Slings and Postnatal Depression
Carrying my babies close to me in slings has been a lifeline with both of my children for different reasons. With my first, the reasons were more obvious. He was a refluxy baby who didn’t like to be put down and wanted to sleep on me. A sling gave me freedom, and closeness with him. And when I was expecting my second I planned to carry from birth, as I would have a 22 month old running around to chase after at the same time!
What I wasn’t prepared for was postnatal depression. Everyone who saw us breezed through – it’s your second, breastfeeding is going well, lovely home birth, happy home, supportive husband and extended family and a great group of friends. All perfect, right?
I didn’t really notice what was happening at first. I struggled to deal with two children, and their demands on me. I struggled to leave the house, everything felt like too much effort. My temper got away from me. Housework barely even registered. Some days anyone being dressed was too much.
We might have pulled past this without it really registering as anything beyond a “difficult” period, but when my youngest was 6 months old my father became ill and had surgery, and we had an unresolved argument about our relationship. We left things with us both needing space, and a week later he died unexpectedly.
With me already teetering on the edge of postnatal depression this knocked me firmly over. I convinced myself that it was my fault that he had died; that I didn’t deserve happiness. I lost control of my temper constantly and felt that I couldn’t control anything. My family took the worst of this, my husband and oldest child in particular.I couldn’t get through even a few hours without screaming at them and needing them away from me.
But throughout this I carried my kids. I’d started running a sling library just before I became pregnant with my second, and I used everything available to me. I firmly believe that carrying, both the physical act of holding my children close, and the network of support I built up around the library, is the main reason I was able to recognise how bad it was getting. Those moments of connection, carrying both of my children together, or on their own, gave me quiet moments of clarity to see how destructive my behaviour had become. When I found myself screaming in sheer frustration at how out of control everything was, I could sling a child, or even both, and walk, and just get away. The friends I made through my work at the sling library were there through everything. And finally, away on a family holiday, and taking my now year old baby for a walk I realised just how much I needed help.
My youngest baby turns three in a few short months, and times are still hard but getting ever better. I’ve had medication, counselling, and I am always working on my mindfulness, awareness of self, and the balance I need in my life. I’ve forgiven myself a little for things that I cannot not change. I miss my dad. But I am here, and for me, slings were that little sliver of light I needed to pull myself out of the darkness.
Slings are only one parenting tool, but they can be an incredibly valuable one, and there are many ways that they can help – they can provide skin to skin contact and physical closeness. They can support you to keep a baby with reflux upright, babies who hate to be put down may be happy snuggled close to you in a sling. They can enable you to look after your needs, like eating and going to the toilet, not to mention needing to be on the go to take care of older children, or even just allowing you to keep on heading over the fields to walk the dog, when a pushchair might not be convenient. They can also help you and your little one share experiences and get to know each other’s ways and experience the world together.
If you’d like to explore slings further here at It’s A Sling Thing we offer both an online sling library rental and retail service so you can try carriers to help find one to suit yours and your child’s needs. We are run by two trained and experienced babywearing consultants and can help advise you on options that may suit. You can also find your local sling services, including meets, libraries and consultants at www.slingpages.co.uk.
If you’re local to Coventry I’m also one of the consultants at Coventry Slings.