed.
How could I adequately care for my baby?
What did this mean about me as a mother?

My identity and confidence were shattered. Thankfully, I had understanding family and friends, and access to affordable and high-quality health care. Often, it’s the knowledge and support of a new mother’s community- from family to pediatricians- that help a new mother learn and accept that she has a PMAD and access the treatment she needs.

1 in 5 women experience mental health disorder like postpartum depression

Image credit: www.motherhood-understood.com

4) ALL NEW MOTHERS ARE VULNERABLE AND NEED SUPPORT.

I have ridden on the roofs of buses in the mountains of Nepal and slept in huts with spiders the size of my hand, but being a new mom was one of the scariest experiences of my life. Being a new mom and then developing PPA tops the list, second only to burying my mother.

In addition to grappling with a massive life transition and the vulnerability of deeply loving your baby who is so fragile and needy, a PMAD turns your life inside out. Who you used to be, your sense of security and sense of self are utterly transformed. I felt weak and scared, nothing like my usual courageous self. Recovery from PPA has felt like learning how to walk again. I had to gradually rebuild myself from the ground up.

The Support Needed in Postpartum Recovery

Recovering while being so vulnerable and afraid requires a network of support. Support can be created for moms by whoever shows up for them. For me, it was people who could support me without judgment. Friends I rarely ever talked to started reaching out, and this was key. Befriending a mother who had PPA and hearing her story of recovery was extremely helpful and made me feel less isolated, which is fundamental to my healing.

RELATED: Postpartum Resources for Any Mom

5) IT’S HARD FOR A NEW MOTHER TO SPEAK UP AND SHARE HER EXPERIENCE.

As a society, we have come far in our acceptance of mental illness; but society will often blame the victim and our sense of shame can be crippling. It certainly was for me.

Sharing our stories of new motherhood and PMADs is essential to transcending shame and finding self-love. But this is nearly impossible to do. Why? Fear of judgment. We need to listen attentively to new moms and without judgment, without blaming, without interrupting to offer “advice”. We also need to ask the right questions. Questions that don’t only involve the baby, but also the mother.

Questions to ask a New Mom

A mother sharing her experience can start with a simple question, such as: “Are you able to sleep?” “How do you feel?” “Are you overwhelmed?” “What do you need from me?” and “How can I help you?”

The first month, it felt as though everyone was always giving advice and planting words in my mouth:
“Isn’t it the most magical experience!”
“Awww, having a baby is the best thing ever! I miss when my kids were so little!”
“Aren’t you soooooooooooooooooo happy!”
“Make sure you sleep when the baby sleeps!”

It felt impossible to share my true experience because everyone assumed I was over the moon.  This wasn’t the best thing ever, I wasn’t happy. It felt like a nightmare. When society only accepts two feelings from a new mom- love, and gratitude- sharing our authentic experience of new motherhood becomes impossible.

5) MOTHERHOOD IS MESSY- IT’S NOT ALL BABY GIGGLES AND FUZZY BLANKETS.

The transformation into motherhood is hard: it requires suffering, shedding the ego, losing our sense of self and our sense of freedom. It’s okay for a new mom to have negative emotions! We need to accept that motherhood is hard and our response to this new role is complex. Although we may be delighted to be a mother, some of our reactions to this new role can include emotions such as fear, anger, and even grief.

6) POSTPARTUM EMOTIONS AND MOOD DISORDERS ARE TEMPORARY. GETTING HELP HEALS.

The postpartum timeline varies for each mom. Some experience the baby blues for a week, others are in recovery from a PMAD for a year or more. Some develop a PMAD while pregnant, others a year after birth. Just like our birthing stories are different, so are our recovery timelines and journeys. But it is always temporary and it will get better.

During my hardest days of dealing with postpartum anxiety, I felt like I would feel anxious and overwhelmed forever. I didn’t think it was possible to recover. I found relief first through acceptance, but my anxiety spiked before I could accept this as the condition of my mental health. First I had to grieve that my maternity leave and time welcoming my baby into the world was not going to be what I had hoped.

Not How I Expected to Feel

I wasn’t over the moon; I was sad, anxious and afraid.
As a new mom, I had intrusive thoughts that made me question who I was.
I couldn’t sleep when the baby slept, day or night.
My body was still aching from a 30 hour labor.
I was a walking, nonfunctioning zombie.

One morning I had a panic attack. I didn’t know how I could care for the baby while my husband was at work. I was terrified. Only when I was brought to my knees by the gripping anxiety could I accept that I had PPA and needed help.

Postpartum Anxiety Recovery: Get Help and Talk About It

Getting help and talking about my mental health was imperative for my recovery. Apprehensively, I started taking Zoloft and sleep aids. Initially, I was afraid because I was exclusively breastfeeding and I was afraid of how this would impact his neurological development. But every professional I talked to-from a nurse practitioner, clinical therapist, psychologist, and OBGYN- said it was safe and worth it. For me, it was the right choice. Finally sleeping more than an hour at a time made me feel human again. I started feeling the effects of Zoloft after a week. Although I was still anxious, especially at night and in the afternoon, I could smile at my baby and see the light.

RELATED: How to Start Exclusively Pumping (eCourse)

Warrior bracelet from 10th floor treasures

Bracelet: 10th Floor Treasures

7) HAVING A PMD ISN’T THE END OF A MOTHER’S WORLD AND IT’S NEVER HER FAULT 

Developing a Postpartum Mood Disorder can feel like a living nightmare. The key is intervening as soon as possible and getting the help and support you need. Although accepting that you have a PMAD is hard to admit to yourself and to others, it’s the first step of recovery.

Postpartum disorders affect mothers from all walks of life and it is never the mother’s fault.  Needing help does not mean you’re weak, to blame, or selfish. Getting help for a PMAD is no different than getting help for a broken bone.  And every step towards health and healing brings hope, confidence, security. Every time I am able to overcome a fear (which were simple, everyday things, like driving or being alone with my newborn) brought me joy- I knew then that I would recover. Finally, I could see the clouds parting and the sun shining down.

8) MOTHERS ARE LIFE CREATING WARRIORS.  

Now, I know what it means to be a mother- and I know we are life-creating warriors. But even as warriors, mothers still need their tribe.  Being a mother and life-creating warrior is a role learned in real-time, with no previous training. This can be terrifying and overwhelming.

We are vulnerable and we can and should depend on others as we take care of our babies and children. Asking for help doesn’t make us weak, it shows our courage, our strength and our dedication to ourselves and our families.

Postpartum Narrative Contributions

This series, Postpartum Narratives, aims to bring awareness, normalization, and understanding to different postpartum experiences. No two postpartum experiences are the same, and as a society, we cannot have one view of what postpartum is or should be. By sharing stories, we diversify our own understanding and can then advocate for better support and resources for each person and space that affects a postpartum family- the home, the workplace, the medical field, social constructs, etc. if you have a postpartum narrative you would like considered for contribution, please contact me here.

postpartum anxiety pinterest.png

Thank you to Celeste for sharing her story. Every woman’s story is powerful, and when we share and diversify our understanding, we become stronger as women and as a society. If this story resonated with you and you would like to talk more with Celeste, you can contact her via her Instagram.

If you are struggling, help is available. Caring for yourself is essential to care for your baby. You can find a local resource by using the Postpartum Support International directory here. You can also call 1-800-944-4773 for Postpartum Support International Helpline (available in Spanish and English.) *The PSI HelpLine does not handle emergencies. People in crisis should call their local emergency number or the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Support for New Moms

Are you a pregnant or recently postpartum mom looking for a supportive group to connect, process and have safety in the beautiful and difficult parts of early motherhood? Do you like to keep things real and raw and authentic? Do you find yourself wondering if you’re the only one feeling how you do? Are you feeling the pressure of social media and movies saying how we “should” be as moms?


Postpartum Together is a collective of virtual small group experiences that gives you a “home” as a new mom with other women who get it. Get the details and hop on the waitlist before it’s full! Momma- by taking the steps to live in your truth and safely process your transitions, you give yourself and your family the gift of a more confident and connected mom.

Providing free content is a priority at Postpartum Together. This page may contain affiliate links which means, at no additional cost to you, we may receive a commission for your purchase. Don’t worry, we only promote things we believe in because we love you!

Postpartum

Postpartum Resources to Support You in Life After Birth

HELP FOR EVERY POSTPARTUM WOMAN

Have you ever felt alone in your postpartum experience?
Ever wondered if anyone else feels the way you do?
Have you felt not like yourself?
Do you find yourself wishing you could just know that someone sees and understand you?
Are you wondering if there are postpartum resources that can help you in this season?

I get it, this season can fell lonely AF. But truth is, you’re not alone. There are resources to support you, whatever your postpartum needs are.

Medical Disclaimer: All information, content, and material on this website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to serve as a substitute for the consultation, diagnosis, and/or medical treatment of a qualified physician or healthcare provider.

Providing free content is a priority at Postpartum Together. This page may contain affiliate links which means, at no additional cost to you, we may receive a commission for your purchase. Don’t worry, we only promote things we believe in because we love you!

postpartum family help.jpg

Being a New Mom is Hard

It can be a struggle to find helpful postpartum resources. The American society seems to be obsessed with how quickly things can “return to normal” and make it look like transitions and changes are minimal with the addition of a new baby and a family dynamic shift. With quick google searches, you can find all the info about the baby, but all too often it feels like mom is overlooked.

We have resources, apps, classes, and more for pregnancy. We have childbirth classes and ways to practice breathing and visualization during labor and birth. These are great, but what about the hours, days, weeks, months, and years after birth? The postpartum stage is still elusive and unsupported in many ways.

Through conversations and surveys with hundreds of women, the sentiment is the same: Postpartum feels lonely, competitive, and confusing. Women are suffering in many ways because they don’t feel safe to have “imperfect” experiences. Women are suffering because there is growing pressure and not enough support.

RELATED: Where We Learn about Postpartum

FEELING ALONE AFTER BABY?

Momma- I want you to know you aren’t alone. Ever. No matter how it might feel. I want you to know the tears you cry aren’t shameful and the confusion you’re experiencing is okay. I want you to know that even in a society that fills your screen with images that look blissful and perfect, that isn’t the truth. You are already enough. It’s okay if you need more support- honestly, we all do, it’s just that it takes strength and bravery to step out and ask for it. You are strong and can reach out for help.

After my first baby, I didn’t know where to look for resources. I didn’t know where I could turn for a look at honest motherhood and postpartum. (This is why I’m so committed to keeping things real on my own Instagram– not curated beautiful squares.) Personally, I thought I had to fight like hell to have it all “put together” and I was so tired and worn from it.

I don’t want you to be that mom striving for an image that doesn’t bring peace and joy. I don’t want you to be wondering if there is something wrong with you. Never do I want you to feel alone in any struggle. This is why I’m sharing the resources I think EVERY postpartum woman needs to know about- resources for body image, mental health, emotional transitions, and more. Chances are, one (or more) of these resources can bring light to your life, and I want that for you, momma friend!

If we have missed a resource you know of, please let us know so we can add it to the list! We want this to be a comprehensive list that points mommas in the direction they need!

COURSES: PREPARING FOR POSTPARTUM

Preventing Postpartum Depression Course

Abby is a licensed psychotherapist and has been a maternal health professional for over 20 years. Through her work, she saw a need and knew that she had to do more to help. That is why the Prevent Postpartum Depression course was born.

Prevent Postpartum Depression is an online, self-paced course that was designed to help you prepare for a happy and healthy Fourth Trimester. In the course, you will learn the skills and strategies to prevent anxiety and depression during pregnancy and postpartum, in the fourth trimester and beyond.

Navigating Postpartum: An Essential Guide to Mom’s 4th Trimester & Beyond

After taking this program, you’ll have a better understanding of everything you physically, mentally, and emotionally experience during your own postpartum, and a peer support group to help you through every step so that you can navigate the way you’re feeling (whether it’s day 1 or year 1).

DAILY MINDFULNESS APP FOR MOMS

The Kite App

app for new moms -min.png

This app allows you to choose an area you want to focus on regarding mom life and gives you small, daily prompts, and tasks that are manageable during your busy day. Go at your own pace as you focus on topics such as sleep, stress management, relationships, mum guilt, and coping with the juggle- to name just a few.

You may have seen I have recently partnered with Kite to work on developing support kites specifically for postpartum mental health and for fathers. I am currently working on securing partnerships and funding- if you know corporations that may be interested in this, please let me know! 

POSTPARTUM EMPOWERMENT/SUPPORT GROUP COACHING

Postpartum Together

This group is not clinical or medical, but coach-led and created for the mom who wants a space to discuss the parts of postpartum that often go undiscussed and leave us feeling alone. The group addresses physical, mental, emotional, relational, and personal identity transitions in postpartum. This is the space for you to grow through this season of transitions.

Postpartum to Powerful

Group and individual sessions offered. Alternative and holistic approaches to Long Term Healing, Support, and Transformation Programs for Mothers who have experienced PMADs.

Postpartum Resources for Body Image

4th Trimester Bodies Project

This is a real-life look at the bodies of mothers. This project is aimed at normalizing the changed body and restoring pride in what a woman does through the process of pregnancy, birth and postpartum.

Girls Gone Strong

Girls Gone Strong emphasizes the necessary rest and recovery after childbirth. Their approach is nurturing to the new mom and includes taking the time needed instead of rushing back into exercise and diet. They speak to combat society pressures of the “bounce back” and give ways to reconnect with your body.

love my baby but i feel alone as a mom

Postpartum Resources for Maternal Mental Health

DARE Response App

This app was created with techniques and practices to help you overcome anxiety and panic attacks. The format is easy to follow, the guided practices are calming and empowering, and having it as an app on your phone means you can stop and recenter no matter where you are.

The Bloom Foundation

Located in New Jersey, the Bloom Foundation provides in-person support, however, there are amazing resources on their site anyone can benefit from. Their blog and survivor stories are incredibly insightful and normalizing and they have free downloadables to help you navigate your journey.

The Motherhood Center/Scary Mommy Collaboration

Sometimes we need to see other stories to realize we aren’t alone and we aren’t doing it wrong. This is a beautiful collaboration between a center in New York and Scary Mommy. These stories bring to light what we so often leave as taboo.

2020 Mom

A leader in closing gaps in maternal mental health care through education, advocacy, and collaboration. You can find resources, events to be involved in, advocacy opportunities, and more through this site.

Cherished Mom

Cherished Mom works to promote awareness and education for perinatal mental health and the importance of self-care to new moms, families, healthcare professionals, and the community. They provide free self-care boxes to new moms after they view a series of educational videos surrounding perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.

Motherhood Sessions Podcast

This podcast from Dr. Alexandra Sacks, lets you “sit-in” on a therapy session. The conversation exchange between patient and doctor is extremely insightful.

Motherhood Understood

Real talk about postpartum- specifically related to postpartum mental health. Motherhood Understood is a commitment to women’s stories and destigmatizing mental health.

Postpartum Support International

PSI provides resources, directs you to where you can find help locally, and is a leading training agency for postpartum mental health. They have a helpline you can call and be connected to helpful resources. They also provide online support meetings.

Perinatal Psychiatry Programs

If you’re experiencing mental health symptoms and need intensive treatment, there are inpatient and outpatient programs across the country to serve your needs.

If you or someone you know is in crisis or thinking of suicide, get help quickly.

  • Call your doctor.

  • Contact 911 for emergency services or go to the nearest emergency room.

  • Call the toll-free 24-hour hotline of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255); TTY: 1-800-799-4TTY (4889).

Are you currently pregnant and wondering how to prepare for postpartum? I took some of the work of your plate. Grab this Free Postpartum Plan Checklist to make sure you have your bases covered.

postpartum resources pinterest.png

RELATED: Postpartum Together Small Groups

Postpartum, Postpartum Stories

Living with a PMAD After Birth: 5 Women’s Stories

PMAD Stories: Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders

Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMAD) affect over 20% of moms. Surely that is more than one mom that you personally know. However, you might not know that she has struggled because the stigma remains high and the conversation is kept behind closed doors.

The signs and symptoms of postpartum depression, anxiety, and other postpartum mood disorders (see types of disorders here) can be obvious or they can be hidden. The mission to remove maternal mental health stigmas is a very important one. In the depths of new motherhood, the last thing a woman needs to feel is alone.

This site may contain affiliate links to products. This means, at no additional cost to you, I may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

WHAT IS POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION?

infographic for postpartum depression signs, symptoms and treatment

Image via: AHealthBlog

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Postpartum Depression doesn’t feel the same for everyone and can be identified by a number of criteria. We often think of depression as feeling tired, uninterested, and sad. While this can be true, these are not the only markers.

Other presenting symptoms may be irritability, guilt, loss of energy, and more. Because having a baby creates a big shift, it is important to know the distinguishing signs and talk to your medical provider about the severity of your symptoms. While the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale is given at most postnatal checkups, postpartum depression (and other maternal mental health disorders) can present at any time within the first year of postpartum, therefore many women go unidentified and untreated. By raising awareness and sharing stories, we give moms hope support, and encouragement. Remember, HELP is not a bad word. It is a sign of strength!

WHAT IS POSTPARTUM ANXIETY?

Less discussed, but no less important PMAD types are often housed under the “anxiety” diagnosis. More specifically, some women experience postpartum anxiety, OCD, PTSD, or psychosis.

Postpartum Anxiety infographic signs and symptoms

Image: Anxiety Canada

RELATED: Mom’s Story of Postpartum Anxiety

TELLING OUR POSTPARTUM PMAD STORIES

We bring light to one another with our stories, and women have shared their stories in this post in hopes that it will bring normalization and light to other moms. If you or someone you know identifies with the symptoms of Postpartum Depression, reach out (get help here). There is no shame in helping yourself so you can better help your family.

The following is a collection of responses from moms willing to share their experience with Postpartum Depression.

WHAT DID YOU KNOW ABOUT POSTPARTUM MOOD AND ANXIETY DISORDERS (PMAD) PRIOR TO YOUR EXPERIENCE?

  1. I knew about PMAD prior to postpartum in the sense of what they are, however, I didn’t know the reality of them or how common they are. I also really prepared myself and felt prepared for pregnancy and labor but did not feel as prepared for postpartum. I read January Harshe’s book Birth Without Fear pre-birth (and first of all it’s amazing and everyone should read it), which helped open my eyes to postpartum. But the actual reality of postpartum really shocked me. I’m starting to feel human again, my baby is 6 weeks old, and as I reflect on the past 6 weeks it’s been tough, unknown, and scary at times. It’s also been so beautiful and I love being a mom, but mentally and emotionally I was not prepared.

  2. I didn’t know much about postpartum depression going into my first pregnancy. I heard people talk about getting tired, sleep deprived, and having child get on your nerves, but it sounded like the norm. Like it was something every mom dealt with. After my sons birth in 2016, the first couple of weeks were rough but that was because I was breastfeeding and he was eating every 2 hours. I had no time to sleep! My husband and I came up with a night time routine and everything was fine after that. A couple of years later getting pregnant with our little girl, I started to worry how I was going to balance two small children. No one could give me an answer. I kept hearing, “It’s great for your kids because the will have someone to play with so close in age.” But what about me?!

  3. I work in the medical field to we studied PMDs in school so I was aware of them from the stand point of signs/symptoms, diagnosis and treatment. I also knew that I was at risk for a PMD because i have a history of anxiety. I knew that a lot of Moms struggle with PMDs but dont seek help.

  4. I was familiar with postpartum mood disorders, mainly because my twin sister suffered horrible postpartum depression. When I got pregnant, this was a fear of mine, as I’ve struggled with anxiety for my whole teenage/adult life.

  5. I did not know anything about them when I was pregnant or really after

WHAT MADE YOU REALIZE YOU MIGHT HAVE A POSTPARTUM MOOD DISORDER?

  1. I realized I had PMAD when I had a panic attack in the bulk section of my natural food me store. I’ve had anxiety on and off during different seasons of my life and was feeling anxious on and off during early postpartum. Once my mom left and the newborn honeymoon was over (my baby was sleeping for 5 hour stretches for 2 weeks straight, he was never fussy and rarely cried, loved to just hang out and snuggle, self soothed and put himself to sleep if we laid him down etc.

    Once that 3rd week hit all of that changed) I started realizing I was getting anxiety especially during car rides, driving, being out in public on my own, when I wasn’t holding my baby, at night (I kept checking to make sure he was breathing often and not getting much sleep), and if we stayed home for extended amounts of days. My husband and I had been running errands together and the baby fell asleep in the car so my husband stayed with him while I ran into the store. I couldn’t find the one thing I needed and started getting really panicked and then couldn’t breathe and just started crying in the middle of the store for “no reason”. I immediately left and cried all the way home because it was such a scary and unknown feeling. Since I’ve had a few other episodes like that.

    Once I had a second panic attack at takeoff on the plane while traveling with my husband and baby (all I could imagine … and the images were so vivid and clear … was my whole family dying in a plane crash which triggered it), I reached out to my midwife.

  2. Afternoon my daughter was born, I immediately started drinking to cope with the stress. Balancing drinking with breastfeeding was easy with her because she slept longer than my son (4-5 hours). I was angry, short to discipline my son, easily agitated, arguing with my husband, sleep-deprived, and not getting a break. Even when I went back to work, I had to breastfeed every couple of hours therefore my “mommying” never stopped. I knew how I was feeling after birth was different from my son because I couldn’t shake it with a simple schedule change. My life was entirely different.

  3. I realized I have a PMAD because I did not want to leave my baby at home without anyone but myself. Whenever I would leave even to go to the grocery for an hour, I would not be able to focus on what I was doing, my legs would get weak, my heart would race and I would feel nauseated. I cried almost every night, partly due to normal postpartum hormones but I would cry at night before bed out of sheer terror that something would happen to my baby overnight. By the same token, I would fear falling asleep because I did not want to not wake up to my baby if she was in distress.

  4. Luckily I was prepared for the warning signs. Once my baby was born, I had the “normal” crying spells and attributed that to sleep deprivation and hormones. However, when I was having nightly panic attacks and scared to leave the house, and constantly fearing about worst-case-scenarios — I knew my anxiety was back. I also began to feel really sad, mourning my “old self” and wondering if I’ll ever be “myself again”

  5. I didn’t really even know, I just knew I was not okay.

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Source: http://www.stylist.co.uk

WHO WAS YOUR SUPPORT THROUGH POSTPARTUM?

  1. My mom is amazing. She’s a labor and delivery nurse and was present for weeks leading up to my birth, during my birth, and for 2 weeks after my birth. I talk to her on the phone almost everyday and she’s been so honest and open with everything. My midwife and I have a close bond so she has been a big support. And I’ve also been attending a Mother’s support group that is absolutely amazing. The first time I went I cried when I did my check-in because I finally felt normal. So many other women were experiencing the same things I was. I heard other mothers verbalize and really be honest and open I felt so safe and known.

  2. I got untraditional help from a prayer specialist and stopped drinking on New Years’ Eve 2018.

  3. My husband. My sister is also a big support system of mine but I ca not talk to her about these things like I can my husband. She is very “chill” and laid back, not easily stressed.

  4. My husband and my midwife were incredibly supportive. Even with them, though, (and with my knowledge that this is normal) I was nervous to be completely honest in my postpartum evaluation. I felt ashamed for not being 100% thrilled about motherhood.

  5. I am not really sure I had any support. I never really shared where I was or what I was going through. Does anyone ever really understand? I wish my family would have seen the signs.

    RELATED: Postpartum Resources

WAS IT HARD TO SPEAK UP ABOUT NEEDING HELP? WHY?

  1. It was hard to acknowledge that I needed help to myself. I was having so much guilt for my feelings and struggles. We walked along 2 1/2 year walk of infertility and during that time I would have given anything for a baby. I fell pregnant naturally right before starting fertility treatments. It felt/still feels like such a gift that I feel guilty a lot when I’m feeling like it’s so hard or crying or being negative.

    So it was really hard to say to my husband – I need help and it was really emotional at my 6 weeks check-up last week to tell my midwife. I wasn’t scared to tell her and not necessarily ashamed but I acknowledged how guilty I was feeling and was met with a hug and affirmations that I didn’t need to feel guilty and that this was all ok. My brain knows that I’m not my thoughts and anxiety but my body reacts like that and sometimes I feel so out of control of my anxiety it scares me.

  2. It’s still a constant battle dealing with postpartum depression because as moms, we never stop. We have moments where we really kickass and somewhere we beat ourselves up because we didn’t balance our day accordingly. But what I have learned is that we have to ask for help, we have to give ourselves grace, and, most of all, we are not the only ones dealing with this. All moms do in one form or another.

  3. It wasn’t hard to speak up but it was hard to let myself be vulnerable and accept that I may need to ask for help. I am an extremely confident and independent person so to let my guard down was hard. It was also hard to accept that I have a PMAD because of my medical career..you do not want to acknowledge the fact that you HAVE what patients come to you to TREAT. Also, it is the mentality that “I know what this is and what is happening but why can’t I overcome it?”

  4. Somehow I was able to be brave and honest with the questionnaire about PMD- and my midwife was SO understanding. We talked and she wrote me a prescription for breastfeeding-safe anxiety medication/anti-depressant. She talked through my fears of risks associated with breastfeeding and showed me statistics about the safety of the medication she prescribed.

  5. One day I sat in my PCP office and I told her how I had these thoughts of “Well what if a car hit me when I turned at an intersection” or “What if I hit this parked car driving down the road?” One day I very vividly remember thinking if I could just go somewhere like even a hospital for a few days to get away- I told her- and she looked at me- and I never cried or anything. She asked me what stopped me and I said: “ Well, of course, my kids.” She asked if I was okay that day and I said “Yeah, sure” and she immediately prescribed me medication.

HOW DID YOU FIND SOME RELIEF FOR YOU POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION/ANXIETY/OTHER?

  1. I’m still working on relief. I feel like acknowledging it and speaking about it has helped a lot! Also, I started working out again – I worked out often prior to pregnancy and as often as I could throughout my pregnancy. It’s my outlet for stress relief and something I enjoy doing. It makes me feel strong and empowered. I’ve only been to 2 workouts but have noticed such a change in my mental clarity and emotional being after.

    I’m seeking out counseling and have an appointment in the next few weeks. I was prescribed medication – my midwife and I really talked long and hard about it. I told her that I wanted to see how these other things I was implementing helped me and felt comfortable in waiting to take medication until I felt like I needed to. I’ve had anxiety in the past and I know my limits. I don’t suggest this for everyone … but I feel confident in that choice for now because I am an open book with a conversation with my husband and my mom and have a lot of support and a place and multiple people to go to when I feel like I need it.

  2. I got untraditional help from a prayer specialist.

  3. I found relief by talking to my husband. I also was honest with my OB and I am on low dose Zoloft with has been a game-changer.

  4. I’ve only been on medication for about a week now, but am already feeling relieved to have been honest with this experience. Knowing this is normal brought a lot of comforts.

  5. I am not confident I had really ever found relief, it just became more manageable. I came out of the deep depression with better food and exercise but even to this day I still struggle with mom guilt and I do seek counseling for it all.

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WHAT WOULD YOU TELL A NEW MOM ABOUT POSTPARTUM MENTAL HEALTH?

  1. I am very honest with friends who are about to have their first babies when they ask how everything is going. I tell them that I love being a mom and I love my baby more than anything but that I’ve been struggling a lot. I tell them about the support group I go to and how important it is to have support.

    I tell them that if they have struggled to please be honest and reach out. I tell them that all those feelings and emotions are ok and that they aren’t in our control. I remind my friends with babies now that they are the best mom to their baby and to fight the need to feel perfect and meet the standards and expectations of others. And to ask for help – ask for help holding the baby so you can have 5 minutes alone, or ask for help around the house, or with other everyday tasks, etc.

  2. We have moments where we really kickass and somewhere we beat ourselves up because we didn’t balance our day accordingly. But what I have learned is that we have to ask for help, we have to give ourselves grace, and, most of all, we are not the only ones dealing with this.

  3. It is ok to ask for help. Were tough but the emotions and stress of motherhood is A LOT for anyone to handle. Do not let something get in the way of the happiness and joy and new memories to be made with your baby. Also, the concept and risk factors for SIDS are HAMMERED into your head in the hospital before discharge..follow the recommendations and it will be OK. I did and still do obsess over the temperature in the bedroom and making sure my baby is breathing but if you are following the rules your baby will be OK!

  4. I want a new mother to know PMDs are NORMAL and to be brave and honest in their postpartum evaluation. In fact, reach out sooner than your 4-6 week follow up if you are concerned. Your doctor/midwife/OB will be glad to help— they won’t judge you 🙂

  5. I would and have told a mom to not be a hero and ask for help. Be okay and don’t rush. It’s like empathy vs sympathy and somethings can’t be understood until they experience it.

WHAT DO YOU WANT SOCIETY TO KNOW ABOUT MATERNAL MENTAL HEALTH?

  1. I wish more women would be more honest and didn’t feel like they had to mask postpartum struggles and disorders. I wish society wouldn’t pressure me into feeling the need to be perfect or meet standards or expectations. I wish people would stop asking me how my baby sleeps and then making me feel bad when I tell them he wakes up every 2 hours to eat … he’s 6 weeks old and is a freaking baby!

    I wish people would ask me … how are you doing and take the time to listen and actually act on being supportive- bring me a coffee, come hold my baby so I can enjoy a hot shower AND wash my hair and shave my legs in the same shower session, drop off a meal at my door, etc.

  2. All moms face this in one form or another.

  3. Motherhood and the postpartum phase isn’t all glamorous Instagram pics and full nights of sleep. It’s hard, it’s scary, it’s a lot of work for everyone involved. Women are ALLOWED to struggle and ask for help. Women are ALLOWED to break down and be vulnerable. Let’s support these women. I am by no means a feminist but unless you have a baby and have experienced postpartum ANYTHING, you cannot possibly understand so educate yourself.

    Offer a hand or an ear to a new mom. Don’t offer to watch the baby so mom can “sleep” because what mom is going to be able to sleep while someone who doesn’t know anything about their brand new baby babysits? Offer to do the dishes, vacuum, take the dog for a walk, go to the grocery.

  4. I want society to realize how common postpartum mood disorders are, to de-stigmatize them, so ultimately women feel more comfortable getting the support they need.

  5. That this is real and there is help- too many women have too much pressure and not enough support in postpartum.

RELATED: Why Mom Guilt is Bullshit

Image: AHN Women

Image: AHN Women

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RELATED: Preventing PPD (eCourse)

What’s your story momma?

What do you want moms and/or society to know about Postpartum Mood Disorders and Maternal Mental Health?

Keep the conversation going in the comments. Share this with loved ones so they don’t feel alone. If you’re currently pregnant and wondering how to prepare for your postpartum, I took some of the work off your plate with this Free Postpartum Plan Checklist.

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