Maybe it’s the sound of his voice that suddenly gets under your skin or the way he chews his food with his mouth open. (Why does he do that?) Or hey, maybe it’s his superior diapering skills that have you seriously PO’d lately. Whatever it is, you’re not alone. Sure, you try and remind yourself that your partner is half the reason you even have baby, but even so: Right now, you can’t stand the sight of him. (Sound familiar?)
Why you’re hating on him
If it comes as any comfort, you’re far from the only one unleashing major postbaby mood swings on your partner. For one Bumpie, all it took to lose her cool was one dangerously empty bag of M&M’s. “One night I went to have some candy,” she recalls. “And when I got to the bag, I realized my husband had left only two of them in there! (Seriously? Who eats all but two?!) I was so angry at him, I started having fantasies of hurting him—over candy!” Fellow new mom Cyntina remembers her own outbursts: “I had a very short fuse with my husband in those first few weeks, even when he was trying to be helpful.”
According to Dr. Shoshana Bennett, a postpartum depression specialist and author of Postpartum Depression for Dummies, it’s common—and totally normal—for those sleep-deprived first weeks with baby to cause some bouts of irrational crankiness (and, yes, even a few crying jags). So how come your guy bears the brunt of your bad mood? Simple: “It can be easy to use your husband as a verbal punching bag,” explains Bennett. “When you’re frustrated, it’s easier to let yourself yell at another adult in the house rather than at an infant.” Part of the reason for your crankiness is what Bennett calls the common 'Myths of Motherhood'. “Women often find themselves thinking things like I should be able to do this all by myself or If I loved my baby enough, I shouldn’t need any breaks,” she says. “Once you change the mindset that you need to do everything all by yourself, a lot of your anger, resentment, and frustration will subside.”
If your postbaby moodiness doesn’t end there, finding the root of your anger might take a little more detective work.
Getting at the real problem
As you might already suspect, most of your mood swings aren’t actually about him at all—the real problems start with you. (We know, not exactly the answer you were hoping for.) Bennett points out that if everything else is going well in the relationship and a woman still finds herself snapping at her partner, she needs to look at what's going on both physiologically and hormonally. Here are some key questions to ask:
Getting enough sleep?
Ah, sleep...remember what that was like? You might scoff at the possibility of getting a night of solid, uninterrupted shut-eye in those first months, but don't underestimate its power. “A good night's sleep is a necessity, not a luxury,” says Bennett, who suggests having someone else watch baby while you get in some extra snooze time during the day or trading off night shifts with your partner to get a little more rest.
Drinking enough water?
Believe it or not, dehydration not only causes irritability, but it also leads to anxiety. If you're breastfeeding, you need to be extra careful to get in your daily eight cups of H2O. Get in the habit of keeping a glass of water nearby and sipping on it as baby nurses.
How's my diet?
Even though you’re no longer pregnant, it’s still important to watch what you put in your mouth. You need to be getting enough protein and calcium. Also, be sure to sneak in some extra snacks throughout the day so you don't become weak and cranky. Munch on peanuts or almonds and get in a glass or two of milk when you can.
What am I missing?
Try your best to schedule in time each week for things you enjoy. Meet up with friends so you don’t feel you’re losing touch, or de-stress by getting your nails done. Planning one thing each week to look forward to will lift your spirits.
Dealing in the moment
No matter how many precautions you take, the mood swings may still strike. Don’t be afraid to take a breather by handing over the little one to your husband and walking into another room for a bit. Just make sure he knows why you’re walking away before you go. If you’ve been keeping the lines of communication open all along, he won’t feel left in the dark about why you’ve been so moody lately. And letting him know what’s going on with you will also help prevent you from bottling up your anger until it reaches a boiling point. “Sometimes we think that unloading on someone else will lower our stress,” says Bennett. “But it actually doesn’t. We might feel better for a millionth of a second, but then we feel bad about ourselves and there's cleaning up to do.”
When to worry
If you’ve been extremely cranky for more than a few weeks postpartum, you should probably talk to your doc. Women with the baby blues tend to see their symptoms subside after only a few weeks, but women with postpartum depression tend to suffer from more severe mood swings or extreme sadness for much longer. If you suspect you’re suffering from PPD, speak to your doctor immediately or visit Postpartum Support International) for more info.