10 Ways to Handle Postpartum Scary Thoughts

In the bible in the book of Kings, Elijah is on the run for his life and is exhausted from a great trial. He is struggling and has had enough: ‘Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said ‘Get up and eat’. (1 Kings 19 v 5). When Elijah was afraid and told God he had had enough, he was encouraged to rest, eat and when strengthened he was able to keep going. To sleep and to eat (and then to get up and keep going!) has long been the best advice to help when under trials of any kind! 

In this article I have outlined some tips that can help with restoring strength and energy in that postpartum phase. Tips that I know worked for me and helped ensure those scary thoughts did not take over.

Tip 1: Acknowledge the thoughts

Recognise the thoughts for what they are, just thoughts. It does not mean you will act on them. It does not mean you are a bad person. These types of thoughts are perfectly normal. Perhaps take it as a warning sign that you either need some extra support, or a bit of rest.

Tip 2: Let Go

Let go of what you think you should be doing or feeling. Take a minute to think about what you and your baby/family need right now. My hardest time was when I tried to go back to complete my MSc when my colicky, reflux baby was 5 weeks old, wouldn’t take a bottle and I was still physically recovering. I was a mess. All the books said babies nap several hours a day, surely I could get all my course reading done in that time?! HA! My tutor suggested I take the year off (you know like Maternity leave!), that the course didn’t have to be completed that year. I felt like I was giving up the last part of me, my identity, that I was desperately struggling to hold on to. I had a lot to learn about Motherhood!

Do you need to let go of certain standards or aspirations? Know that this letting go is not forever, you can get back to your career and a cleaner house, you can get back to feeling a little more in control of your life. You will get to have nights out with your husband and friends again! You will sleep again (I promise!). Baby will eventually learn to sleep too. Letting go of certain things will just be for a season. Let go and let God.

Tip 3: Eat

Eat something! Can you get some easy freezer meals for this season? Foods that are quick to make and easy to eat with one hand or whilst bouncing a baby in a sling. Remember it’s a season. Time for more elaborate home cooked meals will come. Stock up on high energy foods to keep you going. Snack well. Feel good food like chocolate is great for this season! Rule out being hangry! I subscribed to graze snack boxes with my first, having healthy snacks through my door regularly was a much needed little boost. There were times when that was literally what got me through the day. Or make your own much cheaper versions with choc chips, nuts, dried fruit thrown in a bag (no need to bake when you don’t have time or hands!).

Tip 4: Sleep

Yes I know the saying ‘sleep when the baby sleeps’ is so unhelpful. When is that?! Then when they do eventually sleep you don’t know what to do in what may be a very short space of time. Sleep, shower, eat, do laundry, dishes, try and contact a friend, book a baby group? You need to do it all! I’ve realised now sleep should always be first but it is still so hard to put first. If you’re anything like me you take a while to fall asleep and just as you drift off baby wakes, so frustrating. Wherever humanly possible prioritise sleep, even if it means calling in help to do so, co-sleeping, feeding to sleep etc. Do what works for you to get some sleep in. Sleep training and routines can wait. Your mental health can’t.

I will write a post with some ideas on how to sleep when baby doesn’t because I had a baby that did not like to sleep (10 years later yes he sleeps but still finds it very hard to quieten his mind enough to let him get the sleep he needs). We often feel like we’re doing something wrong if we can’t get our babies to sleep, especially if we follow all the advice from books and courses etc. The truth is those books and courses cover ‘normal’ infant sleep. They are not covering sleep with a baby with colic, reflux, or is highly sensitive – a whole other ball game!

Tip 5: Get up 

Go for a walk. Find a baby group. Go swimming. Do something out of the house. It will help refocus your mind. The mood boosting benefits of exercise or being outdoors and around others will work wonders. Or even just get up and do something around your house if you can’t face others. Put on an exercise video, have a declutter etc. Dancing with baby is a fun one that improves both of your moods!

We would get out for walks regularly as it was the only way baby Z would nap, at least walking is healthy!

Tip 6: Ask for help

One of my favourite Charlie Mackesy quotes from ‘The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse’ is “What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever said?’ asked the boy, ‘Help’ said the horse”. This is a hard one but it is so true. Sometimes we don’t know what we need that will help us though. In this postpartum phase it is easier if others just offer their help. However this may not always happen. Try and think of one or two things that someone could help you with, holding the baby, unloading your dishwasher, buying you snacks etc then try and find the courage to ask. Be honest with your health visitor too if you think you may need some more professional help or expertise. They are meant to be there to help not judge. If you feel judged by them then find a different professional to speak to. Or ask around, even social media circles to find the right help. Don’t suffer alone.

Tip 7: Do something for you

What brings you joy? Or what used to bring you joy? Can you do something small that will increase your level of joy? Perhaps a walk and a podcast – wireless headphones are great when baby holding too! Can you go get your nails done whilst baby sleeps in the buggy? You’ll have to adapt, it may be small but it could help lift your mood.

Tip 8: Focus/meditate on the truth

List God’s promises, write out bible verses, listen to worship music. What helps you to keep focused on His truths? He loves you, He alone can sustain you. He will never let you go. When our minds are whirring it can be hard to stay grounded and know what’s real and what’s not. Focusing on God’s truth and promises can help in this.

Tip 9: Ask for prayer

Be brave and reach out. Even if you don’t know the words to explain how you’re feeling ask for prayer from someone you trust.

Tip 10: Know that this too shall pass

The verse that I keep coming back to in my life and parenting journey is ‘There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens‘ (Ecclesiastes 3:1). Seasons do not last forever, there is hope in Jesus Christ. Hold on to that hope.


There are so many ways of managing mental and physical health these days. Apps to download, gadgets to buy, exercises to try. There are some really simple things we can do to start though especially when we are so depleted. Whatever else we have going on we have to prioritise sleeping, eating and spending time with Jesus. Looking after ourselves is looking after others.

‘Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35)

I’d love to hear from you if you’ve experienced postpartum intrusive thoughts too and how you managed during this time. What advice would you share with others experiencing this?


Mind|Mental health information

Anna Mathur|Psychotherapist and Mother

The Positive Birth Company|Birth and postnatal courses covering mental health

The Baby Reflux Lady|help and support when you have a baby with reflux

Calm and Bright|Sleep support

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