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Prioritizing Postpartum Mental Well-Being: A Therapist’s Insights

Hello! My name is Chrissy Lawler, and I am SO excited to share some valuable insights about postpartum mental health! Let me introduce myself…

I’m a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and have been practicing for over 13 years. I focused my graduate education on researching attachment, and my post-graduate education on understanding the science of sleep alongside what it takes for women to thrive in motherhood. I believe that we should feel empowered and fulfilled in motherhood!

I became so passionate about postpartum mental well-being after having my own experiences with postpartum anxiety and depression. I know that when we have the right tools, there 100% can be joy in motherhood.

In this blog post, I’m going to dive into these five tried and true things you can do to prioritize your postpartum well-being:

1. Let Go of The “Shoulds”
2. Don’t Be Afraid to Set Boundaries
3. Understand The Importance of Sleep
4. Keep Your Battery Full
5. Figure Out What You Need And How to Ask For It

Let Go of The “Shoulds”

Those first few weeks with your newborn are quite the whirlwind. There are SO many emotions – so many ups and downs. And SO many “shoulds.” One of my biggest pieces of advice for postpartum moms is to let go of the “shoulds”…and give yourself some grace!

Remember to take care of yourself and focus on finding your groove as you get to know your precious new baby. Do what makes you feel OKAY.

While you are adjusting to life with your new baby and recovering from everything your body and mind went through, do what works for you, makes you happy, and helps you feel more at peace. Know that this is going to look different for everyone!

Don’t Be Afraid to Set Boundaries

Having a new baby generally means that, suddenly, everyone in your life is going to be super excited…especially to meet a new little one.

I need you to remember something…this is YOUR baby and YOUR postpartum journey. YOU get to set and hold your own boundaries. 

This could look like…

  • Asking people to please wash their hands before touching and/or holding your baby
  • Ducking out of an outing a little early to avoid feeling overstimulated and overwhelmed (both you and your baby!)
  • Not feeling pressured to engage in any conversations about your baby’s sleep or developmental progress. Sometimes it IS okay to just talk about the weather!
  • Saying “no”. You do not owe anyone an explanation for why you don’t want to pass your baby over to someone else, stretch your baby’s wake window, etc.

You deserve more than anyone else to enjoy sharing the excitement of your new baby and still hold the boundaries that feel right to you at the same time.

Understand the Importance of Sleep

New moms get it more than anyone else – getting sleep makes a world of difference. The truth is, it is NOT possible to be sleep-deprived and optimally joyful at the same time. If you are not thriving, you NEED to start with sleep!

One of my favorite podcasts is called “Huberman Lab.” In it, Andrew Huberman (a neuroscientist and professor at Stanford University) often shares super valuable information about the importance of sleep:

“Regular, sufficient amounts of deep sleep each night are going to be important for all aspects of mental health, physical health, and performance.” – Andrew Huberman, Ph.D.

If you are like the majority of parents, you might not be sleeping well because your little one is not sleeping well. I want you to know that you don’t have to just accept it and try to get used to surviving off of inadequate sleep. Better sleep IS possible – there are experts who can help! It doesn’t take a therapist to understand that the quality of your sleep is directly related to that of your new baby’s sleep. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics published a study of over 700 Australian mothers who had found a relationship between their infant’s sleep issues and their own postpartum depression. The mothers who had reported an infant sleep problem were over twice as likely to also have significant symptoms of depression. However, those who did get good sleep were not likely to experience those symptoms of depression.

The bottom line is that sleep is closely tied to our well-being; especially during postpartum. On top of that, how can we expect moms to be sleep-deprived AND feel 100% in motherhood?! We can’t. The best thing you can be for your children is well.

Keep Your Battery Full

One of the secrets to postpartum mental well-being is to take care of YOU! The more you are thriving, the better off your children will be.

Pay attention to your body for cues – what drains your battery? What recharges it? Do one thing for yourself each day. Pick something that makes you feel like YOU and try to do it each and every day. It could be something as simple as getting dressed for the day, mixing your favorite drink each morning, going for a quick walk out in nature, etc. Whatever you choose, staying consistent with it and adding it to your daily routine can really help!

Another thing you can try is getting out of the house. It is too easy to get cabin fever during postpartum. Sometimes we don’t even realize it’s happening. Getting out of the house can be simple, and you can take your new baby and other children with you! After having each of my daughters, some of my go-to’s included going on a walk with a friend, going through a favorite drive-through, or even just going out for a little drive.

As much as you can, try to let others in if that helps recharge your battery. Whether it’s your partner, a parent, or your best friend…let others help you and be there for you. It may be only for a few minutes a day, but you still need meaningful adult connection for your postpartum mental well-being.

Figure Out What You Need and How to Ask For it

Self-awareness is key! And we can’t expect others to read our minds. We have to learn to be okay with getting what we want even if we have to ask for it. The idea that we shouldn’t have to ask for what we want shoots us in the foot every. Single. Time.

Everyone’s postpartum journey is unique, and there is no one-size-fits-all “need” for every single mom out there. This is why it can be helpful to find the specifics of your needs as you navigate seeking help. As a therapist, here are some tips on how to ask for help:

  • Recognize what you need. It can be a lot easier to ask for help if you know where you need support. Maybe a specific need of yours is better sleep for you AND your baby… You can talk to a pediatric sleep consultant to support you in getting your baby’s (and yours!) sleep back on track.
  • Know that you are allowed to ask for help. Repeat after me… “I am worthy of being taken care of!”
  • Ask for help nicely and give grace. Communication is key! Your biggest supporters are more likely to be receptive when you kindly express your needs to them. Remember what I said earlier about expecting others to read our minds? No matter how well-intentioned they are, they won’t be able to read your mind.
  • Reach out BEFORE you feel upset and deprived. Please do not wait until your tank is empty. When you are feeling your best, so will your baby.

Asking for professional mental help when you need it is massively important. A quick word on medication and therapy…there is NO shame in going to therapy and there is NO shame in being on medication. In fact, both of these things are awesome. No, it is not your job to run yourself ragged so that everyone else in the family can be ok. Everybody in your family can thrive when you are feeling your best. You deserve it, and so does your family!

Recap of Prioritizing Postpartum Mental Well-Being

Above all else, enjoy bonding and getting to know your new little one! Your main focus should be on recovery and adjusting to life with your new baby.

Prioritizing your postpartum mental well-being means prioritizing YOU. This looks like letting go of the “shoulds,” not being afraid to set boundaries, understanding the importance of sleep, keeping your battery full, and asking for help. The newborn stage is a magical time. When you prioritize your postpartum mental well-being, it becomes a time you truly cherish as you discover the joy of motherhood.

About Guest Author: Chrissy Lawler

Chrissy is a Pediatric Sleep Consultant and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, practicing for over 13 years. She set out to do ALL of the research and created a method to optimize baby sleep that is tuned in, empowering and WORKS. There absolutely should be joy in motherhood, and she believes that every baby CAN get better sleep!

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