Baby Blues: Definition & Symptoms

Team Peanut
Team Peanutover 1 year ago6 min read

Baby blues after birth are a really common reaction to becoming a new mama. Around 80% of mamas of newborns get sad, teary, or irritable in the days after giving birth.

Baby Blues

And is it any wonder? You’ve been through the ordeal of labor (and you still need time to heal). You’re getting approximately two minutes of sleep per night. And you’re called upon to satisfy every whim of a tiny tyrant – albeit, an adorable one.

So, let’s find out more about the baby blues, what you can do about them, and when to talk to your doctor.

In this article: 📝

  • What is the definition of baby blues?
  • How long do baby blues last?
  • Baby blues symptoms to look out for
  • What causes the baby blues?
  • Can my newborn feel when I’m sad?
  • Baby blues vs. postpartum depression
  • How to deal with baby blues

What is the definition of baby blues?

The baby blues are the feelings of sadness, irritability, and restlessness that many new mamas experience after giving birth. You might also hear them called the “postpartum blues” (postpartum means “after giving birth”).

How long do baby blues last?

Good news: the baby blues are only a passing visitor. They tend to arrive around two to three days after you give birth (possibly sooner if you’ve had a difficult labor experience). Then, by day 10 to 14 of your mamahood journey, they’ve normally packed up and left. By then, you should hopefully feel happier and more in control of this baby business.

Baby blues symptoms to look out for

Here are some of the signs that you might have the baby blues (you may just have one or two of them):

  • Feeling weepy or crying easily
  • Mood swings (one minute your baby is an angel; the next, a little demon)
  • Restlessness and missing your pre-mamahood freedom
  • Feeling irritable and snapping at the people around you
  • Struggling to concentrate or make decisions
  • Tiredness and trouble sleeping
  • Not feeling like eating
  • Feeling overwhelmed and worrying that you can’t care for your baby

Usually, you’ll only feel the symptoms of the baby blues for a few minutes (or at most a few hours) each day. You’ll have “blue” spells mixed in with times where you feel fine – if still sleepy and sore.

What causes the baby blues?

The exact cause of the baby blues is still unclear. They might have something to do with the dramatic hormonal changes that happen in your body around the time you give birth. Your levels of estrogen and progesterone plunge as your uterus returns to its old size and your milk production kicks in.

Think about it: you’re going from caring for your baby inside your body to caring for them outside it – often in less than 24 hours! That’s a big transition for you to make physically, mentally, and emotionally.

This brings us to the other possible cause of the baby blues. It could simply be the result of all the new challenges you’re facing right now. Caring for a newborn is hard work. Even if you weren’t nursing a bruised vagina or a c-section scar, on top of not getting enough sleep, it would be hard.

So, try to be gentle with yourself if you can. You will get through this.

Can my newborn feel when I’m sad?

One other thing might be niggling away at you right now. When you have the baby blues, you might wonder whether your sadness can affect your newborn baby. Will they be upset that I’m upset?

Well, babies actually don’t learn to recognize other people’s emotions until they’re around 4 months old. In fact, at the moment, they don’t yet know that you’re a different person from, say, your partner, your sister, or your neighbor. Basically, all caregivers are the same to them at this point. We know! And you just gave birth to them – charming…

The plus side is that, as long as they’re fed, changed, and cuddled, and they feel safe, your baby won’t notice the difference between happy you and slightly teary you.

Baby blues vs. postpartum depression

But what about if the baby blues get more intense and don’t seem to be going away? In that case, it’s important to speak to your doctor about how you’re feeling. You may have a medical condition called postpartum depression.

This is less common than the baby blues (it affects about 15% of women), but it’s more serious, and it needs to be treated for you to get better.

Here are some signs that you might have postpartum depression rather than the baby blues:

  • You have intense feelings of depression, guilt, or worthlessness. Or you’re experiencing severe anxiety, panic attacks, and fearing that “the worst” will happen.
  • Your feelings last all day, every day, and they don’t ease up 10 to 14 days after you’ve given birth.
  • You’re not able to look after yourself: not sleeping, eating a lot more or less than usual, no longer interested in the things you used to enjoy.
  • You’re struggling to bond with and look after your baby.
  • You’ve thought about hurting yourself or your baby.

If you notice any of these signs, talk to your doctor.

Don’t be afraid to be honest with them. If the doctor diagnoses postpartum depression, you can try various effective treatments, including antidepressants and counseling. The sooner you get support with postpartum depression, the sooner you can be on the road to recovery.

Important note: If you’re worried that you might hurt yourself or your baby, seek emergency help straight away.

How to deal with baby blues

The baby blues will naturally slip away on their own, without you needing to do anything in particular about them. But while they’re still hanging around, a little self-care can go a long way towards helping you feel better. Here are our tips:

  • Talk to a trusted friend about your feelings.
  • Sleep as much as you can (noisy-little-human-permitting).
  • Breathe in some fresh air and go for a walk.
  • Eat nutritious meals (that someone else has cooked for you!).
  • Ask for help from friends and family.
  • Connect with other new mamas on Peanut and share your story.
  • Be kind to yourself and don’t aim for perfection. You’re doing great.

Read also: How Long Does Postpartum Depression Last?

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