Standing up to Depression: Kids with Depressed Moms are Shorter

A few weeks ago I did a post about how depressed new moms are less likely to breastfeed than less-depressed women. A lot of studies show that breastfed babies do better in a variety of areas–lower risk of obesity, ear infections, and pneumonia, stronger immune system, and even increased IQ. But even though depression affects breastfeeding, which in turn affects babies’ health, it’s not accurate to say that depression is responsible for poorer outcomes.

So here’s another interesting study that links mothers’ depression with their children’s health–in this case, if their height. In a just-published study, children of moms who were depressed nine months after giving birth were more likely to be short at age three and beyond than kids whose mothers were not depressed.

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Balancing Being a Step Mom and a New Mom

I’m a new mom—and the step-mother of a 6-year old from my husband’s previous marriage. I try to pay as much attention to my step-daughter as I can, but the minute I turn to my newborn son, she runs off in a fit.  I don’t want to hurt my step-daughter’s feelings, but I want to feel free to enjoy my baby as well. What can I do?

Dealing with a stepchild’s jealousy may seem like it should be the same as dealing with any jealous older sibling, but there are other issues–particularly if the child doesn’t live in your house all the time. In cases like that, the stepchild may feel very upset that the new baby gets to be with you and daddy all the time while she can see her dad only part of the time. She may also be worried that her dad won’t love her as much as the new baby. After all, people are always fussing and cooing over infants and tend to ignore bigger kids.
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Dads Get the Baby Blues, Too

Dear Mr. Dad: I have a 2-week old baby boy, and I’m crazy about him. But I’ve suddenly started feeling really anxious, stressed, irritable, and sometimes even angry. My girlfriend says I could be suffering from male postpartum depression. I’ve never heard of guys getting postpartum depression, is it possible? If so, what can I do about it?

A: Your girlfriend is absolutely right. Most of us have heard of new moms experiencing the “baby blues,” or actual postpartum depression, but few acknowledge that paternal postpartum depression is just as real. In fact, quite a few people ridicule the idea. It’s wonderful that your girlfriend is not one of them.

According to Will Courtenay, a psychotherapist specializing in male postpartum depression, as many as 1 in 4 new dads experience the kinds of symptoms you mentioned, in the days, weeks, and even months after the birth of a child. Unfortunately, men rarely discuss their feelings or ask for help, especially during a time when they’re supposed to “be there” for the new mom. One big problem is that men and women express depression differently. Women tend to get tearful, men get angry or withdraw from their family and retreat to the office. Because depression—including the postpartum kind—is usually seen as affecting women more than men, many mental health professionals don’t recognize the symptoms, or write them off as normal adjustment to the challenges of new parenthood.
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Walking a Mile in Mom’s Shoes

Dear Mr. Dad: I’ve always resented my mother and thought she was a lousy parent. I saw only her negative side and was extremely critical and judgmental. But now that I’m a new mom myself, I see her in a different light and realize that her intentions were good. How do I make up for all the grief I’ve caused?

A: When it comes to admitting one’s mistakes and trying to make amends, being late is always better than never.

As children—and especially as teenagers and young adults—we tend to see our parents as too strict and old-fashioned. Close your eyes for a second and think back on how often you screamed things like, “I hate you!” or You just don’t understand me” or “I will never, ever be a parent like you!” Five times a day? More? All of us dream of having cool parents, the kind who would give us the freedom to act as we want, never interfere or criticize, never tell us what to do or impose rules. With criteria like that, it’s no wonder that the vast majority of moms and dads will fail miserably—at least in the eyes of their children.

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The Joys of Sleep Deprivation

Dear Mr. Dad: Our son is three weeks old and my wife is exhausted from breastfeeding. I have to be out of the house early in the morning to make it to work, but I do help her out between 2am and 4 am. But when I try to get a little sleep before or after those hours, or if I’m too slow to wake up, she’ll say to our son things like “Daddy doesn’t care.” This hurts my feelings because I’m doing as much as I can, and I do have to put in an 8-hour day in the office. How do I handle this situation?

A: This probably won’t make you feel much better, but there are plenty of new parents out there who can totally relate to your dilemma. Fact is, being tired, sleep-deprived, and overwhelmed is a normal part of being a new parent.

I’m sure that everyone you knew tried to warn you that becoming a dad would turn your life upside down, right? And I’m sure you tried to prepare yourself for all the changes. But there’s a difference between watching a tornado on TV and having one blow the roof off your house. Now that your baby is actually here, it’s pretty obvious that nothing could have fully prepped you for the daily (and nightly) challenges of living with a newborn.
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