On this page
- You and your baby – bonding, building confidence and coping with separation
- Bottle feeding and breastfeeding after postpartum psychosis
- Older siblings
“The best piece of advice I was given was to take things five minutes at a time. Just getting through the next five minutes is enough.”
You and your baby
Right now your baby needs food, cuddles and safe care. Others can help provide this until you are better. Evidence shows that as long as babies are getting sensitive, loving care from at least one adult, their development is unlikely to be affected by a period of separation from their mum. You will still bond with your baby, even if you are separated for a while. Your main job is to get better. It’s easy to feel judged for not being able to do it all but none of that matters in the long term.
Building confidence with your baby
Parenting is really hard. Different things work for different families. Most new parents feel as if they are making it up as they go along.
Mums recovering from PP describe:
- feeling really anxious, depressed or overwhelmed – or all three,
- feeling as if people are watching and judging them,
- feeling as if their partner or family are better at baby care,
- questioning themselves, being unsure about their feelings and actions, and finding it hard to trust themselves.
It’s ok to ask for as much help and reassurance as you need. As you recover and spend more time with your baby you’ll find baby care easier.
Bonding with your baby
Everyone is different. Some mums will feel a bond with their baby straight away. Others will find it very difficult at first. This is totally normal. It will happen in its own time. A recent study found that women’s experience of PP had no long-term impact on their relationship with their baby.
Here are some simple things to do with your baby, suggested by other mums. Some of them might feel hard at first but as you recover you’ll begin to enjoy them more.
- A simple black and white book can be a calming focus and a starting point to help you talk to your baby. You can read the story (if there is one) and perhaps talk about what’s in the picture.
- Sing softly to your baby . Some people find singing easier than talking, and the music can be soothing. You can sing any songs that you enjoy.
- Your baby may talk to you. Repeat their noises back to them in a kind of conversation.
- Your baby might like to feel your skin next to theirs. If you feel up to it, you could ask the staff to help you try skin-to-skin cuddles. Some mums find it very calming too.
- Watch your baby’s expressions and try to copy them.
- Feeding your baby is a good time to connect. Let them touch your face, hair, and hands. Make eye contact if they are watching you.
- Try to be calm and relaxed. Young babies like to feel safe, with gentle and predictable movements.
- All babies cry, and some cry a lot. This doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with them, or with you. If you have a baby who cries a lot or is hard to soothe, it can be tough. If you’re finding things difficult, ask for help, talk about how you are feeling, discuss things with your health professionals and don’t struggle on alone.
Coping with periods of separation from your baby
Mums and their partners told us what helped them cope when separated from their baby.
- Ask your partner to visit with the baby as regularly as they can – daily if possible. It’s fine to keep visits quite short.
- When your partner or family visit, try to do as much baby care as you feel able to. Physical touch with your baby will help you bond. It’s ok if you don’t feel well enough yet. It’s important to do things at your own pace.
- Keep visits from everyone except close family to a minimum in the early stages of your treatment so you don’t get too tired or over-stimulated. Don’t be afraid to ask people not to visit, or ask your partner to talk to them on your behalf.
- Keep photos of your baby and family with you in your room.
- Take one of your baby’s cuddly toys or baby blanket for your bedroom on the ward.
- Give your baby something you have worn for a few days or nights so they can feel close to you too.
- Ask your partner, or the person caring for your baby, to take photos so you can talk about your baby and what they have been doing each day. As you recover, you could try a video call with your baby – perhaps as part of their bedtime routine.
“One thing that helped me massively was creating a photo album/scrap book of the first few months of my son’s life. I felt like I couldn’t remember it so seeing photos of myself holding him helped!”
Bottle feeding and breastfeeding after postpartum psychosis
Lots of mums who experience PP are unable to breastfeed or are advised that they need to stop. This is usually because there is a risk of medication being passed to the baby in breastmilk, or because they need to sleep properly to help with recovery. Others find breastfeeding is making their illness worse because it’s stressful or difficult.
“I wasn’t able to breastfeed my baby and I felt like a failure. I needed more support with that.”
Despite all the breastfeeding campaigns, it’s fine not to breastfeed. It might be the most sensible choice for you and your family. It's still possible to create a close bond with your child while bottle feeding.
If breastfeeding is very important to you, discuss this with your psychiatrist.
There hasn’t been a lot of research around medication and breastfeeding – but we do know that some are safer than others. A specialist perinatal psychiatrist or a specialist pharmacist will have the most up-to-date advice.
“I wish midwives had given me permission not to breastfeed and said it's OK to stop.”
While your newborn won’t remember this period, older siblings might need extra support.
Helping older siblings cope with separation
- If you are able, use Skype or Facetime to stay in touch when you are well enough.
- Make sure your child has photos of you to look at and talk about with your partner or other family members.
- When you are well enough, make sure your child feels included and fussed over during visits.
Talking about PP
It can be hard deciding how to explain PP to older siblings. The amount of information your child can understand will depend on their age. We have more information on talking to different age children about PP throughout this section.
“I have a son who is 8 and my husband didn’t tell him the full details - he just told him I was in hospital and being looked after.”
Back at home
You may find that your older child has got into new routines. They may take a while to get used to you being home. If you can, try to have some time alone with them each day. This could just be some cuddles and a story while someone else looks after the baby.