How Can Babywearing Help with Postnatal Depression?
Postnatal Depression is something that many hear about but few expect to experience, and it can really come as quite a shock if you do. We wanted to talk about it, to let you know that you're not on your own, and to also tell you how babywearing can make a real difference for your whole family during this time.
Bonding with your little one can feel difficult if you have postnatal depression so the fact that, just by holding your little one close, bonding hormones are released is an incredible benefit of babywearing that is so simple to access and you have the added benefit that using a sling helps you in your day to day life too.
What is Postnatal Depression?
Postnatal depression is a type of depression that many parents experience after having a baby and it's very common, affecting around 1 in 10 women within a year of giving birth, and affecting fathers too. You can read more about what this can look like here as it differs from person to person, however some common symptoms are feeling low, lacking enjoyment, feeling tired, trouble sleeping, difficulty bonding with your little one, feeling like you want to withdraw, and frightening thoughts . Please do reach out to someone if you're struggling, there is help available.
At the time of writing, here in the UK, we are being advised to stay at home. We wholeheartedly agree with this advice and yet are simultaneously aware of the mental health challenges that it imposes. carrying and cuddles really can help, so as simple as babywearing sounds, we know how much it can positively impact your life.
How can babywearing help with postnatal depression?
We often hear of the incredible benefits of babywearing for our little ones, but we sometimes forget that it has amazing benefits for us as parents too. From being hands free to get on with your tasks, being able to get out and about easily (whether that's taking off road walks or being able to get out the the shops) or making caring for multiple children more manageable, babywearing really does make parent's lives so much easier.
All of these benefits help with our mental health, as we are able to do both the things that we need to do, and the things we love while still caring for our little one. You can read more about this from one of our friends, UK GP, Dr Rosie Knowles, who has written on Babywearing and Perinatal Mood Disorders. Below we go into more detail on some of the key benefits of babywearing that may help with the symptoms of postnatal depression.
Bonding with your little one.
We mentioned at the start that bonding with your little one can feel more difficult when you have postnatal depression - it can be hard to feel connected to your child. Babywearing has many benefits that really help with this.
As well as hormones that are naturally released when your baby is held close that help both of you to bond, babywearing also places your baby close to you, where you can easily see them and feel them. This helps you become clued into their communications, little wriggles that mean they need changing, tiny mouth movements as they begin to get hungry. As you learn these cues you naturally respond more quickly, and as your baby's needs are met, they also cry less - which may help both of you feel more connected.
When your little one is near, you'll notice you start talking to them more, you feel when their little bodies relax as you sway side to side - they can hear your familiar heartbeat and you can both take moments to pause together, enjoying each others' company.
Skin to Skin Care
There is a wonderful study that explores the effect Skin to Skin contact can have on parents and shows us what a difference it can make to how we feel. Those who practised Skin to Skin contact for several hours a day had lower scores on depression scales and a greater reduction in their cortisol levels (a stress hormone) than those who did not. Holding your baby Skin to Skin has enormous benefits for parents, we really recommend you try it and find out for yourself! Using woven wraps can also help to make this incredible time practical too - ensuring you look dressed, just in case the doorbell rings during Skin to Skin time!
For the times that you're unable to practice Skin to Skin, babywearing still can help. It allows you both to relax, after just a few minutes, oxytocin is released, calming both of you and helping to create an incredible bond. Your little one can then see what you can see, and their calmness helps you pause and gather your thoughts.
There are things that we do for the good of our own mental health like going for walks, painting a picture, enjoying a craft, perhaps reading a book, that can seem to become more difficult once we've had a baby. However, babywearing can allow you to continue to enjoy the things you love to do alone and with your family. It is really important you still make time to do these things - and your little one can be right there with you.
We'd love to hear how babywearing has helped you through difficult times and any tips you have for others. What are your favourite activities to do whilst babywearing?
Written by Jess Hippey
Jess is a mum to two boys and a Baby Carrying Consultant based in Aberdeen, Scotland.
For more info about the work that she does see: www.closeandcalm.co.uk