Childrearing

Baby Blues: I Would Not Have Committed To Attachment Parenting If I Knew I Was At Risk For PPD

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two women with baby in slingBaby Blues is a column about raising my daughter in the windstorm of postpartum depression. Though discussing the dark spots of postpartum depression, I also share my successes.

In light of the new study that shows a link between postpartum depression and high levels of a hormone during pregnancy called pCRH, I find myself wishing I could have had this test when I was pregnant.

When I was pregnant I knew it was possible I might develop PPD since I had a history of clinical depression. But for me, I felt calm and content (most of the time) during my pregnancy — whether it was due to my low-stress job, my gorgeous pregnancy hair or my excellent support system of family and friends. All of these things led me to believe I finally had my depression under control, so I didn’t think much about PPD as a real possibility.

But if I could have taken this test, and a doctor or my midwife could have told me I was at a high risk for postpartum depression, I would have done some things differently.

I wouldn’t have committed myself to attachment parenting so wholeheartedly. I am very glad I breastfed, and sometimes I think nursing actually helps offset my depression symptoms — it relaxes me, forces me to slow down and appreciate moments, and in the early days I could literally feel the oxytocin release flood through my body when I settled down to nurse my daughter.

But my daughter was a vigorous eater, nursing every hour for the first several weeks and every two hours for the first year of her life. She would fall asleep on the boob and I would never want to wake her, so I often felt chained to the recliner or bed. I felt lazy, like I had lost my personhood, and I was worthless to the rest of the world, which is difficult for anyone — depressed or not.

Dr. Sears, the attachment parenting guru himself, has a chapter in his book on “mommy burnout.” He recognizes that attachment parenting can become too much for some mothers, especially those who are prone to depression. If I had some inkling of how truly difficult life would be, I would have taken that chapter to heart. I could have taken a less intense approach to AP by shelling out for an electric breast pump so that my husband could feed her and I could get a break every once and awhile. Even having 10 or 15 minutes to take a walk would have worked wonders for me.

But as for the other aspects of attachment parenting — co-sleeping, babywearing, never letting baby cry, rarely letting baby play or rest anywhere but in my arms — I might have just opted out of them altogether. My love-hate relationship with co-sleeping has been a major source of guilt and frustration for the duration of my daughter’s life. On one hand, it was a relief in the early weeks because sleeping with baby next to me meant I got more sleep. And I will always relish the joy of waking up to her little sleepy face.

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