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Postpartum Mental Health

Having a baby can trigger a wide range of emotions. You may feel joyful one moment then anxious the next. This is usually normal; however, some experience long-lasting, severe symptoms. Nobody is at fault for any of it, but it is important to recognize the signs and get help. 

Explore this page to learn more about postpartum mental wellness and how to recognize red flags.

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The "Baby Blues"

Baby Blues

You may have complicated feelings about being a new parent. You may feel deep love for your baby, yet underslept and emotional. That does not make you a bad parent, it makes you human. 

After giving birth, many people experience a bout of sadness. This is sometimes called the baby, or postpartum, blues. This may look different in different people, but you may:

  • Cry a lot 

  • Feel cranky or moody

  • Have a hard time concentrating or making decisions

  • Feel overwhelmed

  • Have difficulty sleeping, despite being exhausted

The baby blues are temporary, so practice kindness and patience toward yourself as you adjust to a major life change and the dramatic changes in hormones that come with giving birth. Finding time to practice self-care is also an important way to help ease the symptoms.

The Baby Blues can last up to two weeks and is usually not a cause for concern. If your symptoms last longer than that, or they become more severe, it is time to call your doctor. 

Postpartum Depression

Postpartum Depression and Warning Signs

For a small portion of the population, having a baby may bring something unexpected: depression. Always remember that anything you are feeling is not your fault, but it is important to get help in order to make sure that yourself, your baby, and all those around you are safe and healthy. 

To learn more about postpartum depression, and how it is screened, explore the section below. 

If you ever have thoughts of harming yourself or anyone else, call the Here2Help Crisis Line (410-433-5175) right away.

  • Why should my baby sleep alone? I feel safer with my baby near me.
    We know that when parents sleep in the same bed as their baby, they are trying to do what they think is best. Unfortunately, co-sleeping is really dangerous. Most sleep-related deaths in Baltimore happen when babies sleep with an adult or with other children. Remember, it doesn't take much for a baby to suffocate. Co-sleeping is a common practice in some cultures. While it is wonderful to preserve most cultural traditions, some need to be adapted. For example, American beds are soft, high, and have a lot of blankets and pillows. These features make them unsafe for babies. If you are worried about bonding, keeping your baby's crib in your room is a great idea! Share a room, not a bed.
  • My baby sleeps better when they’re next to me. What are some other ways to soothe them?
    The sleep habits you set now will carry into childhood. When you put your baby to sleep in a crib from the beginning, they will get used to it. You will also be able to sleep better and more soundly knowing your baby is safe. Here are some of the things that you can do to help your baby sleep peacefully in their crib: Swaddle your baby (NOTE: you should stop swaddling when your baby starts to roll over) Create a bedtime routineUse a pacifier Give your baby a massage The first few weeks with a baby are rewarding, but the lack of sleep can be challenging. Hang in there. It will get better.
  • But isn't my baby more likely to choke on their back?
    Many parents believe that babies are more likely to choke if they sleep on their back. This is not true. In fact, your baby is LESS likely to choke on his or her back. Watch the video clip understand why.
  • What if my baby can roll over?
    Once babies are able to roll over from back to stomach on their own, there is no need to watch or reposition them during sleep. Babies should still be placed on their backs for sleep, but you don't need to worry about keeping them that way. Do not use a pillow or rolled up blanket to keep your baby on his or her back. These items increase the chances of your baby suffocating.
  • My older relatives say that they put their babies to sleep on their stomach.
    You may hear from older relatives that they put their babies to sleep on their stomachs. A lot has changed in the last 20 years and we now know a lot more about infant safety. In fact, when pediatricians began recommending that babies sleep on their back, the number of babies dying in their sleep dropped dramatically.
  • Why do I need to get a crib for my baby to sleep?
    The crib is the ONLY safe place for your baby to sleep. Your baby shouldn’t sleep on an adult bed or couch or with pillows, cushions or stuffed animals. Your baby could be suffocated in these soft materials. Your baby also could become trapped in between cushions on a couch or get stuck between the bed and the wall. These tragic situations occur all too frequently in Baltimore City.
  • Won't my baby get cold without a sheet or blanket?
    Dress your baby in a sleeper for warmth, but do not use blankets or allow your baby to get too warm. Overheating can be a risk for SIDS. A good rule of thumb is to dress your baby in the same amount of layers that you are wearing. If the room temperature is comfortable for you, then it is also comfortable for your baby.
  • Is it safe for my baby to wear a sleep sack?
    Sleep sacks and wearable blankets can be part of a safe sleep routine. Because these are an extra layer, be mindful of overheating, a leading cause of SIDS. You can avoid overheating by following this rule: when inside, dress your baby in the same number of layers that you are wearing. If a room's temperature is comfortable for you, it's comfortable for your baby. Please also remember that not every product that is marketed for safe sleep is actually safe, even if it is sold in stores or online. For example, weighted sleepwear is not safe. Before you purchase these products, it is important to do your research and to ask your baby's doctor. To check if a product has ever been recalled, visit the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Recall List.
  • What kind of crib should I get for my baby?
    Your baby’s crib does not need to be fancy or expensive, but it must be safe. There are many types of stationary and portable cribs (such as a Pack ‘n Play™ or the portable crib given out by HealthCare Access Maryland) that are safe—you just have to make sure that it meets current safety guidelines. When purchasing a crib, look for Juvenile Product Manufacturers Association (JPMA) certification. If you borrow a crib, check to make sure that the slats are no more than 2-3/8 inches apart. Widely spaced slats can trap an infant's head. The mattress should be firm and fit snugly in the crib. The crib sheet should fit tightly all the way around and under the mattress. Nothing else should be in the crib with your baby – no quilts, blankets, comforters, pillows, bumper pads, stuffed animals, or soft toys. Car seats and infant carriers should not be used as your baby’s bed. Your baby could get knocked over or roll over. It’s just not worth taking a risk.
  • Why is it important to have a smoke-free home?
    Babies who breathe in smoke are more likely to have lifelong health problems. They are also more likely to die while sleeping. Smoke is a houseguest that always overstays its welcome. Even if you open a window, it drifts around the house and even stays in fabrics and dust. Keep the air in your home clean by asking smokers to go outside. Here are some tips to make your home smoke-free: Ask smokers to smoke outside Get all ashtrays, matches, and lighters out of your home Post a sign on your front door so visitors know not to smoke 

  • Doesn't my baby need to spend time on their tummy?
    Yes! You can provide 'tummy time' when he is awake and being watched. This will help strengthen his neck and arm muscles and prevent flat spots on the back of his head.
Resources
There is absolutely no shame in having trouble adjusting to parenting or experiencing postpartum depression. There are many people in Baltimore City who want you to ask for help and are ready to provide you support.  Here are some great resources for getting mental health support.

Postpartum Mental Wellness Resources

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Bloom Collective

Baltimore-based organization that believes that mamas and birthing persons deserve a village of support. Services include postpartum and breastfeeding support.

443-961-4990

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Motherland Co.

Services include psychotherapy and breastfeeding support.

410-513-9611

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Pro Bono Counseling Project

Free therapy with a licensed professional for Maryland families, couples and individuals with limited resources

410-825-1001
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Medicaid Covered and Low-Cost Resources

There are several resources throughout Baltimore City where you can get specialized support for postpartum depression.

To learn more, speak to your provider.

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Black Mental Health Alliance

Mental wellness support, including finding a therapist and healing racial trauma.

410-338-2642

Here2Help Hotline

If you are in crisis, this helpline will connect you to immediate help and services.

410-433-5175
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