10 maternal mental health traps to avoid
Justine Lorelle LoMonaco
10 maternal mental health traps to avoid
Justine Lorelle LoMonaco
We love to see maternal mental health getting the attention it deserves, especially during the month of May.
Despite the strides being made, though, there are still a few false standards and often-repeated phrases doing serious damage to new mothers that we’d love to see retired.
Here’s a list of maternal mental health traps we are giving you express permission to simply ignore:
The idea that there’s such a thing as “natural” childbirth
While we applaud the effort of mothers who deliver without medical intervention (seriously, you’re amazing!), we’re clapping just as hard for women who deliver with epidurals, after induction, and through cesarean sections―just to name a few of the many paths the majority of women take to bring their babies into the world.
The truth is that birth itself is natural, no matter how your story plays out.
“Breast is best.”
Listen, we get that a rhyme is catchy―but the damage this colloquialism has inflicted on the mental health of millions of mothers is more than enough evidence that it needs to be retired.
The truth? Fed is best, always and forever. So no matter how you keep your baby’s belly full, you are doing the very best.
“Sleep when the baby sleeps.”
We’re going to give this one the benefit of the doubt—because sure, sleeping when the baby sleeps is not the world’s worst idea. The problem? It sets up a standard that simply isn’t realistic for most mothers, leading to unnecessary guilt and a sense of failure when it doesn’t happen… when, in reality, there are a million good reasons why it doesn’t happen.
(Looking at you, lack of support for new moms!) Our advice? Treat yourself kindly, get as much rest as you can, and don’t beat yourself up for not meeting some imaginary standard. (And maybe invest in a smart crib that helps you get more shut-eye at night! 😘)
Falling into a “scroll hole” when you should be resting
One of those not-so-good reasons you might be missing sleep (and messing with your mental health at the same time)? The always-tempting option of endless scrolling on your phone during those precious hours when your little one isn’t demanding your full attention.
And while we more than get the temptation to do something that feels like it’s for yourself in the limited time you have for yourself, study after study has shown that falling into a social media spiral is doing more harm than good.
Instead of beating yourself up for not having the Instagram-worthy moment you spot another mom having or for missing out on yet another social event because you’re home with a newborn, put the phone away and opt for a book or a relaxing at-home spa moment instead.
The pressure to “bounce back.”
If there was one phrase we wish we could forever wipe from the surface of the earth, it might be “bouncing back” after giving birth. Because there is no justice in the fact that the same bodies that are adored and admired while growing a baby are suddenly deemed unfit as soon as that baby comes out.
Instead of piling on pressure to return to the body you were before pregnancy, we encourage you to remember that you are not that person anymore. And, honestly? The new you is pretty fabulous. (So stop worrying what Blake Lively is up to, mmmkay?)
“Treasure every moment!”
Yes, the newborn stage (and every stage) will one day feel remarkably fleeting. Yes, there might come a day when you miss the very moment you are in right now. That being said…it is more than okay if you do not feel blissful every second with your baby.
It is okay to not treasure the moment your baby has just puked in your hair, blown out their fourth diaper, or screamed for the last hour―and it certainly doesn’t make you a bad parent for praying for that moment to end quickly.
Instead of reprimanding women for not enjoying every single moment of motherhood, instead let’s all just agree to remember that the hard moments will pass, and you are certainly not alone in them. You will get through the difficult times, and you will find moments to treasure again soon.
Baby milestones are such a double-edged sword. While on one hand it can be reassuring to know your little one is hitting those marks in a timely manner, comparing the rate at which your friends’ babies crawl, talk, and walk with your own is a veritable minefield that can wreak havoc on your mental health.
Hard as it may be to simply “like” the post about your sister’s 2-month-old sleeping through the night or the video of your neighbor’s 6-month-old saying her first word without worrying that your own baby is falling behind, remember that every child progresses at their own rate (and most of them are perfectly healthy).
If you’re truly worried, talk to your pediatrician to put your fears to rest.
“That’s not how I did it.”
Speaking of comparison, sometimes comparing ourselves to other moms (be it our own or simply those in our circle) can be a major attack on our mental health. Instead of worrying about what worked best for others, give yourself permission to figure things out.
That might mean making mistakes or adjustments along the way, but the important thing is that you’ll learn the right answers for your family. And if others still want to voice their opinion about your choices? You’ll have the confidence of your experience to back up the decisions you’ve made.
“It takes a village to raise a baby.”
We wholeheartedly agree that babies and mothers need support. But in today’s world, the “village” we’re all craving often feels sorely lacking — and the result can be stress that we’re somehow doing it wrong, or not providing something crucial for our child’s development.
The truth? Sometimes support comes from the most unlikely places. It might be childless friends who step up to become the best “aunts” and “uncles” your child could ever know. It might be online communities that listen to worries in the middle of the night and remind you that you’re not going through it alone.
It might be total strangers in the grocery store who randomly tell you that you’re doing a great job. The village might look different these days, but it’s still there when you know how to look for it. (And remember: We’re rooting for you, too!)
Worrying that you aren’t enough
Sometimes it feels like this world is designed to make new mothers (and even experienced mothers) doubt their abilities to raise their child. If you find yourself struggling with feelings of inadequacy, remember: You are the best mother for your child.
No one knows them like you do, from the slight differences between their “hungry” and “tired” cries, to exactly which bounce soothes them during a fussy moment. You have everything they need — and you are doing amazing!