How your baby can help you manage postpartum depression
Welcoming a new bundle of joy into the world is life-changing. There’s the wonder of this new life and the happiness a child brings, an incredible natural high. And then, there’s adjusting to the new role of motherhood and the dreaded postpartum depression, an unwelcome low. Some women opt for medication to manage feelings of depression, but a recent study offers up an alternative therapy—skin-to-skin contact with your newborn.
The study in the Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic & Neonatal Nursing revealed that five hours of daily skin-to-skin contact with newborns lowered depression during the infants’ first six weeks of life. Study participants also experienced less stress because of lower cortisol levels, a hormone released during times of stress.
Skin-to-skin contact refers to a specific way of holding infants, the study reports. The mother holds the baby against her bare chest with the child wearing only a diaper so that the mother and baby have full-frontal skin contact. This method simulates what it’s like for the child in the womb, providing warmth and reinforcing the bond between mother and child. During this time, the mom also releases the hormone oxytocin, which creates a feeling of relaxation and well-being.
Symptoms associated with postpartum depression include sadness, anxiety, fear and feelings of inadequacy, which generally appear within the first six weeks of delivery. These symptoms not only affect mom, but baby as well. The study cites that infants with moms who suffer symptoms of postpartum depression are at risk for cognitive, social and emotional developmental difficulties, and moms with these symptoms tend to be less playful, less engaged and more irritable.
The benefits of this approach for both mom and baby are many. Earlier studies have shown that newborns who experience skin-to-skin contact have more stable temperatures, heart rates and respiratory rates. These children also sleep more restfully and breastfeed longer. Moms who gave their newborns skin-to-skin contact reported more positive feelings toward their children, less depression and greater empowerment in their parenting role.
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