Winter Babies and Postpartum Depression
When do the 'baby blues' become postpartum depression?
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
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,
- The International Moms Club at http://www.momsclub.org/ for stay-at-home
- Mothers of Preschoolers at http://www.mops.org for moms of kids from birth
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
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
- 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."