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Depression Health Center

Winter Babies and Postpartum Depression

When do the 'baby blues' become postpartum depression?
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Winter: A SAD Time of Year?

Both postpartum depression and the baby blues may be more difficult in the winter months, when the days are shorter, colder, and darker. Some women may already have a condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which makes them prone to depression in the light-deprived fall and winter months.

Even if you haven't been previously diagnosed with SAD, you might find that dark, wintry days increase a sense of isolation, especially since it's harder to get out and about with a newborn baby in January than in June.

Not a lot of research has been done on fluctuations in postpartum depression and the seasons, but a Finnish study published in 2003 found that women appeared to be at higher risk for mild postpartum depression in the winter months, and at lower risk in the spring.

Plan Ahead for Winter Depression

If you know you're prone to depression or just "feeling down" in the winter months, and your baby is due in January, it's a good idea to plan ahead. "Line up extra help at home," advises Shari Lusskin, MD, director of Reproductive Psychiatry at New York University Medical Center.

"Start making connections with other moms-to-be in your childbirth classes, your breastfeeding classes, or in local mothers' groups for your neighborhood," says Lusskin.

If you haven't managed to meet anyone simpatico through local resources, try:

  • The International Moms Club at http://www.momsclub.org/ for stay-at-home moms
  • Mothers of Preschoolers at http://www.mops.org for moms of kids from birth to preschool

Tips for Getting Out and Enjoying Life With Baby

Once your baby is born, you don't have to be housebound just because it's winter.

Stotland suggests a number of tricks for getting out of the house -- especially if it's light outside and you can be exposed to mood-boosting sunlight.  

  • Walk around a mall or a museum with the baby in a carriage or sling. (If you need to nurse the baby and you're not yet comfortable nursing in public, grab a few clothing items and nurse in the dressing room.)
  • Seek out restaurants or cafes that are empty at off times, where they won't mind if the baby fusses. Arrange to meet another mom for an early afternoon in a coffee shop.
  • Many movie theaters now offer "Reel Moms" programs, where moms and babies can come to catch a new film without worrying about disrupting other patrons. If there isn't one in your area, just try going to a movie in the early afternoon on a weekday, when the theater is likely to be mostly empty and you can nurse baby in the dark.
  • Just go for a drive. Most (though not all!) babies will be soothed to sleep in the car. If it's a cold but sunny day, you can keep baby toasty with a car-seat wrap like the Bundle Me, and get some sun through the car window while listening to your favorite radio station.
  • On days when you just can't get out, stay connected online.

Says Stotland: "Both of my daughters are in online groups with moms from their neighborhood. Even if you can't get out to meet them, you can chat or email and support each other."

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