Your long-awaited baby has been born and you should be happy, but for some reason you feel gloomy and irritable...
Is this the maternity blues you often hear about?
Or is it just child-rearing stress?
Are those 2 different to begin with?
What is Maternity Blues?
When you hear the term maternity blues, many people may think it's only a mental problem.
Actually, it's something closely related to the changes of the body after birth.
It's something that can happen to anyone, and it's nothing special at all, so rest assured.
What does it do to you?
For some reason, you feel depressed, or you're irritable. You may feel an intense urge to cry, or you may be unable to sleep well. Starting right after birth for about 3-4 weeks, mama may feel insecure or frantic for no reason, or her mood may be unstable. But it's a postpartum physiological change that can happen to anyone, and it's temporary, so it's important not to think too much about it.
Why does it occur?
The female hormones that were secreted in large quantities during pregnancy decrease rapidly after childbirth. The fact that this change in female hormones is somehow affecting your mental condition is said to be the cause. Insecurity about your radically changing lifestyle may be affecting things in some cases, but once your hormone balance settles down, it gets better naturally for most people.
Is it different from child-rearing stress?
The biggest cause of maternity blues is the change in the hormone balance, but the unfamiliar stress of child-rearing, including the exhaustion caused by lack of sleep due to nighttime feedings, may heighten the symptoms. So the two are not necessarily unrelated. To avoid getting stressed out, be mindful of ways where you can release that stress well.
What should I do if I get the maternity blues?
What if you can't find the drive to take care of your baby, or you're endlessly crying rivers of tears?
What should you do if you find yourself in that condition?
It's temporary, so get some rest
It's affected by your hormone balance, so it's something many people suffer from to some extent. Don't beat yourself up with thinking things like, "Am I strange to be like this when I've just had a baby?" Tell yourself that, "This is just the way it is now," and don't overdo it. Get plenty of rest, and reduce your emotional burden. That will help you recover.
Get people around you to help
If you bear your insecurities alone, you'll just get more and more depressed. Talking to others will make you feel better. With child-rearing, trying to do it perfectly will lead to stress, so every once in a while get your family to help so you can have a change of pace. Relying on the kindness of others is just what you need to do right now.
What should I do if it's prolonged?
Maternity blues is a temporary condition, so usually it will get better naturally over time. If your mood is still unstable more than 4 weeks after birth, consult with your doctor about it during your child's checkup, etc. Just discussing it may make you feel better. Instead of thinking too much, try moving straight to action.
Alleviate child-rearing stress
First, things Mummy can do
Even after the maternity blues period is over, there are lots of things that can irritate you in the still-unfamiliar routine of child-rearing and your radically changed lifestyle.
But the most important thing for baby is to see mama there with a smile on her face.
For your baby's sake, you'll want to do a good job of releasing stress.
First, we'll introduce some ways of alleviating stress that you can do all by yourself.
What works will be different from one person to the next, so use the following as examples, and find the method that works to bring a smile to your face!
Don't seek perfection
If you try to do housework and child-rearing perfectly, the burden will grow larger and larger and cause you to become tired both physically and mentally. In order not to get tired from child-rearing, it's important to tell yourself, "that will do"! When mama is tired, rely on ready-made meals, and if your home is a little dirty, just shut your eyes to it.
A baby's job is to cry. When your baby cries, as long as you call out to him "just a minute," it's ok not to rush to his side. Instead of doing things perfectly, find the "that will do" that works for you. A mother who is relax and enjoys life is sure to make a baby happier!
Sleep as much as possible
Until baby settles into a daily rhythm, you'll be awakened in the middle of the night by his cries, so most mothers tend to suffer from lack of sleep. But if you don't get enough sleep, you'll start to suffer physically and feel depressed. If you can't sleep soundly at night, be mindful of getting as much as sleep as you can by taking naps together with the baby during the day.
Make friends with other mamas
Having mama friends who share the same concerns can be invaluable. Even for things you were troubling over alone, the feeling that in fact you're all in it together is something only mama friends can provide. Be active about going out to places where other mamas gather, and make friends with like-minded mamas. You could get acquainted at a children's center or a child-rearing support center, etc., or there are lots of cases these days where mamas meet and become friends via an Internet SNS (social networking service). However, if making mama friends puts pressure on you or ends up causing you stress, there's no need to push yourself.
Make baby's sleep time your refresh time!
Baby's sleep time is mama's time to relax. You probably spend that time on the housework that's piling up, but every once in a while why not use it to refresh yourself? Try to do something you enjoy, such as listening to your favorite music in another room or reading a magazine or book. One recommendation is to watch an emotional movie or drama on DVD, etc., and cry your eyes out. Tears are said to be very effective at alleviating stress!
Amid your busy daily life, reward yourself a little for working so hard. Get an expensive delivery food for your luxurious lunch time, or buy a bag you've been wanting on the Internet. You could also pester daddy for things like home appliances that will make housework easier. If it will make mama feel better, daddy's sure to approve!
Starting to work is another method
If you're tired and stressed out from child-rearing, starting to work is another option. If you put baby in a daycare, the time you can spend with him will be shorter, but both baby and mama will come to cherish the time you can spend together, and some say they've found a good balance this way.
Alleviate child-rearing stress
Don't do things alone
If you try to do it all yourself, you're sure to end up getting stressed out.
Child-rearing is not something to do alone.
Don't overdo it; get those around to help!
Work together with Daddy
The baby belongs to the both of you, so get Daddy to participate in child-rearing with you. You could decide on a division of duties, such as Daddy with bath duties, or on Saturdays have Daddy care for baby while Mummy goes shopping with friends. If you can get even a little cooperation in giving you make some time for herself, it will make you feel a lot better.
So what should you do to get yourself to participate in child-rearing cheerfully when he's tired from work?
Ask nicely and praise daddy
What Mummy really wants is for Daddy to help of his own free will, without having to be asked. But even if Daddy feels like helping with housework and child-rearing, in many cases he has no idea what to do. Daddy is even newer at this than Mummy is. Tell him specifically what you want him to do, and teach him how to do it.
Also, ask him gently to divide the duties, such as, "While I'm hanging the laundry, it would be really helpful if you'd run the vacuum cleaner." And when he helps, express your appreciation with a "Thank you." Also, don't forget to praise him with comments such as, "You're really good at feeding the baby!" That should boost daddy's motivation dramatically!
What if Daddy's work keeps him busy?
You may feel bad about asking Daddy for help if his work keeps him busy, but the baby belongs to the both of you. Even if he doesn't come home while the baby's awake, just asking him to take the garbage out in the morning lightens Mummy's burden.
The most important thing you can get daddy to do is to listen to mama talk. Things are hard for Daddy, but they're hard for you, too. Even just by chatting for a few minutes a day about each other's circumstances and feelings, you keeps stress from building up. Make a promise as a couple to make time for conversation by saying, "Let me talk to you about what the baby did today."
When you can rely on your parents, do so
Grandpa and Grandma enjoy spending time with their grandchild. For those who are in an environment where they can rely on their parents, or when you return to your hometown or your parents come to visit, rely on their kindness without hesitation. Every once in a while, you could even have them watch baby while you go for a date with Daddy.
And when you've refreshed yourself, don't forget to express thanks. Every once in a while, it might be good to prepare a hospitality gift to express your appreciation. Also, Grandpa and Grandma have lots more experience than the both of you. They're probably happy to give advice on child-rearing. And when you're impressed with their way of holding or soothing baby, for example, make a point of saying so out loud. Building a friendly relationship will make it easier to ask for help the next time.
Use a day-care service
As the low birthrate and the trend toward the nuclear family progress, there are more and more mamas who don't have anyone around to rely on. Being swamped with child-rearing by yourself 24 hours a day will inevitably lead to stress. Every once in a while, have a babysitter or daycare center watch the baby, and go alleviate some stress! Some areas have public child-rearing support centers that are free or very low-cost. Ask at your local government office. Even privately-owned services are reasonably priced if you're just leaving baby 1-2 hours. In that time, just going to a beauty salon would be a nice change of pace.
Don't hold it in; let it all out!
If you let stress pile up, it will get progressively worse. Try venting your feelings from time to time with Daddy, with friends, with your parents -- anyone is fine. In a surprising number of cases, just talking will help you feel refreshed. When you simply can't find someone to vent to, there are facilities such as child-rearing support centers that can discuss things with you by telephone, so we recommend you try using that.
As the trend toward nuclear families progresses, the burden for child-rearing is increasingly borne solely by the mother. When you're troubling over something alone, it makes it difficult to find solutions. In any case, not getting down in the dumps all alone is a shortcut to alleviating stress.
As mentioned earlier, the most important thing is to "return to the starting point that the baby is for both parents to raise as a couple." The fact that Japanese men spend too little time on child-rearing is a big problem. Talking about it with Daddy is the first step toward making Mummy feel better.
But ways of alleviating stress vary from one person to the next. Try not just one but several of the methods mentioned above and find what way of alleviating stress works for you.
update : 19.09.2017
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