Winter Blues

Snow has been the big news story in Madison this winter. My son told me that in January it snowed on 23 out of the 31 days of the month. Since I remember it raining on at least one or two days, that means that it was cloudy and precipitating pretty much the entire month. It has only gotten worse in February. This means that even those of us that aren’t at risk for feeling down might be getting a bit blue.New parents — especially new mothers — are so vulnerable to feeling depressed. Whatever the cause (hormones or no sleep or the constant needs of a newborn or the difficulty getting out of the house or…) the reality is that it is easy to end up in a really dark emotional place. One of my friends moved to Maine and had a new baby in another year of record snowfall. She called me a lot that winter but it wasn’t until years later that I realized that she was calling to hang on to sanity.

She was afraid to say just how hopeless she was feeling at the time and I was too busy with my own 3 little ones to catch her subtle signals over the phone. Fortunately conversation, a loving spouse, and a supportive church community were enough to her through that winter.

If breastfeeding is going well then it helps mothers feel calm and protects babies from the negative effects of their mother’s depression. There are lots of good ways to treat depression that are compatible with breastfeeding: exercise, supportive friends, cognitive therapy, omega-3 fatty acid supplements, light boxes, and many antidepressant medications. Check out Kathleen Kendall-Tackett and Nancy Mohrbacher’s website,, for more information.

A lot of us get through the blues by talking with other people. Sometimes it really helps just to hear that another mother is struggling in the same ways we are. Research has shown that women may respond to stress by taking care of our children and reaching out to our friends (see the article at Postpartum Support International). In Madison we are so lucky to have a lot of mother-to-mother support groups (lots of places to find friends that understand!): La Leche League, Happy Bambino (Beyond the Blues, age specific, breastfeeding), hospital mother-baby, and the Madison Birth Center.


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