Self-care While Taking Care of Baby

image: Madison Inouye, Pexels.

The first days with your new baby are wonderful, exciting and rewarding, but can also be some of the most uncertain, scary and challenging. As taking care of your little one takes the forefront, self-care often moves to the back burner. In the first 11 months with my daughter, I learned that life with baby looks very different than it did before and I’m working on integrating quick self-care into my life. Here are six quick tips for integrating self-care into your routine while taking care of your little one:

  1. Take a shower or bath.
    • This one seems so simple, yet it can be incredibly difficult to actually fit one in with attending your baby’s needs around the clock. I tend to feel like a new woman after a hot shower, even if it’s a quick one.
  2. Get outside!
    • If the weather allows, take some time outside for fresh air. Take a walk to the mailbox or around the house if you’re not able to make it to a destination spot. Even 10 minutes makes a big difference. Your baby will appreciate it, too.
  3. Connect with friends.
    • Though some existing friendships may change post-baby, others may strengthen, and new ones may form. Parenting on an island is tough; the phrase “It takes a village” came about for a reason! Having someone close to confide in helps, no matter what season of life your baby is in. The Beaumont Parenting Program can be a great way to forge new friendships with parents of children close in age with yours!
  4. Think about what you loved to do pre-baby. If it’s possible, work that back into your life, even if it’s “baby” steps.
    • Time at the gym may be tough to do now, but a good start may be to take your baby for a walk in the park. If you liked reading previously, join a book club and try to get in 10 minutes of reading before bed. Though it can be challenging to do as much or in the same way as before baby, it helps for self-care and love!
  5. Date night (or day!)
    • Time out with your partner can also go on the back burner once your bundle of joy arrives. When you feel comfortable leaving your little one in the hands of a trusted friend or family member for a couple of hours, make time for a date night. If possible, I found that one of these a month can make a big difference! Although your beloved baby may be front-of-mind, try to talk about other topics with your partner.
  6. Make a solo errands run.
    • A quick hour with both hands to run errands can be refreshing, too. Once in awhile, I find an errands run by myself is very helpful for self-care. At the same time, it helps check some things off your to-do list!

What are some of the self-care tips you have for new parents? Share them below!

– Kylie Coury is a Parenting Program volunteer with a 1-year-old daughter and another baby on the way. She enjoys time with her husband and little one, and has appreciated all of the new connections and adventures in this season of life.

Postpartum depression and anxiety in the digital age

woman on computer with phone

Social media and the internet have become our “go tos” in accessing news and information. However, this instant connection has created unique pressures for parents. From monitoring screen time, reading the latest parenting research, and scrolling newsfeeds filled with creative birth announcements, extravagant first birthday parties, and family vacations, these digital tools can make any parent feel overwhelmed – especially new mothers.

For mothers who are at risk of or are experiencing postpartum depression (PPD) and anxiety, social media and the internet can be quite conflicting. While there are benefits, these tools can exacerbate feelings of isolation and internal stress. Two examples:

  1. The façade of perfectionism and “comparison culture”

Newsfeeds offer a seemingly endless stream of opportunities to compare ourselves to others. For a woman who experiences irrational and distorted thoughts that can accompany PPD and anxiety, scrolling through photographs of happy-faced couples, parents and smiling babies can reignite feelings of shame and guilt or cause her to unnecessarily compare her situation to others. “What is wrong with me?” “Why am I failing at being a mother?” “Why can’t I be my normal self?” “Why am I not connecting with my baby?!”

  1. Cyberchondria

Many women experience intrusive thoughts related to baby’s health during pregnancy and postpartum. Unfortunately, catastrophic thoughts can spiral when a mom attempts to seek reassurance from WebMD and other medical websites. Some health professionals refer to this as “cyberchondria.” It is important that parents try to avoid self-diagnosing and reach out to trained medical and perinatal mental health professionals with questions and concerns.

Signs and symptoms

Self-doubt, irritability and tearfulness can be very normal during the two weeks following birth, and a certain level of emotional conflict can be expected from triggered hormones and sleep deprivation.

Between 70 and 80 percent of women experience the “baby blues” while adjusting to motherhood. However, not all women will experience postpartum depression and anxiety. Symptoms vary in severity and can gradually start and last months.

Some common symptoms of PPD include increased feelings of isolation, the inability to feel motivated to get dressed or get out of bed, uncontrollable crying, anxiety and panic attacks, and emotional numbness. If depressive symptoms persist after a few weeks, it’s essential to connect with a trusted family member, friend, OB-GYN, doula, or mental health professional. It really is never too early to gain support.

What to do

So is social media the enemy for a mother feeling lonely or vulnerable?

Absolutely not! There is great value in connecting online with other parents who can relate and provide advice, support and validation. Embrace the age of social media while also being aware of the risks. Join supportive motherhood forums and groups that avoid shaming. Recognize when the support from parenthood Facebook groups and blogs aren’t enough and when individual therapy and support groups may be the next needed step in healing.

Supportive Web-based resources

  • Social forums, mommy blogs, and websites such as LittleGuide Detroit are excellent tools to connect with other parents in the metropolitan Detroit region to gain valuable resources. Participate in forums where you feel connected and supported.
  • Be intentional with your use of social media and technology. Use creative apps, such as Peanut, that allow you to gain new connections and meet up with other mothers in your local area. Adjusting to parenthood can be lonely. Companionship and social connections are very helpful in managing depression and anxiety.
  • Apps that offer guided meditations and promote mindfulness can also ease anxiety and depressive symptoms. Take the time to breathe! Calm is one app to consider.
  • Check out podcasts that offer insightful perspectives from experts on issues related to infertility, pregnancy, loss and postpartum like Mom & Mind Podcast.

Tips

  • Women shouldn’t feel ashamed if antidepressants are a part of their treatment plan. Obtain the facts from your OB-GYN and lactation consultant about the use of medications.
  • Remember how powerful physical activity is in combating depression and anxiety. Force yourself to get outside and walk if weather permits. Many health professionals also suggest the use of omega-3 fatty acids can help improve depressive symptoms.
  • A mental health professional or an in-person support group provides postpartum adjustment support and treatment. Formal groups, such as Beaumont Postpartum Adjustment Support Groups, offer free weekly support and education to parents.

– Kristen Salem Carney is a local mom and Beaumont Parenting Program volunteer. As a licensed therapist, she provides counseling services to adolescents and adults in addition to treating mothers experiencing perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.

Every body deserves a massage

back massage

What do you think of when you think “massage”? A luxury during vacation? A day at the spa? Training for athletes? Received during physical therapy after an injury?

Did you know the whole family can use massage? From infants to parents, massage has many benefits to help the entire family.

Massage is a holistic modality that can be adjusted for all family members. Adjustments can include duration, pressure, positioning or focus. Research supports massage for health and wellness, as well as an evidence-based procedure for many health conditions.

Infants

Infant massage can be performed by a licensed massage therapist or by the parents. It is recommended to create a routine and massage your baby several times a week at the same time (e.g., after bath, before bedtime, etc.). Some benefits your baby may receive include:

  • Improved sleep
  • Weight gain in premature births
  • A strong parent-baby bonding
  • Improved motor-development

Children

Toddlers to pre-teens can benefit from massage for wellness or to help treat a specific condition. Often these sessions, like infant massage, are shortened to 15 to 20 minutes to start, and increase to 30 minutes. Benefits can include:

  • A better mood
  • Helping children relax
  • Learning about safe touch
  • Improved mind clarity

Teens

Teenagers can benefit from a wide range of benefits from massage. Whether your teenager is preparing for an exam, starting to play organized sports, or simply coping with being a teenager, massage is a great choice. Your teen may receive benefits like:

  • A decrease in headaches
  • Reduced stress from school, peers and test anxiety
  • An improved positive body image
  • Prevention of athletic injuries and an increased range of motion

Adults

We don’t want to forget about mom and dad. Whether a parent is looking to reduce stress or treat a health condition massage may be the answer.

  • Reduced stress and anxiety
  • Improved sleep
  • Treatment for headaches and migraines, reducing the number of headaches and/or the severity
  • Increased range of motion
  • Decreased muscle pain

Choosing the right type

Don’t think of massage as just a “splurge” while on vacation. Massage can be a part of your family’s wellness routine or can address many conditions like headaches, fibromyalgia, oncology and arthritis. Which type of massage is right for you?

  • Clinical massage – from relaxation to area or condition specific
  • Cranial sacral therapy – a light-touch therapy that helps the body return to balance
  • Hot stone massage – heated stones to relieve stress in many layers of the body
  • Hydrotherapy – warm and cool towels used in improve circulation of blood and lymph
  • Indian head massage – an ancient technique uses massage and energy balancing along with warm oil
  • Lymphatic wellness treatment – helps renew energy and promotes a healthy immune system
  • Massage cupping – negative pressure to help reduce scar tissue and adhesions
  • Neuromuscular therapy – decrease trigger points to improve function and decrease muscle pain
  • Oncology massage – can reduce the many side effects of the treatment of cancer

Making an appointment

Beaumont Integrative Medicine offers clinical massage in Grosse Pointe, Royal Oak, Troy and West Bloomfield. Call 248-964-9200 and mention this article to receive $10 off your next massage appointment. This offer expires December 31, 2018. For more information visit us online.

Karen Armstrong, LMT, BCTMB is the manager of Clinical Massage at Beaumont Health, which includes four outpatient clinics covering three campuses.  She also manages Beaumont’s nationally recognized oncology and hospital massage program.

Hey, we’re in this together! A reminder for new parents

woman with arms around man

Unaltered image. Ashley Webb, Flickr. CC license.

Your baby is finally here and your dream of being parents finally came true. Sure, this is something the two of you excitedly dreamed and talked about for so long, but now that baby arrived, you may find yourselves feeling unhappy and disillusioned. Maybe you and your partner are feeling distant from each other when you thought a baby would bring you closer. What’s going on?

Most importantly, know that you aren’t alone. Research conducted by Dr. John Gottman, a renowned couple’s therapist and researcher, found that two-thirds of couples report increased conflict and decreased relationship satisfaction after the birth of their first baby. It can be one of the most stressful times for a couple’s relationship.

It’s been said that having a first baby is like throwing a hand grenade into a marriage. Those sweet little babies explode into our hearts and lives; they are the center of our world and the subject of almost all conversations. As a result, becoming new parents is one of the happiest times of our lives, while simultaneously being one of the hardest.

Those first weeks often leave parents feeling scared, clueless and exhausted. Many parents are overwhelmed with the endless work caring for an infant brings. They feel angry and betrayed when their partner doesn’t help out more or seem to care about them or their needs anymore. Parents often take their disappointment and frustration out on each other. Even a strong relationship can be severely strained during this transition time.

So what can couples do to lessen the conflict between them and improve their relationship as they adjust to becoming parents? Here some suggestions to help you keep your relationship positive and strong.

Communication is key

  • Talk to each other. Tell your partner how you’re feeling and what changes would help you feel better. Be sure to avoid criticisms and attacking language, such as using “always” and “never,” which only escalate conflicts. For example, stay away from statements like, “You never help out around here,” or “You’re always late coming home.” When partners hear things like this, they only think about defending themselves instead of truly listening to what you’re saying.
  • Listen. Really, truly listen to your partner’s concerns. Try not to become defensive with each other and instead, look at things from a problem-solving perspective.
  • Be understanding. Make the time and effort to find out what’s going on in your partner’s world from his/her perspective. For example, new moms are biologically hardwired to focus on caring for their newborns and don’t stop to think about how that feels to her partner. While moms don’t intent to exclude or ignore, it is often how dads feel. As a consequence, dads can act out their anger and frustration at feeling left out.

Define a new normal for awhile

  • Welcome help and support. It is perfectly appropriate to ask for and accept help from others. Families used to live in the same area generation after generation, and these relatives helped while first-time parents adjusted to their new roles. That’s often not true today. Instead, accept help from friends, family, co-workers, your religious organization, or community programs that offer it. Ask for help if needed. There is no gold star given for doing it alone.
  • Lower your expectations. It’s OK to let household chores slide or not cook homemade meals. As new parents, your focus should be on caring for baby and taking care of yourselves, which includes getting adequate sleep and bonding as a family. Some other things may need to lapse temporarily and that’s fine. As children grow and parents adjust, these things will once again be addressed.

Returning to work

  • Establish a new routine. Once one or both parents return to work, give yourselves time to work out a new routine. Review it every few weeks and adjust it as needed so that it works for both of you. Understand that finding what works for you both make take some trial and error and it will be unique to your situation.
  • Divide and conquer. Work out a division of labor that seems equitable to both of you. Caring for children, especially infants, is very work intensive. Arguments about “who does what” are common causes of relationship problems for new parents. Find solutions that work for you both then follow through on your part of it. Agree to tweak it as you find what works and what doesn’t.

Appreciate each other

  • Check-in daily. Make time to touch base with your partner daily, even if it’s only 5 minutes. Listen to his/her concerns and be supportive, but don’t try to solve the problems. Sometimes we all need to just vent and know that our partner is there for us. The biggest connections between partners can come from the small moments of feeling heard and valued.
  • Small gestures matter. Leave a note or send a text letting your partner know you’re thinking of them. Thank them for doing something helpful especially when you didn’t even have to ask. Let them know what a great mom or dad they are already. Even a small thing will show that you still love and appreciate your partner.
  • Make time for yourself. Give each other some “me” time on a regular basis, in a way that feels fair to both of you. We all need some time to ourselves to recharge and to stay connected to the person we were before becoming a parent. Revisit your arrangement and adjust it as needed.
  • Time together is important, too. Schedule some time together on a regular basis to have some fun. Too often couples become consumed by the demands of working and parenthood and they neglect each other. Make having fun together a priority!
  • Schedule time for intimacy. No, it doesn’t sound romantic, but with the busy life of new parents, it’s often schedule time for this or it never happens. It’s important to remember that you are both not just parents; you are the partners who fell in love enough to create a family together. Take the time to continue letting your partner know how special he/she is to you and how much you still value them as a person and as a partner.

And remember: Keep your sense of humor! Sometimes the way we look at things and the attitude we take makes all the difference between a big fight and a good laugh!

– Karen Duffy, LPC, NCC is an IFS coordinator with the Beaumont Parenting Program

Even dads get the blues: Postpartum depression in men

silhouette of man with head down

Having a baby is an amazing and wonderful experience, but it can also be overwhelming and stressful. No matter how much moms and dads prepare for the day when they bring their little bundle of joy home, parents can still be shocked by the reality of life with a new baby. It can take time to find the family’s new groove.

This can be complicated further with the addition of the most common complication of childbirth: postpartum depression (PPD). A whopping 10 to 20 percent of new moms will experience PPD and/or postpartum anxiety, and that is only the number of moms who report it!

But what about the dads? Does PPD only affect moms? The answer to that is no. Research is showing that up to 14 percent of new dads in the United States (compared to 10 percent internationally) experience paternal postpartum depression (PPPD).

The symptoms may differ from traditional depression symptoms, making PPPD challenging to diagnose. These symptoms may include:

  • Irritability isolating or withdrawing from relationships
  • Working a lot more or less
  • Low energy
  • Fatigue
  • Low motivation
  • Poor concentration
  • Changes in weight or appetite
  • Impulsivity
  • Risk-taking behaviors, often including turning to substances (e.g., alcohol, prescription drugs, etc.)
  • Physical symptoms (e.g., headaches, muscle aches, stomach/digestion issues, etc.)
  • Anger and outbursts
  • Violent behavior
  • Suicidal thoughts

Untreated depression in dads can have incredibly negative effects in many aspects of life, including impacting their children. Depressed dads are more likely to be stressed out and neglectful, as well as more likely to spank their children and less likely to read/interact with them, all of which can cause long-term consequences for their kids (Nauert, 2015).

The good news is, much like maternal PPD, paternal PPD is easily treatable. If you or someone you know may be experiencing PPPD it’s important to get help. The sooner treatment starts, the sooner you’ll enjoy your new family and be the dad you always wanted to be! For more information please check out these websites:

– Raelle Plante, MSW, Postpartum Adjustment Coordinator with the Parenting Program at Beaumont, Troy

References: