When moms are unable to bond with their infants in the postpartum period

Moms bonding with baby postpartum

A mother-infant bond takes time to develop after birth, and sometimes requires help for this to happen

Violet (not her real name) remembers vividly her pregnancy journey and birth experience. She recalls with nostalgia, the excitement she had when she saw the two lines on the pregnancy test. Almost immediately, she began fantasizing about the small onesies, the colourful bibs, the stocking up of diapers and the love that would surround her once her beautiful baby arrived.

As time went by, Violet could not help it. She was so excited and couldn’t wait to see her baby’s face. She imagined how she’d arrive in hospital looking prim and proper, have a seamless birth and leave looking just as beautiful with her tiny tot swaddled in warm blankets. She imagined getting home, looking at baby lovingly and rocking him to sleep on quiet nights.

A few days before her EDD, Violet went into labour and gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. The moment he was placed in her arms, Violet shared, she felt an odd sensation. She didn’t feel that magical bond on first sight. “I was grateful to have had a safe birth, but when he was placed in my arms, I was shocked that the mythical magical bond was just not there. It felt odd, because while everyone was gushing about how adorable he was, I was frightened on the inside. He looked so small, and I wondered how my life would change with him in it.”

Violet would go on to get discharged from hospital and fight with the thought that she found it hard to bond with her baby. “Where was that instant bond I thought I would have with my son? How come I was struggling at the time? I did not hate my baby, I just couldn’t create the bond I always fantasized about when I was pregnant,” she disclosed.

Read More: The Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression

Postpartum bonding, according to the Baby Center website, refers to the strong attachment a new mom develops with her baby. It makes a new mom want to show love and affection to her baby. It is what would make a mom take a bullet for her baby.

For some moms, this happens immediately after birth when the baby is handed over for skin-to-skin contact. For other moms, it takes a few days after birth, and yet for others a little longer than that, sometimes running up to a month or so postpartum. Part of the reason for this is that mother-infant bonding is an individual experience. It is an unfolding process because both the new mom and newborn are learning on the go.

The new mom is learning to nurse, to lull the baby to sleep, to care for the baby and even create a distinction between different cries- discomfort cries, I-need-to-be-changed cry, pain cries, hunger cries and everything in between. The new baby on the other hand, is adjusting to life outside the comfort of the womb. This can be exhausting, and may slow down the process of bonding.

In addition to this, some moms who are unable to bond with their babies may be suffering from Postpartum Depression (PPD). Often linked to the sudden drop in hormonal levels, PPD, combined with the stress of been a new mom therefore, makes it harder for moms to bond with the baby. Other related symptoms include:

  • a sense of hopelessness that the inability to bond with baby will last forever
  • Anxiety that a poor bond makes one a bad mom
  • Withdrawal from social circles and events such as baby showers and kids’ birthdays
  • Feeling overwhelmed especially after using social media where the images painted of new moms reflect the magical bond
  • Excessive moodiness
  • In some cases, thoughts of causing harm to the mom/ the baby

Read More: Symptoms of Postpartum Depression – What to look out for

If you feel like you may be suffering from Postpartum Depression, or know someone who shows any of the aforementioned symptoms, it is important to get help right away. Please reach out to us using the ‘Contact Form’ tab or call using the number on the top right of this page.

Violet went on to get help to assist her with her motherhood experience, alongside the support offered by her partner and family. Below are some suggestions to help new moms bond with their baby. While this is not a magic formula, it does help ease the journey.

  • Take time for skin-to-skin contact during cuddle time as this is both soothing and relaxing for the baby.
  • Breastfeeding often has also been shown to enhance wellness and allow feelings of attachment for the mom.
  • Look into the baby’s eyes, as you talk and sing to him. Play with him daily to help forge the bond. Some moms will find that reading also helps with bonding.
  • If you can, carry the baby in a front carrier to allow physical closeness.
  • Join a new mommy group to help you through the journey, and you will be amazed at how many other moms feel the same way you do.

When should you be concerned?

Many new moms tend to create wonderful bonds with their babies over a period of time. If, however, after a couple of weeks, you do not feel more attached than you did after birth, it is important to talk to someone. Remember, postpartum bonding is an individual experience, and if you are worried you may be suffering from PPD, there is no shame in asking for help.

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Project Baby Shower (PBS) – a befitting gift for every mom- and dad-to-be.

Project Baby Shower

Baby showers are a wonderful way to celebrate the impending birth of a new baby with the mom-to-be. They bring together family and friends to, not just present gifts to the baby, but more importantly, create a sense of community around the new mom. We are well aware that, for new moms and dads, parenting can be an incredibly lonely journey. That is why family and friends rally around the new parents ahead of delivery. For the most part, baby showers have achieved that, but as time goes by, many are now realizing that baby showers can be an avenue to provide insightful information on the dynamics around childbirth and parenting.

Read More: 8 things I wish I knew while I was pregnant

This is exactly what the wonderful team at Mother Care Africa has done. The team organized Project Baby Shower (PBS), an event that brings together pregnant women and their partners for a day to discuss different topics on child birth and beyond. Some of the topics include Postpartum Depression (PPD), Labour and Birth Preparation (Lamaze), breastfeeding, practical babycare as well as a Q & A session for each of the aforementioned segments. Our founder, Samoina, will be speaking on Postpartum Depression during the event, alongside other wonderful speakers including a midwife/doula and lactation expert.

Additional benefits of attending the event include the chance to form friendships with other moms- and dads- to be, creating networks with different professionals and journeying through parenting together. If you know a relative, friend or even you are expecting, this is a perfect gift. The information shared during the sessions allows better understanding about child birth and beyond. Best of all, it is open for everyone, whether one is getting their first baby or their fourth, at whatever stage of their pregnancy. For more details, get in touch with Waithera on 0721 634 048.

More details on the poster below.While at it, check out our Events page here.

Project Baby Shower

When: Saturday 14th July 2018
Time:  9AM to 4PM
Where: Along Ngong Rd, Do call Waithera on 0721 634 048 for details
Cost: 3000 for moms-to-be and 2500 for dads-to-be (Payable on MPESA)
RSVP Required

 

 

 

 

 

Risk Factors of Postpartum Depression

Postpartum Depression (PPD) is one of the most common maternal mental illnesses. Research shows that PPD affects 20% of women after child birth, with higher rates in developing countries such as Kenya. In recent years, PPD has received a lot more attention, but the illnesses remain prevalent and untreated for the most part. This is why creating awareness and reducing the stigma of PPD is important. If you missed our last tweetchat on The Baby Blues and PPD, you can read it here.

Risk factors, just as the name suggests, refers to factors that increase the likelihood of a mom developing PPD. That is, what makes it more likely for mom A to get PPD and not mom B. The precise cause of PPD remains unclear, but it is thought to be linked to the sharp drop in hormone levels after childbirth. When this happens, alongside any of the risk factors mentioned below, then it means a mom is more likely to get PPD.

Read More: Symptoms of Postpartum Depression

One of the greatest risk factors for PPD is a history of depression and mental illness. Moms who have suffered depression before, or have lived with a mental illness are more likely to get PPD considering the physical and emotional changes that accompany pregnancy and child birth. Pregnancy depression, also known as antenatal depression, also increases the chances of PPD significantly, particularly in cases where it is left untreated.

Moms struggling with addiction to substance and alcohol abuse are also at a higher risk of PPD. This is because substances and alcohol may cause chemical changes in the brain, thus predisposing moms to the maternal mental illness. What’s more, addictions interfere with a mom’s ability to take care of themselves and the baby, increasing the intensity of the changes around the new mom.

Lack of support and/or prolonged isolation makes it easy for moms to develop Postpartum Depression. Without a solid support system to help a mom cope with the drastic changes following delivery, many new moms feel alone, isolated and often, overwhelmed. This is also the case for moms, especially young moms who get rejected by their families and/or father of their children.

Financial constraints/ lack of a job also increases the risk of PPD, for the simple reason that raising a child requires financial resources. From the cost of delivering to diapers, clinics, formula and everything in between, it is obvious that lack of money makes it harder for moms to adjust and certainly increases the likelihood of them developing PPD.

Read More: 10 things NOT to tell someone who is suicidal (and what you can say instead)

Major life events around the time of pregnancy and childbirth may also contribute to PPD. This is because they cause a major upheaval which adds on to the stress of raising a newborn (which is, in itself a major upheaval). Such life events include, but are not limited to job loss, buying a house, death of a loved one, divorce, relocating to a new town/country and the sudden change from a working mom to staying at home to take care of baby.

Moms who experience breastfeeding challenges are also more likely to get PPD, particularly in a society where there’s immense pressure to breastfeed. While we are cognizant of the amazing benefits of breastfeeding, the truth is that not all moms can do it for a myriad of reasons (from medication to low milk production and terminal illness among others). With societal expectations that all moms should be able to breastfeed, it is little wonder that those who are unable to feel ashamed, and feel like they have failed their babies. This also ties in with the high cost of formula which, in cases of moms with no financial resources, may be out of reach, further increasing the chances of Postpartum Depression. It is important too, to mention that Breastfeeding has great benefits, but moms need to remember too, that is OKAY to supplement with formula.

Pregnancy complications such as Placenta previa, Hyperemesis Gravidarum, Pre-eclampsia among others may lead to a traumatic birth experience which in turn is likely to contribute to PPD in new moms. This is also seen in moms who get multiples (twins, triplets, quadruplets etc), moms who get babies with special needs as well as those who have gotten kids following a miscarriage or infertility treatment.

It is important to remember that these are risk factors, and just because a mom has any of them does not necessarily mean she MUST get PPD. More importantly however, if you show any of these factors, it helps to speak to your doctor, gynae or midwife while still pregnant. This helps you to prepare for the journey, plan ahead and get medical treatment if necessary. Remember, PPD is treatable and you will be okay when you get help.

NOTE: PPDKenya is making a call out for moms with PPD, for those who would love to get therapy in a support group setting. We understand what you are going through and we will link you up with professionals who can help. More details here.

The Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression – What You Need to Know

One of the many questions we have received on our social media pages revolve around the baby blues and postpartum depression. Moms have reached out wanting to know whether there’s a difference between the two, and the need to ask for help. In line with our mission to raise awareness and reduce stigma on Postpartum depression (PPD), we had this topic for our second bi-monthly tweetchats. We defined the two conditions, looked at their symptoms as well as outlined the differences between the two (Find link to thread attached below, alongside our social media pages).

The baby blues, also referred to as postpartum baby blues, refer to a mild condition that many new moms will experience in the days following child birth. This condition is characterized by mood swings, crying spells, difficulty sleeping as well as an overall sense of fatigue as moms adjust to their new role of taking care of the baby.

Research shows that upto 80% of new moms struggle with the baby blues, usually beginning a day or two after birth. The precise cause of baby blues is unknown, but it is thought to be linked to the sudden drop in reproductive hormones after a baby is born. During pregnancy, progesterone hormone is at an all-time high, and this plummets immediately after birth. These chemical changes are thought to trigger mood swings as seen during baby blues.

The most important thing to remember about baby blues is that they are mild and shortlived, usually going away on their own after about a week or two. As such, they do not require any treatment.

PPD on the other hand, is a maternal mental health illness that affects up to 20% of new moms. According to research findings,PPD is the result of a complex interplay of genetics, sudden hormonal changes and external risk factors that lead to one of the most common maternal mental illnesses.

Genetics come in where some moms are predisposed to PPD because someone in the family – a mom, aunty, sister, cousin or gramdmother – suffered the same form of depression. This is also seen in cases where family members live with a mental illness such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or OCD among others.

Sudden hormonal changes on the other hand, also play a role in moms who develop PPD. As mentioned above, the sudden changes in hormonal levels leads to chemical changes in the brain, and this is a risk factor for Depression.

External risk factors refer to a myriad of issues or stressors that may place a given mom at a higher risk of PPD than another. these stressors include, but are not limited to previous child loss, an unwanted/unplanned pregnancy, financial constraints, a traumatic birth experience and lack of a support system. Delivering a child with special needs has also been known to predispose moms to PPD.

In addition to this, new moms are constantly exhausted and suffer great sleep deprivation. This often causes physical pain and fatigue which makes it incredibly challenging to take care of a newborn. Many moms will admit that the changes in sleep patterns, coupled with the healing after birth (whether from natural delivery or a CSection) can worsen the symptoms of depression.

In contrast with baby blues, PPD is more severe, has more intense symptoms, lasts a longer period (up to one year after delivery) and will often require treatment to help a mom recover. the image below outlines the key differences between baby blues and PPD.

Baby blues are mild, short-lived and will usually go away on their own. PPD on the other hand, is more intense, lasts up to one year after delivery and will require treatment for moms to recover. More information on ppdkenya.com
the difference between baby blues and PPD

The most important thing for moms to remember is that it is not a fault of theirs that they struggle with maternal mental illness. PPD can affect any mom regardless of their social status/ age/ religion/ race/ sexual orientation/ marital status. There’s hope and affected moms need not struggle alone. Please reach out to us on email (ppdkenya@gmail.com) and we will help you get the help you need. We also run support groups in Nairobi (presently), and you can read more about that here.

Below are snippets of our second tweetchat on baby blues and PPD. Get the whole thread here, and while at it, please follow us too 🙂

 

We started our bimonthly PPDKenya tweetchats!

PPDKenya tweetchat

We are excited to share that we began our bimonthly tweetchats this past week. In line with our mission to raise awareness and reduce the stigma associated with maternal mental health in Kenya, the tweetchats will be centered around the same, with focus on postpartum depression, The bimonthly chats, which will be held every other Wednesday from 1:30-2:30PM EAT will cover an array of topics, from the symptoms, to risk factors, treatment options, importance of support groups and self care among others. From time to time, we will also bring on board professionals who will steer the discussions as regards PPD and issues such as breastfeeding, body image, relationships and infertility. We look forward to having everyone of our readers on board.

Follow us on Twitter: @PPDKenya

Join in using #PPDKenya

aaaaaand, in case you missed it, here are snapshots of our first tweetchat whose topic was Maternal Mental Health Illnesses. Follow the thread on this tweet for the whole chat.

We looked at six illnesses under maternal mental health care, including Antenatal depression, Postpartum Depression, Postpartum Anxiety, Postpartum OCD, Bipolar disorder, peripartum onset and Postpartum Psychosis. This chat broadly covered the symptoms and treatment options, and we shall delve deeper in weeks to come.

And a reminder:

Please do not be afraid to reach out, Get in touch with us, we run support group therapy and have contacts of health professionals who can help you. Details for our next tweetchat below:

PPDKenya tweetchatDate: Wednesday 30th May 2018, from 1:30PM EAT

Topic: Postpartum Depression  & Baby Blues

 

 

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