Infant Sleep & Overcoming Postpartum Depression (PPD)
When my daughter was an infant I felt… flat. I was in pain, I was scared and I felt like a zombie. Before she was born, I hadn’t really thought about how I would feel after. I would just be happy, right? Isn’t that how you feel when you become a mother? Your hair and makeup are instantly done and you’re ready to pose with your baby on your chest, smiling ear to ear to announce their birth on Instagram.
For me, this was not the case.
I had heard of postpartum depression but I never thought it would affect me. I had no history of depression. My sisters never went through it. It truly never occurred to me that this would even be in the realm of possibility.
My husband said I looked out of it. I felt like a shell of myself. But certainly this would pass. I started to think I had the baby blues, a mix of hormones and a life changing experience but, soon, I would feel better. Except week after week, I didn’t.
The tears didn’t stop. I didn’t know how to soothe my baby. I didn’t know how to function like I had before. Everything was different now. I used to be a morning person (no really, I chose to wake up at 4am everyday to workout before work) and now I was struggling to get out of bed at 7am.
The first few weeks were like a black hole. I don’t remember much but, according to my husband, I was sleeping an hour at a time, at the most. Clearly, this was not sustainable. Part of the issue was my intense desire to nurse my daughter even though I really struggled with it. Because of this, I wasn’t willing to pump and let anyone give her a bottle. For me, nursing was one of the hardest things I ever did but, for some reason I’m still not sure of today, I was obsessed with nursing 100% of the time.
Luckily, it was at the same time I was in the process of switching to The Full Feedings Method, from a different program, and my daughter's sleep was beginning to become more regular. This allowed me to start going from getting 1 hour of sleep at a time to two 2-3 hours of sleep. Still not enough, but at least the time between nursing overnight was starting to space out which, for me, was huge.
My breaking point came on the day of my 6 week postpartum visit. I had barely eaten all day and I hadn’t slept well in 6 weeks. I came home from the appointment barely functioning. My tears were flowing and I was screaming, I can’t even remember why. My husband looked at me and said he and our daughter would be okay if I didn't want to be a mom.
That broke me. But, I am so happy that he gave me the space to free myself from the cycle of stress and worry I was living under. I wasn’t “getting better” on my own. I did want to be a mom. I wanted to have my family, they were the most important people to me but I wasn’t able to be there for them or myself. I wasn’t living life. I was stuck in a fog trying to survive.
I called a motherhood center that night because I was starting to come to terms with the fact that I wanted to feel better and I knew of therapy as an option (my husband saw a therapist for many years). The first thing they told me was that I needed to get a 5 hour stretch of sleep as soon as possible.They indicated that 5 hours was the minimum amount of sleep I needed to begin to get restorative sleep. That night, I pumped at 9pm and my husband stayed up to give our daughter the dreamfeed. I slept from 10-3, when I woke up again to pump, before my daughter needed to eat. I decided that day that I needed to free myself from this feeling that all of her food needed to come directly from me.
For me, therapy didn’t last too long because through their guidance, I was able to implement tools that really helped me navigate that period.
I realized after my first therapy session, that I needed to set limits on myself. There were things I could handle and things I truly couldn’t. For me, I couldn’t handle overnight nursing. I had to set a limit that I would no longer nurse overnight. Luckily, my husband was willing to be able to help me and grateful to have the opportunity to be alone and bonding with our daughter. So, I pumped and my husband fed her a bottle for the rest of the time she woke overnight. For me, being alone in the middle of the night was just too much. It’s amazing what happened when I asked my husband for help…I was able to separate myself from something that had caused me so much anxiety those first few weeks and begin to heal from the memories I had of those nights.
I also found a way to find ‘myself’ again, or at least the new version of myself that I thought I had lost. Because getting sleep became a priority for me, I was able to find my love of morning again, I was able to get back into a routine with exercise and through the support I got from Ann, I was able to take a step back and start working with my daughter to help both of us sleep.
When I found the Full Feedings Method, I began working with my daughter on her sleeping and eating habits. The FF Method allowed me to feel like I was ‘in control’ of my life and routine for the first time since my daughter was born. The monthly guides and the flexible attitude Ann shared with me, allowed me to grow as a mom. I no longer felt like each day had to be ‘perfect’ because, through Ann’s guidance, I always knew that the next EAT PLAY SLEEP cycle allowed me to reset the clock so my daughter and I had many opportunities during the day to work on her sleep and eating habits.
Here’s what I learned.
- Babies aren’t meant to be raised by one person. They truly aren’t. Nowhere in history does one person raise a child. People traditionally live with multiple generations in one house. There’s a reason for that. You have a ton to learn about taking care of this human and recovery is hard. If you have access to help, take it. You aren’t weak or a bad mom. You’re strong for acknowledging where you could use some help.
- Even if you’re nursing, like I was, pump and let someone else give a bottle. You don’t have to do everything and it’s good for your baby to bond with other people.
- Sleep is so important for both mom and baby. I needed sleep to survive and she did as well.
- Seek professional help if you need it. Sometimes all we need is some advice from a professional and other times we need a regular appointment to work through what we’re going through. The help of a professional can help you see which path is best for you.
I am so proud of the relationship I have with my daughter today. She truly makes me happy and I feel like we’ve built this relationship together on such a deep level that we just get each other now and we’re connected in a way I never imagined could be possible those few first weeks. She, my husband and myself are the lights of my life. Through this journey I have learned to love my daughter, my husband and myself in a new way.
My experience with postpartum depression is why I am so passionate about infant sleep and the Full Feedings Method. Helping you get some sleep, is continued therapy for me and it makes me so happy to be able to help others the way Ann helped me.
You got this mama, now let’s get you sleeping!