Week Three: Answers to your Questions about Checking on Your Baby at Night
This week and over the past few weeks, there have been a lot of questions about repeatedly checking in on your baby at night. One of you shared that you wake up at night panicking after dreaming that your baby is falling or lost in the covers of your bed. Dr. Michelle answers here, and we will be following up with a video on Instagram with some suggestions for self care when you're plagued by these and other symptoms of postpartum anxiety.
"I've been waking up in the middle of the night in a panic about the baby. I am either dreaming she is falling or lost in the covers in our bed. I wake up and frantically search for her or jump out of bed "to catch her." I eventually realize that she is safe and sound in her crib in our room, but for a few seconds I am terrified. I've had other friends tell me this happens to them. What causes this? How do I stop or ease it? Will it go away?"
It sounds as if you might be experiencing some symptoms of postpartum anxiety, but to be able to more clearly speak to your concern, I would need to clarify a few things. First off, how old is your baby now? While some anxiety and mood fluctuations are normal post-birth (up to 2 weeks), if they are too debilitating or last too long, you might consider seeking professional assistance. I am also curious to hear if you are having any symptoms of anxiety during the day such as intrusive thoughts, difficulty concentrating etc? How often are you waking up in the middle of the night feeling panicked and having these experiences? From your brief description, it sounds as if you might have some fears surrounding the potential loss of your baby. If you are not troubled by these thoughts or feeling anxious during the day, then I wonder if you are somehow repressing your anxiety and fears. As a result, your mind is still active during the night and while you are sleeping, forcing you to confront your fears. Lucky for us, our brains are smart, but they’re crafty and don’t let us get away with much. If we’re not allowing ourselves to acknowledge and confront our fears while awake, our brains are going to make sure we are doing it when we sleep (or at least when we are trying to sleep). The transition to parenthood is the most common and likely time for old traumas, conflicts, and fears that had been previously hidden away, to rise to the surface. With the help and support of a mental health professional, I would explore your fears in depth to understand how underlying conflicts might be contributing to your current symptoms. Hang in there, mama. I know this is hard, but it might also be that your little one is providing you with an opportunity to grow through something. It's amazing how these tiny babies can be our teachers.