"Your turn." New parents have uttered this phrase to one another hundreds of times in response to their crying infants. In most households, it's become second nature for both moms and dads to take turns calming their little ones. There's no doubt about it: when it comes to pregnancy and birth, mothers are the ones doing the heavy lifting. The idea, however, that fathers aren't up to the task of co-parenting is as "1950's" as the concept that moms shouldn't work.
As a recent study concluded, the same goes for a more unlikely shared parenting experience - postpartum depression. The idea that only women suffer from postpartum depression - a very difficult, sometimes debilitating, type of anxiety and worry experienced by 10 -15% of all new mothers after childbirth - is equally out of date. In fact, this disorder seems to affect men in a similar way.
The study, a careful review of 43 previous studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, validates what dads have been feeling (whether openly or not) for years: depression in the early stages of parenthood is not just for women. As many as 10% of new dads experience it, especially when babies are between the age of 3-to-6-months. The shocking new responsibility of parenthood accompanied by the all-too-common sleep deprivation are major contributors to this disorder. The black hole of postpartum depression - the anxiety, pain, fear, apathy, exhaustion, and hopelessness - especially when your baby has persistent crying (colic) - can give way to feelings of shame, isolation, hopelessness and extreme guilt. This condition is not to be taken lightly -- it's widely accepted that postpartum depression can wreak havoc on a new family's dynamic, not to mention the stability of marriage.
Common stresses like fatigue and colic are powerful triggers of postpartum depression in both men and women. One proven strategy for battling sleep deprivation - for infants, moms, and dads - and building parent confidence despite their baby's colic is the "5 S's." These highly successful techniques activate the "calming reflex" - a virtual "off-switch" for crying and "on switch" for sleep that all babies are born with. This method (demonstrated step-by-step in The Happiest Baby on the Block DVD and book) can make easy babies even easier and quickly stop most cases of colic and boost a baby's sleep by 1-3 hours per night.
The best news of all is that after learning these simple steps, men often become the best baby calmers in the family! So they gain confidence in their new role as caretaker while getting more sleep. And, as any mom or dad suffering from postpartum depression will tell you, a good night's rest goes a long way. It's the first step to recovery. So we encourage dads everywhere to empower themselves by learning the 5 S's, consider it your best weapon in the battle against postpartum depression, so that men and women alike are equally well-equipped and confident every time they hear the words, "Your turn, honey."
Dr. Harvey Karp, America's most-read pediatrician, is the creator of the landmark DVDs/books "The Happiest Baby on the Block" and "The Happiest Toddler on the Block". Learn more about Dr. Karp and his work at www.happiestbaby.com.