Quick Facts: Postpartum Depression

When speaking to my family and friends about postpartum depression (PPD) I realized that not only did I put on a great facade, but many of them had no idea how to truly recognize something wasn’t quite right with me. I’ve decided to share what I’ve found on Mayo Clinic regarding the matter so that it can help all who are interested. In my own experience, it is very scary and embarrassing admitting to having postpartum depression. Especially if it’s not your first baby. I personally felt that people may have felt like I was being dramatic and claiming depression simply because I was a little stressed.

If you are a mother or the loved one of a mother who has had a baby within 0-2 years, I advise you to take her symptoms and cries serious. She may not experience each symptom so you have to be aware of them all. Support her, love her, listen to her, help her. Screen Shot 2019-02-23 at 12.41.48 AM

There are many factors that play into a mother experiencing postpartum depression, but the most common are the physical changes that take place after the birth of her child and emotional issues. On the physical spectrum, when a mother gives birth, there is an extreme drop in her hormones that can lead to PPD. Emotionally; “sleep deprivation, feeling overwhelmed, less attractive, struggling with sense of identity or feeling like she’s lost control of her life can all contribute to postpartum depression.”

Per Mayo Clinic:

“Any new mom can experience postpartum depression and it can develop after the birth of any child, not just the first. Her risk increases if:

  • She has a history of depression, either during pregnancy or at other times.
  • She has bipolar disorder.
  • She had postpartum depression after a previous pregnancy.
  • She has family members who’ve had depression or other mood disorders.
  • She’s experienced stressful events during the past year, such as pregnancy complications, illness or job loss.
  • Her baby has health problems or other special needs.
  • She has twins, triplets or other multiple births.
  • She has difficulty breast-feeding.
  • She’s having problems in your relationship with your spouse or significant other.
  • She has a weak support system.
  • She has financial problems.
  • The pregnancy was unplanned or unwanted.

Must-Haves For A Successful Breastfeeding Experience

My breastfeeding journey started 7 years ago. My first try only lasted for 4.5 months, so I considered it a fail. My goal was 6 months to a year. I had fallen short. At that time I didn’t commend myself for going as long as I did because my focus was solely on the fact that I hadn’t reached my goal. I couldn’t help but think of all the things I could have done differently. So I vowed to do as much research as I could so that I would be prepared for my next child. When that time came, I took a breastfeeding and newborn basics class. I learned SO much and was very prepared for my next experience.

If you’re a new mom, or a repeat mom, you may encounter mothers who say “uggh I would never breastfeed, it hurts too bad.” You may have family who says “That baby isn’t eating enough by just drinking your breast milk.” Then you may join a mom group in person or on social media that makes the breastfeeding journey seem like it is the easiest and most satisfying thing. The truth is, breastfeeding has both negative and positive experiences. Breastfeeding hurts you mentally, physically and emotionally at times, but it  is also the best thing in the world seeing your baby grow, thrive and reach milestones off of your body alone! Everyone has their own way of making breastfeeding work for them and their baby, but here is a list of things that has helped me on my journey.

  • RESEARCH– Many women make the mistake of waiting until they have their baby to learn how to breastfeed. While there are lactation consultants in the hospital, you need to know what you’re getting yourself into before delivery. Most of the times, the hospital’s LC is making rounds to all the moms and you never know how long it may be before she gets to you. You need to understand how breastfeeding works and what your purpose is before beginning this journey. When you do your research, you are able to identify when things are going right and wrong. You’re able to work through the tough times a little easier when you understand what is going on. You are also able to recognize when it’s time to seek help when you’ve run into an issue that you have no idea to how to fix. Take classes, watch videos, etc.
  • LACTATION CONSULTANT– Find a lactation specialist/consultant in your area and visit them prior to having your baby. They are there to answer any questions you may have ahead of time, teach you nursing positions, teach you about the proper diet, warning signs, good signs and more. It’s great to build a relationship with them so that you are comfortable to reach out during your breastfeeding journey if you should ever run into an issue.
  • COCONUT OIL– Many women love lanolin or other nipple creams, but I love coconut oil. It’s natural with no added ingredients. It also works as an anti-fungal cream and can help prevent thrush on baby’s tongue or your nipple. HOWEVER, you can also save money by using your milk! Just express a little and rub it on your nipples to help with cracks, dryness, sensitivity and pain. Using your breastmilk also helps your baby to smell and latch when putting them to the breast.
  • SUPPORT SYSTEM– Please make sure you have a core individual or group around you that supports you, breastfeeding and your journey. Make sure they are attending as many classes they can with you. Take them research and talk about it with them so that they are knowledgeable. Make sure they view breastfeeding as something positive and are willing to motivate and support you when things are getting rough. Make sure they are supportive enough to advocate for you if there was ever an issue with your pediatrician or a stranger who has something smart to say out of their mouth when you’re nursing in public. If you didn’t have a doula during birth or don’t have a support person or team, hire a postpartum doula. I talk about the benefits of one in my post 10 Reasons to Hire a Doula.
  • NETFLIX/HULU- Mam! Cluster feeding during your breastfeeding journey is very real and you need to be prepared! They happen during growth spurts, but you can also experience it during teething or when baby is feeling ill. Find you a nice show or Netflix series to watch and binge! Some of my faves are Sons of Anarchy, Orange is the New Black, Grace & Frankie, New Girl, Jane the Virgin, Somewhere In Between, Revenge, Scandal, How To Get Away With Murder and 7 Seconds. You can never go wrong with Law & Order: SVU either. Hulu has great shows as well. I love watching Food Network, movies and the show Black-ish on there.
  • HEALTHY MEALS/SNACKS– I don’t know about you, but breastfeeding makes me HUNGRY! It’s because feeding your hungry baby is burning calories. No matter how much you want to crush a bag of chips or some cookies, try to fill yourself up on healthy foods and snacks. Fruits, veggies, nuts, salads (spinach based) and oatmeal are some of my favorites! Smoothies are also a great choice. I’ll be honest and say that I definitely choose some unhealthy pleasurable snacks and foods at times lol.
  • WATER- Water should have been your bestfriend during pregnancy, and it’ll need to be attached to your hip during breastfeeding. You may wake up in the middle of the night like you haven’t had anything to drink in over a week. Staying hydrated is important in our every day lives, but it is also vital to a successful breastfeeding journey. Breastfeeding is more of a supply and demand process (the more you nurse baby, the more your breasts will produce milk), but if you do not have the proper water intake you risk depleting your milk supply.
  • CONFIDENCE/DRIVE– Confidence is key. You have to be confident that you are doing a great job. That your baby is growing. That your nipples will be ok. That you are the best mother to your child. When breastfeeding gets hard, you begin to feel weak and question if you should continue. You wonder why you did it in the first place. You have to be confident in your purpose and have the drive to push forward and through the hard times. You’ve got this mama!
  • KNOWLEDGE ABOUT PUMPING AND PACIFIERS- Breastfeeding is extremely demanding and causes sleep deprivation, lack of self-care, or the ability to have down time. Having dad or your support system to feed baby breastmilk from the bottle may seem like your saving grace, but hold on. You may want to give the baby a pacifier because you need something else to sooth him/her, but please wait. Please do not introduce another nipple to your baby until after 4 weeks if you want to continue to breastfeed. Introducing a nipple too early can cause nipple confusion. Of course pacifiers work for some babies, but you don’t want to take that risk of ending your breastfeeding journey early. If you want someone else to feed the baby, hand express into a little medicine cup or use a spoon to feed the baby. Also, pumping before 4 weeks increases your chance of getting mastitis. In the first month, your baby will continue to nurse every 2 hours, or as little as 30 minutes when cluster feeding. Through this, your baby is regulating how much milk should be produced. Pumping tells your breast that the baby needs more milk, so you’ll produce more milk. This will cause an oversupply and painful engorgement resulting in mastitis. You’ll have a painful knot in your breast(s) and experience flu-like symptoms. I hear it’s extremely painful. Outside of whatever the doctor prescribes you, you will still need to nurse baby so that they can get your boobies back in order. Try your hardest to wait until your baby is a month old before introducing a pacifier or bottle.

I find this list pretty neutral and usable for all moms, but it’s a different experience for every mother. I realize that some mothers go back to work and need to pump. I don’t have experience tandem feeding a newborn and toddler, or with twins. I also have no experience with nursing after a c-section. Those mothers must-haves may be different. My must-haves have helped me to go 14 months strong (and counting) thus far. I wish you the best of luck on your journey and hope you send that same energy my way as I search for a must-haves list on how to ween a baby from breastfeeding lol.

Breastfeed Here, Breastfeed There, I’ll Breastfeed Everywhere!

Except for the bathroom… or a closet. I would never nurse my child in those places. It’s unfortunate however that many people in the world are so against breastfeeding that they’d rather a mother take their child into a public bathroom and nurse. I guess it’s extremely difficult to turn your head and continue to mind your business on this strange planet called Earth.

I wrote a blog titled To Cover Up or Not to Cover up? back in January when my youngest daughter Jayla was three months old. I was still getting the hang of the new mom life for the second time, and was in the early stages of breastfeeding. I became engulfed with all things motherhood and breastfeeding. One thing I found myself uncomfortable with was nursing without a cover. I didn’t disagree with women who chose not to cover, I just preferred to keep myself and daughter covered. It gave us as much privacy as we could have in public.

I had no idea what would transpire only five months after I wrote that post. Jayla turned eight months and grew irritated with being covered. Partially because of the Summer heat, majority of it being because she needed to see my face and feel my skin. She and I would go back and forth playing “tug of war” with the cover the entire time we nursed in public. I would be embarrassed each time my breast was exposed. I didn’t want any negative attention or encounters. I had been reading about so many terrible experiences women were having while breastfeeding in public places, and was also witnessing pictures and videos going viral of women being shamed for breastfeeding in public. More specifically, the black woman who was breastfeeding her child uncovered on the airplane.  I was appalled that someone would find her nursing her child uncovered disgusting, but had no issue with recording her baby and bare breast. To top it off, the video went viral.

I didn’t want that to happen to me. I wasn’t totally confident in myself or my breastfeeding journey. Although it had been eight months, it was still new to me. It’s new each month I go on because it’s a month longer than I expected I would nurse. I had to get my mind right QUICK because Jayla wasn’t in the mood to give me a grace period. So I upped the ante on the amount of breastfeeding pages that I followed on Instagram, and  joined a breastfeeding support group on Facebook to surround myself around women who were on the same journey as me. These women were unashamed of their purpose no matter the size of their breast and the setting where a feeding would take place. I grew to feel empowered.

I had to “get rid of my stinkin’ thinkin'” and remember my purpose is to provide for my daughter in the most natural way that I can. My breastfeeding journey doesn’t need to be a stressful one because of my fear of stares or negative comments. My baby needs her mother’s milk. I refuse to walk down the formula aisle at the grocery store losing my hair over the prices when I already produce milk for free. I remember that feeling when Taniya was younger.

Once I refocused and got inline with my vision for my mothering and breastfeeding journey, I began to see more positive breastfeeding posts and experiences. Definitely had to change my perspective in order to see this. I began to see animals of all sorts, which is as natural as it gets, breastfeeding their young. Monkeys, dogs, pigs, bears and more. During one of Taniya’s science classes in homeschooling, we learned about the blue whale. I was amazed to learn that baby blue whales, mammals just like humans, survive only on their mother’s milk for their first year of life, gaining about 200 pounds each day. I was getting reminders during a homeschool lesson! Not only is breastfeeding beautiful in all forms, but a reminder that our babies can definitely survive off of our breastmilk and be ok without anything else for the first year of life. I am now 1 year and 2 weeks strong on my breastfeeding journey. I thought I would stop at 1 year, but it didn’t happen that way.

Now I don’t just whip my breast out while I’m walking down the grocery store aisle, but I would do it if I need to. Nurse and continue to shop like I intended on doing in the first place. I’m learning that I can’t let motherhood stop me from doing what I set out to do. I’ve breastfed in the gym in between workouts, before I went out on my high school’s track to do an alumni cheerleading performance and more. Amazingly, I’ve received such beautiful feedback. An older woman at my high school’s homecoming football game said, “I just want to tell you that you are doing an amazing job! You are out here doing your thing. One moment I saw you breastfeeding your baby, the next you’re out their cheering like you’re still in school.” That same day my mother said, “I’ve noticed that you’re much more comfortable with feeding Jayla in public now. I’m proud of you for being confident. I know that’s been a struggle for you.” My heart was so full.

I am still the mother who enjoys privacy when she breastfeeds though. One because I just love peace and quiet when I’m nursing because it’s calming for me, but two because toddlers are extremely distracted. I can’t count the amount of times Jayla has snatched off my breast to see what was going on wasting precious milk. So when an establishment has a room designated for breastfeeding mothers, I’m in there! If there’s no room, I’m nursing proudly and confidently. Restaurants, my car, the gym, the mall, football games, dentist offices, doesn’t matter. In Dr. Seuss’ voice, I’ll breastfeed here, I’ll breastfeed there, I’ll breastfeed anywhere.

I hope other mothers who are experiencing shame, embarrassment and fear of negative responses read this and leave with an understanding that your responsibility is to your child, not the comfort of others. If you are the friend or family member to a breastfeeding mother, please continue to support her and uplift her on this journey. She’s doing the best she can. She doesn’t need to hear your comments about how HER child is ready for cow’s milk or formula. Or how HER child is too old to still be breastfeeding. If you’re a stranger and you see a woman breastfeeding and it makes you uncomfortable…. turn your head, and mind your business like a normal functioning adult. Most likely, you’re making that woman uncomfortable and staring for long periods of time only makes you come off as a perv.