The reality of postpartum depression is all too real for many American women. In fact, the National Institute of Mental Health estimates that the condition occurs in 15 percent of births.
For many, postpartum depression (PPD) is a result of a variety of factors. From steep drops in hormones, to the seemingly endless parade of sleepless nights, to the often painful physical recovery of delivery, postpartum women are bombarded on all fronts.
Fortunately, PPD (and depression in general) are not the taboo topics they used to be, and today many women are successfully diagnosed with what can be a life-threatening condition if left unrecognized and untreated. While talk therapy and medication remain some of the best treatments that medicine currently has to offer for mothers suffering from PPD, there may be another tool in the fight against PPD that for many women comes gift-wrapped at a baby shower: a baby carrier.
From more structured carriers to wraps and ring-slings, baby-carriers may provide an additional defense against postpartum depression (in conjunction with whatever treatment you and your doctor have decided is best for you, of course). Often referred to as “baby-wearing,” carrying your baby close to your body in a carrier allows for extended skin-to-skin contact—with the added benefit of getting to hold your baby “hands-free.”
The benefits to mother and baby of immediate skin-to-skin contact (SSC) after birth are well-known, including the fact that immediate SSC is associated with better breastfeeding outcomes, and better breastfeeding outcomes are associated with lower postpartum depression (specifically, this study found that "the lowest risk of PPD was found among women who had planned to breastfeed, and who had actually breastfed their babies, while the highest risk was found among women who had planned to breastfeed and had not gone on to breastfeed.") All of this makes the findings of a 2012 Canadian study intuitive: even up to a month after a baby is born, extended SSC (two or more hours a day) is shown to reduce a mother’s depression scores.
Two peas in a pod
These findings make sense to me, as I personally have experienced some benefits from wearing my babies. With both of my children, I’ve found babywearing not only to be a great way to spend more time close to my babies, but also a great way to still be able to get things done while keeping my babies calm. From cooking to cleaning, from grocery shopping to exercising, and even breastfeeding (yep, it can be done—with a little practice) and writing (standing desks for the win!), babywearing has allowed me to feel more freedom as a mother, instead of constantly feeling trapped on the couch—which I know has definitely been a boon for my mental health as well.
For someone with PPD, babywearing will not be the only answer to treating this multifaceted, serious condition, and no one should feel afraid to reach out to their loved ones and their doctor for the help they need. But for those looking to add one more tool to their kit in the fight against PPD, babywearing could be one part of a lifesaving package.