Baby Blues Syndrome: Definition, Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Worried mother with baby

Bringing home a baby can be exciting, so why do many women feel sad, moody, irritable and overwhelmed just a couple of days after giving birth? The reality is 80% of new moms experience baby blues syndrome 2-3 days after giving birth.  

By Chelsea Skaggs, founder of Postpartum Together

Baby blues can often be confused with postpartum depression. The biggest differences is the baby blues describes a time up to 2 weeks after giving birth. Postpartum depression can feel similar but impacts mothers throughout the first year of postpartum.  It’s important for new moms to know the baby blues meaning and how to take care of yourself after having a baby.

 Baby Blues Definition

Baby blues, sometimes referred to as postpartum blues, is the sadness and mood swings a birthing woman may feel in the first few days of motherhood. This can both appear “out of the blue” and make you feel “blue.”

 Baby Blues Symptoms and Signs

As a brand new mom, I remember lying in my bed feeling so much joy but at the same time, feeling like I could curl up into the fetal position and weep. It was confusing to feel this conflict. Baby blues after birth impacted me, just like it impacts 4 out of 5 moms.

Signs and Symptoms:

  • Sadness
  • Negative emotions
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Foggy mind
  • Overwhelm
  • Struggle to make decisions
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Weepiness

The symptoms of postpartum blues usually taper off over 2 weeks.  If your symptoms continue beyond 2 weeks, talk to a provider about postpartum depression. You can learn more about the difference between postpartum depression and the baby blues.

Causes of The Baby Blues

There are both biological and circumstantial factors that can cause baby blues. Not only are many things within your body changing, but also routine and structure changes.

 Changes in your Body After Birth

When you deliver your baby and placenta, your body is cued to lactate.  As the hormones are responding to these changes, it impacts your mood regulation. These hormones are doing great things- helping your uterus to shrink back to size, helping your body to heal and recover, and producing milk and releasing oxytocin as you bond with your new baby. It is also normal that the major shifts in hormones leave mom feeling down or blue.

Changes in Your Circumstances After Birth  

In early postpartum, you experience a shift in your circumstances. New moms get less sleep, less predictability, and overwhelm from taking on new tasks and responsibilities. Anytime a major life shift like this happens, it is understandable to have an emotional reaction.

Lack of sleep makes it hard for your mind and body to regulate. As you and your baby get used to life outside of the womb, sleep can be erratic and interrupted.  This gives you fewer opportunities to reset and can contribute to the blue feelings.

Women who are used to structure, predictability, and feeling of control can be surprised by early postpartum as many of the things that brought stability are now changed. Let me be clear- you can both love new motherhood and the changes and feel shocked and sad about all the changes it brings.

Baby Blues Treatment

Treating the baby blues is about allowing yourself to recognize your emotions, understand the causes, and take steps to feel like yourself again. There is no medical treatment required for baby blues, but if you find yourself experiencing these symptoms longer than 2 weeks, contact your provider about Postpartum depression. If you are ever worried about hurting yourself or your baby, call 9-1-1 or an on-call provider immediately.

 Ideas to Help You Feel Better

Get sleep when you can

Between feeds and snuggles, many new moms feel the pressure to tend to the house or host visitors. You need rest, so put aside what you can and take the time to sleep so that your body and mind can recover.

Schedule in time for yourself

It can be easy to go hours and days without a moment to breathe and think for yourself. Put it on the schedule and take that time to be alone- even 10 minutes can make a big difference. Bonus points for getting some fresh air!

Get the thoughts and feelings out

Do not let everything stay inside – open up to someone you trust about how you are feeling.

Ask for and accept help

No one was meant to be supermom. Ask for the help you need and accept the offers from others.

Connect with other moms

Do not do motherhood alone. This could be friends you already know, new friend you meet through an app like Peanut, or a virtual community for new moms.

The baby blues are a common part of new motherhood. Remember that you are never alone, it is important to rest and recover, and help is available if you need it.

Mom and child outside

Postpartum Together founder Chelsea Skaggs

Chelsea Skaggs

Chelsea Skaggs is a postpartum advocate and coach who is committed to helping women kick the pressure to be “Pinterest Perfect” and have real, raw conversations to acknowledge and empower the postpartum experience. She provides small group coaching, eCourses, online communities and helps other women start motherhood-centered businesses. She believes that normalizing and empowering all the changes in life after baby can change the world and leads that effort at postpartumtogether.com.

AuthorClare

Senior public relations manager at Zulily