When first considering a Tula Baby Carrier, many families think of how it may help them accomplish daily tasks. But the myriad of benefits from babywearing extends beyond simple function for you and your baby. In particular, wearing your baby might prove to be helpful when experiencing Postpartum Depression (PPD) or other Postpartum Mental Illnesses. It is estimated in a CDC survey that 8 to 19% of women reported having frequent postpartum depressive symptoms. And approximately 4% of fathers experience depression in the first year of their child’s life. While treatment is very necessary, babywearing may assist caregivers experiencing postpartum depression in finding some comfort. Less crying and more sleep for baby may decrease stress levels for you.The closeness facilitated by babywearing raises oxytocin levels in mothers, fathers, and babies. Oxytocin is the hormone that promotes the bonding process for you and your child. Activities facilitated by babywearing, like feeding your baby and touch can increase Oxytocin levels to greater cement connection. Also, babywearing can often increase your confidence in your ability to care for your child. Thus, the act of babywearing may have positive effects on your emotional and mental state that can far outweigh the simple function that first attracted you to a carrier.
When considering the topic of postpartum mental illness, we wanted to highlight one woman’s story. We are very honored that one mother in our Tula community was willing to share her personal experience with postpartum depression. Below, Erika tells us about what she has encountered with postpartum depression and how babywearing is playing a role in helping.
“I had my son in July of 2015. He was my second child, and we had a complicated, high risk pregnancy. My first pregnancy was easy and uncomplicated. My daughter was born and we were over the moon about her. It was an adjustment, but I never experienced the “baby blues” after her birth, let alone PPD. I had no idea what PPD felt like. I had been anxiously awaiting my son’s arrival, and my husband and I were both relieved that he did not come early (as was predicted) and came out perfect, albeit tiny. We came home from the hospital after four days, and had the house to ourselves, just the three of us. I knew something was wrong right away.
I wanted nothing to do with my son. His crying set off extreme anxiety for me, more than the “normal” amount moms feel. I felt like I couldn’t deal with him, I didn’t even want to hold him. I had seen a maternal mental health provider throughout my pregnancy, and I contacted her right way and let her know what was going on. I was seen a few days later, and I also started some medication. I was considered to have “severe” post partum depression, which just felt like more of blow.
It was a strange feeling, not wanting my son, resenting him. I felt nothing like this when my daughter was born, so I wasn’t expecting this. Then again, we never do. Moms aren’t “supposed” to feel like this, and yet, many moms do.
My husband did almost everything, from changing diapers, to waking up at night (multiple times) to feed him. I had planned on wearing my son, and even had purchased a Tula (both SSC and ring sling) before he was born, but I couldn’t bring myself to use them. I had looked into babywearing while I was pregnant, primarily because of the convenience and I felt it would be easier because my son was so small. I had joined a local BabyWearing International chapter to learn more about various carriers and brands. I was prepared, I had a ring sling and a SSC before he was born. After a couple months of wanting nothing to do with my son, and having my carriers just sitting around, my daughter went back to school. I decided it was time to go to a meeting to learn how to use them, to make things easier on myself. I had no idea that it was going to help me on my journey to healing.
I learned how to wear my son in the ring sling. I don’t know how to describe it, but it started a bond. I loved wearing him, and he loved being worn. I had chosen Tula because of all the wonderful things I had heard about them and the cute prints! Now, I feel like Tula has really helped me connect with my son and get better. It wasn’t an overnight shift and suddenly I was better, but even a gradual lessening of what I had been feeling was as if a weight was being lifted. I was finally able begin bonding with my son. I know that babywearing isn’t the sole reason I am getting better, but I truly believe it helped me get better, faster. Babywearing, as I’ve learned, helps to form and strengthen bonds with our children. I’ve witnessed this first hand. I wear him every chance I get, much to the chagrin of my husband, who would love a turn every now and then!
I think that it’s really important to talk about postpartum depression, it’s not talked about enough. Moms feel, and are sometimes told, that they need to “suck it up”, or that it’s “normal”. There is nothing normal about what I felt. I always used to encourage moms to seek help, and I’m glad that I did before it became too much to bear. I’m still getting better, it’s a process, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Postpartum mental illness often goes untreated and many mothers and fathers may feel that they are alone in their feelings. Postpartum depression symptoms may include: tearfulness, difficulty sleeping, loss of interest in daily activities, guilty feelings, feelings of worthlessness or incompetence, feeling disconnected from your baby, and/or fearing that your baby will get hurt. If you believe that you or a loved one is experiencing postpartum depression, we strongly recommend speaking to your health care provider and getting assistance. Postpartum Depression is not something that you need to confront alone. We have listed some resources below that may help you get support:
Postpartum Progress (link to http://www.postpartumprogress.com/)
National Postpartum Depression Hotline
National Suicide Prevention Hotline
We want to thank Erika for her bravery in sharing her story with us and are wishing her and any others experiencing postpartum mental illness a full recovery!