An affected mother can do many things to lighten her load herself.
She should have conversations with people who understand and talk openly about her negative feelings and fears in a bid to relieve herself of some of the stress.
And she should seek professional help for herself. There are various possibilities that can be combined (see Professional help).
She should try to get as much sleep as possible to help her recover, or at least sleep when the baby sleeps.
A balanced diet is important. On no account should mothers attempt to go on a diet in order to regain the figure they had before the pregnancy. Fresh whole foods counteract the exhaustion that is a problem for many women after childbirth. Several snacks spread over the course of the day are important for stabilising the blood sugar level: fluctuations in the blood sugar level can generate irritability. It is recommended to take food that is rich in potassium, such as bananas, apricots or pulses.
Physical exercise is extremely important even if it is difficult to pull oneself together in this situation. Exercise not only helps to revive the exhausted body, it also helps to ease the internal block that often reflects the depression. Exercise also has a positive effect on hormonal balance, neurotransmitters become activated and biochemical conditions are brought back into balance more quickly. We recommend going for a walk or swimming, cycling, gymnastics or even having a sauna. Different forms of relaxation exercise are also very helpful (see ).
Adopt a realistic stance on breastfeeding that is not related to stress. Breastfeeding can be uplifting but only when free of stress. Lactation experts can help you here. Mothers should see and enjoy breastfeeding as a form of tenderness between mother and baby and should not pay too much attention to the amount of milk. The best thing for the baby is always whatever parents can give with love and conviction, regardless of whether the milk comes from the bottle or the breast. If depressive mothers want to stop breastfeeding, it is important, because of hormonal changes, that this takes place slowly and without taking of medication if possible!
Try not to be perfect or have expectations set too high. Aim for sensible and achievable goals reduce them to the most pressing, whether housekeeping, looking after the baby or your own body, or anything else.
Maintaining a certain distance from the baby is healthy. The mother should have some free time to do things either on her own, with her partner or with friends.
Women who are affected often suffer from heavy feelings of guilt and an intense fear of failure if they are not able to care for their baby lovingly themselves to the extent that they consider correct. They also suffer from fear that the baby could be mentally harmed by this situation. It is important to note here that this risk will be minimised precisely by the mother handing over care of her baby to a trustworthy person, even on an hourly basis, so that she can take care of her own weaknesses and needs and get back on her feet again. In this way they completely fulfil their responsibility as a mother. The more a mother can give her baby the feeling that it is all right if its father, grandmother or friend cares for her/him, the easier the baby will cope with the temporary separation. This has also been confirmed by neurophysiological research. And as an African saying so aptly puts it, "It takes a village to raise a child."
There should be a rough outline to the structure and plan for how each day will be spent. It is important to keep the plan open, realistic and flexible so that it can be fulfilled.
Major changes such as moving, renovation, construction, change of job and separation from a partner should be avoided within the first three months after childbirth. This is not the right moment for drastic changes. The body and soul need rest and recovery and first need to adapt to the new situation with a newborn baby.
It is important to learn to accept help of any kind. Most people interpret the search for help as sign of failure. The cry for help therefore often comes with the breakdown, i.e. too late. But in fact it is exactly the opposite: it is a sign of strength to reflect on one's own situation, to be honest to oneself and to look for help.
Self-help groups dealing with peripartal depression and psychosis (see Forum).) have been forming in recent years. These groups are highly beneficial because they allow women who are sharing the same experience to meet, thereby enabling open and trusting conversation. Self-help groups create solidarity and understanding among the women, which helps them strengthen their own self-esteem and find individual solutions to get out of the crisis. In addition to the exchange of experience, self-help groups mainly serve to share information about literature, experts and therapies. The unspoken understanding of a similarly difficult illness and life situation is key element in the healing process. The women's own initiative strengthens their self-confidence, contributing considerably to recovery. Self-help groups are often very far away and difficult for affected women to reach so there is also the possibility of a conversation (mostly by telephone) with other women or family members who are, or have been, affected. The contact details are available on two lists that can only be obtained from the association by post (see ). There is also an Internet forum for an open exchange of experiences (see