7 (Dangerous) Postpartum Myths
When I had my babies, I received pretty much zero guidance on postpartum recovery. I wasn’t told anything about how to overcome extreme exhaustion, ‘mom brain’, overwhelm, baby colic and eczema. So when I was encountering these things, I just thought I did something wrong as a mother.
Nobody told me about a syndrome that affects 1 out of 2 mothers! It’s called postnatal depletion… and it doesn’t only affect new mothers but all mothers. We’re familiar with the term ‘postpartum depression’ (which can be part of postnatal depletion), but most moms don’t know about that postnatal depletion might be touching all spheres of their lives… energy, nervous system, hormones, sleep, relationships, work…
I didn’t know either. I didn’t understand why I was feeling so incredibly tired and spaced out. Why I was extremely sensitive and stressed about everything. Why my body didn’t work, even six weeks after birth when I was told I was “all good to go”. Why I couldn’t think and function anymore and felt like I turned into a different species who nobody understood.
Although I was trying so hard: diligently I’d prepared myself for pregnancy and birth, but I didn’t really know I could prepare for postpartum (other than getting all the baby paraphernalia) and support myself. I ate ‘healthy’ and put in the effort to do things the natural way. At the time, I was already a certified holistic nutritional consultant and integrative health coach, but nobody had taught me how to help my baby or myself.
My baby was a typical case of so called ‘colic’: Extreme crying for unclear reasons for hours every night. It was the worst torture for me witnessing her distress and not knowing what to do about it. And even when she finally slept I couldn’t sleep anymore. My nervous system was stuck in a constant alarm state (called ‘hypervigilance’) and I was so worried about my baby - that in combination with the ongoing sleep terror and depletion left me with just enough energy and nerves for baby, but I had nothing left for my relationship, my business or myself.
“Wait it out” they say… “That’s what it’s like being a mom…” But the mama lioness inside me roared: “No way!” There was no way I was gonna settle there. I wanted to help my baby NOW. And I wasn’t gonna watch my relationship and my business fall apart either.
So I kept on asking questions and investigating about root causes. Fast forward, after I went outside several boxes and down many different routes, I found a way to help myself and my baby. She transformed into a totally different child… and she slept! And I got my sleep, sanity and confidence back.
I’m sharing all of this with you because nobody had honestly shared with me the difficulties they went through in postpartum at the time I had my first baby. Only when I came to some real low points did I realize that I needed serious help… like one day when I literally broke down in tears holding my baby in my arms. My husband came rushing: “What’s wrong with the baby?” And I started yelling at him: “The baby is okay. I’m not okay!”
It was hard to admit, because I equated needing help with having failed as a mother. However, realizing that this wasn’t just about me but about my baby and ultimately my whole family, made me open up to others… despite the shame I felt. To my surprise they opened up in return and I was simply shocked by how many moms are affected by this. Almost everybody I talked to had extreme difficulty with similar experienced in postpartum. It was such a relief to hear that it wasn’t just me and there wasn’t anything wrong with me, but what is really wrong is how we’re not talking about what so many mothers are going through and the lack of real support for young families. Because of that, moms think they have to do it alone… and if it feels it’s too much, then they think there’s something wrong with them. And the guilt of that prevents many of them from reaching out for help. And when they do, they’re often being sent home with a prescription or two and the feeling that this is all in their head.
Learning about postnatal depletion and how many woman are affected by it (and that I wasn’t crazy) ignited a spark in me and made me research what we can actually do about it! I’m here to tell you that there’s nothing wrong with you and that it IS possible to conquer postnatal depletion, colic and eczema FAST. Don’t let them convince you otherwise! I want to share with you 7 postpartum myths, because I wish someone would have had shared these with me when I went through postpartum:
Myth #1: “6 weeks after birth everything is healed and you should go back to normal life."
Nope. Not at all. First of all, we can’t put a standard time on healing for every mom. Every body is different. Second, a mother’s tissues after pregnancy and birth are sensitive, healing, and soft. Hormones, digestion, sleep and nerves are out of whack. Third, we’re not meant to “bounce back to normal life”. Everything about life is different now! You went through a major initiation. It’s impossible to go back, only forwards. Your body has changed and you have changed. It’s not a loss - it’s an upgrade. Own it. And take your time… matrescence (the becoming of a mother) is a process. It’s not just about the act of birth. It’s about your transformation into something more. And that deserves time and care.
Myth #2: “Mothers can just follow standard diet and exercise recommendations for postnatal recovery.”
Blanket diet and exercise recommendations are NOT suitable for recovering and depleted mothers. The body has gone through a massive transformation. Mothers needs are very specific. Did you know, that standard health recommendations are actually tailored to men? A man’s body works in a totally different way than a woman’s body, and not just regarding what’s obvious. There’s more and more scientific research appearing about this, mostly in the last few years. And even if moms are following recommendations which are more specific for women - the problem is that a woman before birth has VERY different needs than after birth. Following standard recommendations is not just NOT helpful, but can also be very harmful. Mothers need specific care so that they can recover completely from pregnancy, birth and postpartum.
Myth #3: ”Extreme exhaustion for mom and colic/ eczema for baby are normal.”
Just because something is common (1 out of 2 moms/ 1 out of 4 babies), it doesn’t mean that it’s normal and/or harmless. So many moms settle because they’re being told “this is just what it’s like being a mom” and by the way - “don’t complain. You wanted the baby, right?” Exhaustion, colic and eczema are symptoms (our body’s messages) for an underlying problem. It just makes sense to go beyond the symptoms and investigate what your body needs to help resolve the problem (instead of suffering and ‘sucking it up’). Normalizing these problems is dangerous, because it has mothers settling, instead of taking action to resolve the problem. Mama, if your gut instinct tells you there's something not quite right with your or your baby’s health, there most likely is.
Myth #4: “There’s nothing moms can do about baby colic and eczema.”
Well, I strongly disagree here. First of all, what is ‘colic’ actually? The term ‘colic’ is being used, when it’s not known why the baby is crying excessively and for an extended period of time. However, “for unclear reasons” doesn’t mean there isn’t a reason and that “we can’t do anything about it”. The thing is, throwing all unclear cases into one pot and calling it ‘colic’ isn’t really helpful for families either. Colic isn’t a disease, it’s a set of symptoms. It’s not just a pattern of crying - the baby is actually asking for help.
Eczema is another way the body shows that there’s a problem. It isn’t only a matter of the skin; what shows up on the skin has its origins elsewhere. Eczema is also connected to strong emotions and unusual behaviour. Often colic and eczema point to the same root causes.
When my daughter developed a terrible eczema that spread all over her body, she transformed into a different child. She melted down about every little thing and just couldn’t stop crying; however, when we took care of the internal and external root factors, the eczema completely disappeared and her emotions balanced. Telling moms “there’s nothing we can do about it”, robs them of the opportunity to take action and take care of their child’s health issues.
Myth #5: “Babies simply grow out of colic and eczema if you just wait it out.”
Unfortunately not. In so many cases, children rather ‘grow-in’ to even bigger problems, such as life-long gut and skin issues, allergies, ‘behaviour problems’/ mental health disorders. Often the connection is being overlooked between a child’s symptoms at the beginning of life and symptoms a bit or even much later in life. It doesn’t mean there is none. If we don’t remove the root cause, it usually doesn’t just magically disappear.
Also, why would we even want to “wait it out” and lose this precious time? Why not just take care of what’s causing the problem in the first place immediately? And why take the risk that things turn into bigger problems that families have to deal with for the rest of their lives?
Myth #6: “Sleep and energy will get better on its own. As a mom you just have to suck it up.”
I was one of the moms who was told, baby’s sleep would just get better on its own… but it got worse and worse, to a point where she woke up every 45 minutes to nurse. It was maddening! I’m glad I stopped listening to this kind of conventional ‘wisdom’, because I saw that this was neither sustainable for me, nor for my marriage, nor for my baby! It was important to take action.
The first step out of this was to find out how to help baby so that she could sleep peacefully and I didn’t have to worry about her any more. After I was succeeded in eliminating what was difficult for her body, her symptoms disappeared and I could catch up on some well-needed sleep and sanity. The second step was to take care of my depleted body and nervous system, including annihilating internal and external root factors, overcoming traumas, and moving past blocks of healing. Through doing that, I regained a totally new level of energy, relaxation and joy that radiated to all areas of my life. No need to “suck it up”.
What happens so often is that moms who aren’t being shown a real solution of how to take care of depletion from the inside out, have to try cover up how they’re actually doing and stay stuck coping for the rest of their lives. No family should have to deal with this. Did you know that moms deal with postnatal depletion 5, 7 and 10 years if not taken care of properly? And it’s quite common that postnatal depletion turns into chronic health issues. So many moms end up with chronic nervous system and autoimmune disorders. Again, the body’s messages becoming louder messages if we don’t listen…
Myth #7: “1:1 postnatal care for mother and baby is too expensive.”
The truth is, you’re paying either way. You know what is really costly?
- Losing precious quality time with your family (which you’ll never get back).
- Having no energy to play with your kids or for date nights with your partner.
- Not being able to excel in your work, because you’re too tired and have ‘mom brain’.
- Spending money on emotional coping mechanisms like fast-food, shopping, or paraphernalia that don’t take care of the problem.
- And most moms don’t complain, when families spend money on kids or husbands…. Just putting things in perspective.
- Losing your health and ending up with a chronic health condition that you have to deal with for the rest of your life.
- Taking care of a child with ongoing health issues.
- Ending up with destroyed relationships and even divorce.
Please don’t pay these kinds of costs. Don’t “wait it out”, like Lynne… who was told there’s nothing she could do about her baby’s colic and that it’s ‘normal’. So she tried to be a hero, she thought she’d be fine since it was her third baby. She tried to push past her depletion. Lynne even kept on working out with a personal trainer, but was so tired, she felt like crying when exercising. When her son was already 18 months old, she found out that there actually was a real reason for his distress and a year and a half of sleepless nights. By then it was too late for Lynne, she had reached her breaking point and ended up with adrenal fatigue and an autoimmune disease she’s still dealing with 8 years later.
Mama, please don’t do this to yourself. I’d like to advocate for you to re-direct some of those costs and invest into yourself. So much simply comes down to mothers believing these myths and not knowing there’s another way. We’ve been disconnected from these simple and logical truths and don’t trust our own sense anymore. I’d like to invite you to follow your gut and give you permission to take action to help yourself and your family. Mama, you don’t need to suffer and when you thrive, everyone does. I’d like to invite you to join our free support group. You are not alone.