It is a relatively recent phenomenon that views the mother-baby pair as defined by two separate beings. We are often encouraged by the media, family and even strangers to separate ourselves from our babies, to avoid ‘spoiling them’. We are saturated with new fandangled prams, bouncers, Pinterest-worthy nurseries and toys to encourage ‘self-soothing’ and ‘self-settling’. The striking fact is this - for the first seven months or so, your baby thinks you are actually attached to their cute little body, just like when they lived in your womb. The common fixation on the baby being or becoming ‘too dependant’ on you goes against the natural instinct of a mother to respond to her baby.
Don’t get me wrong...I have the prams (yes two) and the nursery furnished with all the bells and whistles, everything I thought I needed, being a sucker for packaging and every cute little thing in the baby stores, because who can walk past a teeny cutesy baby gym!? But let’s get real: the first few months are by far the most isolating, terrifying and consuming as you get to know your baby and try to navigate life with this teeny being being completely reliant on you. You may feel like you will never interact with adults again, never wear real clothes, never eat a meal while it’s still hot - there's no wonder PND is prevalent in this critical time.
The fourth trimester is commonly represented in glossy magazines and light-drenched social media photographs as a smiley, content, blissful time for mother and baby. Immediately, the nappy ads come to mind; a mother lovingly kissing the bare bottom of her babe, fully made-up and dressed in non-pyjamas. The baby is giggling and cooing, the mother is calm and content.
To set the bar so high, can only end in tears - tiny screaming baby, cracked nipples, cold tea, reflux, witching hour, cold breakfast, over-supply, sore nether-regions or incision scars, cold lunches, fluid retention, mastitis, cold dinners, low supply, colic, poop in unimaginable places, tongue ties, lip ties, vomit-soaked hair - all of these things, paired with fluctuating hormones and a dismal amount of sleep which can only be considered torturous, can spiral downward even further, into more than just the ‘Baby Blues’.
Enter the very distressing, very real and very serious illness Postnatal Depression (PND). According to the PANDA website (Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia), up to 1 in 10 women experience PND. Beyond Blue has even more startling statistics, stating almost 16% of women giving birth in Australia experience PND.
By far, one of the most upsetting symptoms of PND can be a feeling of detachment, or lacking an immediate bond with your baby. The expectation to form an instant connection with this tiny stranger can lead to feelings of inadequacy in parents when this bond feels absent - how a parent is 'supposed' to feel doesn't always reconcile with the way the parent actually feels - and for the most part this is completely normal. It is when this detachment and lack of feeling fails to lift and feelings of inadequacy perpetuate and interfere with caring for the baby, that intervention and help is needed.
THE GP VISIT
Medically, the first step is to visit your GP for an assessment for diagnosis. Your GP will have both pharmaceutical and psychological tools on hand to formulate a treatment plan. Aside from this very important step, there is something completely natural and well supported scientifically to improve the relationship between yourself and your baby...never fear, Chekoh is here!
Oxytocin is a naturally occurring hormone that is thought to be very closely aligned with attachment - the “bonding” hormone - and is released during times of skin-to-skin contact, during breastfeeding, snuggles, playtime and even during birth and pregnancy (Keith M Kendrick, 2000). This hormone is believed to encourage feelings of connection, love and attachment and has been seen to be much higher in parents that wear their babies (Hunziker, U & Barr, R). Mothers predisposed to PND are encouraged to facilitate this bond by carrying them close. Apart from the oxytocin, there are many other physiological components that help to soothe baby. Smelling your very unique scent, feeling your skin and your heartbeat and being at the mercy of the gentle sway and bounce of mama moving help to settle and regulate both mama and baby’s breathing. Strap your little one in your Chekoh carrier, let’s get that love juice flowing!
There is little doubt that the incessant crying and fussing of baby contributes to PND. The frustration and inadequacy felt by parents unable to soothe their baby can be incredibly daunting. I could provide you with a whole heap of numbers, scientific studies and medical jargon, but I have an insistent toddler so I will just choose one. In a 1986 study of 99 infant/mother pairs, half were required to wear their babies more (3+ more hours/day) than the other group. They found a 43% decrease in crying and fussing (Hunziker, U & Barr, A). Science!
THE PROOF IN THE PUDDING
Mmm pudding. I could drown you in personal accolades/more science but I’d be preaching to the (babywearing) choir. As members of our special Chekoh community, I have no doubt you could all contribute to this point. There is something so special, so sacred, about wearing your babe heart to heart, all snuggled up in our eco-friendly bamboo blended carriers.
There is more than just a content baby/mama combo to be gained from babywearing. Not only are the needs of your baby being met, but you also have gained something you haven’t had for a long time...the use of your hands! An unavoidable part of motherhood that could contribute to PND is the inability to keep up with the demand of life - whether the general household tasks or simply eating a meal - it all becomes too much to bear. Chekoh gives you your hands back, and your life back, all in one soft, beautiful little package. You can get yourself out into the mood-lifting sunshine, get your endorphins flowing even if it is just a walk around the block in your pyjamas (I was a regular fixture on the neighbourhood circuit sporting my polka-dot boxers and my partners oldest, threadbare tee).
In a society so focussed on the latest accessories, trends and ‘self-soothing’ - in stark contrast to the blatantly obvious, proven and varied benefits of babywearing - is it coincidental that PND is on the rise, or something more? As parents, we are highly saturated with information and advice, from many different angles and are highly susceptible to Postnatal Depression for the labour-intensive (pardon the pun) first year. Aside from medical intervention, we can help to actively and physically increase our bond with our children, and help to keep PND at bay, by babywearing (in fabulous, on-trend style), with Chekoh.
PRODUCTS FEATURED IN THIS POST:
* If you, or someone you know may be suffering from PND, please encourage them to reach out for help. There are many organisations that can help - some of the main ones are linked below. These organisations are a wealth of information and some also provide immediate assistance by way of phone/instant chat.
PANDA - Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia
Further helpful info in recognising depression, causes and treatments, read more.