As a new dad, you too are going through so many changes it is staggering. It is hard enough to figure out how you feel and how you are going to be the dad you want to be without the added stress of having to support your partner with postpartum depression.
Many dads have shared with me how they feel when their partner suffers from postpartum depression:
- Some feel helpless because they can’t save their partner the pain she is going through.
- Some dads are really confused by the way their partner is feeling and acting.
- Others feel guilty.
- Some dads feel angry.
No matter what you feel, accept that it’s a normal part of new parenthood, forgive yourself for feeling it, and get some support for yourself.
Feelings can be very strong during this time of great change as you enter into a new role and a new way of being in the world and try to support a partner with postpartum depression. Too many men try to ignore their feelings or stuff them away. These tactics may work for a a while but are actually very damaging in the long run, not just to you but also to your relationship with your partner and sometimes even to your relationship with your baby. These feelings have a lot of energy attached to them that needs to be dealt with in healthy, productive ways, both for you ,and, for your new family.
Remember: as the “man of the family,” the better and healthier you are, the healthier your family will be. Take care of you, too.
You deserve support too, as you support your partner with postpartum depression. It is a trying time, so please make sure that you get the support that you need. Below, in resources, is a list of good sites you can go to for support.
The better you feel and the healthier your ways of dealing with your own emotions, the better you will be able to support your partner with postpartum depression, and the less your baby will be affected by it. When you get support for your own emotional response to your partner’s postpartum depression, the easier it will be for all of you to get through this trying phase and grow as a family.
How to take care of you while you support your partner with postpartum depression:
- Learn as much as you can about postpartum depression.
- Make sure that your partner gets the help that she needs for both herself and your baby.
- Write down a list of your questions and take it to the doctor and/or therapist so you can get the answers that you need.
- Talk to your partner about taking her medications (if any), and going to her appointments and follow ups.
- Do what you can to support her … physically, mentally, emotionally and Spiritually during this time.
- Make sure that you take good care of yourself:
- Eat well:
- Try to stay away from from ‘junk food’ .
- Eat a diet with a good variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean proteins so your body stays healthy and can make what it needs to deal with the extra challenges of this time.
- Make sure to drink enough water.
- Exercise when you can. This does not have to be a big complicated workout (unless you like that sort of thing); go for a good fast walk; try to get out in nature with your partner and baby; do body-weight exercises (pushups, situps) because they’re easy, free and do not take a long time or a trip to a gym.
- Stay in touch with your friends and family for support.
- Talk to a trusted family member or friend about what is going on, or join a support group to help you through this very challenging time. Have a support system in place to help you when you need it.
- Spend as much time as you can with your baby so that you feel more confident in yourself as a parent.
- Do not judge yourself harshly for not being able to fix this or make it go away faster. This is not your fault, it’s biology.
- Remember that with time and the right support for all of you, this is just a passing phase and is not permanent.
- Eat well:
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How to Support Your Partner Through Postpartum Depression
Moms with postpartum depression usually feel:
- Overwhelmed and exhausted.
- Unable to deal with things.
- Sad and hopeless.
- Angry, irritable and frustrated.
- Worried all the time.
In order to truly support your partner it is helpful to think of practical and consistent ways you can help her . She needs support to deal with her physical challenges, her feelings, and with the day to day issues she faces as the mom of a totally helpless, highly demanding baby. As the mother of your child, she will feel as though she never gets a break. Help change that feeling.
Following are some practical ways to support her:
Physically Support Your Partner
- Make sure she is eating well and drinking enough water (see treatment section in postpartum depression blog).
- Help her to get as much sleep as possible:
- Get up with your baby when you can on specific nights of the week so she knows which nights she will be able to sleep.
- Get together a ‘team’ of people who love and care about you and who can take shifts with the baby at night.
- Encourage your partner to get some form of moderate physical activity 3-4 times per week.
- It does not have to be anything fancy: taking a walk, swimming, even dancing, are all forms of exercise that will make her feel better.
- Encourage her to get physically active every day for at a few minutes, at least.
- Go for walks with her when you get home from work.
- Take her to do the things you have enjoyed doing together in the past.
Emotional, Mental and Spiritual Support are Also Vital
Here are some practices that will help you both as you support your partner with postpartum depression:
Take time to talk to her about how she is feeling and really listen to what she has to say. Listening without judgement is a key practice for you as you support your partner with postpartum depression.
Do not judge what she is saying or argue with her that it is not true. Until your partner’s postpartum depression is treated she really can’t hear what you are saying clearly.
Don’t try to ‘fix’ the problem she is talking about unless she asks you to do so.
Offer your partner a shoulder she can rely on to be there, or cry on when she feels unattractive and unlovable
Reassure your partner that she is not alone, that you are there for her.
Remind her that she is a ‘good mom’ even if she feels like she is not. Tell her the things she does that you appreciate and that you feel make her a ‘good mom’.
Reassure her that this is not a permanent condition and that she will feel much better with the right treatment, good nutrition, sleep, exercise and support.
Encourage your partner to take time for herself, just to take care of her, not do housework or catch up on things she ‘has’ to get done. Offer to get her help with the housework and if you can’t afford it offer to help her yourself.
Encourage her to spend time with her friends and to do things that she loves.
Get to know your baby:
Do as much as you can with your baby. This will give you confidence as a dad, will strengthen your bond with your baby and take some pressure off of your partner: You can help with:
- Feedings, especially the nighttime feeds.
- Changing the baby.
- Bathing the baby.
- Comforting the baby when she needs comforting.
- Just spend time with your baby reading, playing or just getting to know him/her.
Do what you can around the house:
Ask your partner how she would like you to help. This will give her some degree of ‘control’ in a situation that feels out of control.
- Help your partner with what you can around the house like cleaning, tidying up, and doing the wash. Do not be hurt if she does not notice or appreciate what you do at the time.
- If you notice your partner feels overwhelmed, just do whatever needs to be done without being asked.
Let your partner know you love her:
- Schedule dates with your wife so she knows that your relationship is important to you. Find a baby sitter for the dates yourself, your partner will really appreciate that!
- Call your partner during the day to check up on her and let her know that you are thinking about her.
- Be as consistent as possible with your schedule. Try to be home when you say you are going to be home so she feels she can rely on you.
When your partner is angry:
- Remember, this is part of her postpartum depression, try not take it personally.
- If you feel yourself getting angry, tell her that you really want to listen to her but you need to take a break. Make an appointment with her to come back and talk to her about the situation later. The better you are able to handle your own emotions the better you will be able to support your partner with postpartum depression.
- Monitor her nutrition and hydration: Make sure that she is eating regularly and that her anger is not a result of low blood sugar or dehydration (especially if she is breastfeeding).
- Practice active listening.
- Listen to what your partner is saying with all your attention. Try not to think of anything else other than what she is actually saying.
- When she is done say: ‘What I think I heard you say is……” and explain what you think you heard.
- Then ask her: ‘Is that what you wanted to say to me?”
- Wait a few moments to listen to her answer.
- If she says no then ask her to repeat it again so you can hear her better. This may make both of you feel a little frustrated the first time or 2 as you realize how little you have been understanding each other. But, if you both stay patient with yourselves and each other, you will be happily surprised at the way you start to communicate on a deeper level as you both learn to really listen to and hear each other.
- If she says yes you heard her correctly, then it is your turn to say what you want to say. When you are done ask her to repeat what you what she heard you say.
- if she she has heard you correctly, great.
- If not repeat what you said in a different way and check again when you are done to make sure that you made yourself clear. So many arguments and fights between couples happen because of misunderstanding. Using the skill of active listening and communication cuts down on this problem and opens clear lines of communication between you and your partner.
Postpartum depression is a confusing and scary condition that affects 11-20% of all moms after they deliver. Tragically, 85% of mothers with postpartum depression never get treated!
As the partner of a mom with postpartum depression, you are a key player in both the diagnosis and treatment of this complicated condition. Your role is important not only for your partner’s well being, but also for your baby’s health, and the health of your relationship with your partner.
Please share your experience:
- As the partner of a mom with postpartum depression, what were your greatest challenges?
- What practices or groups did you find the most helpful?
- I would love to hear from you.
I would love to hear from you! Especially you dads! Please share your experience with your partner with postpartum depression: did you understand what it was? were you able to help? what advice would you give to other new dads?
To your holistic health,