When my daughter was 1 week old I had terrible plugged ducts. I googled everything I could about dealing with plugged ducts, mastitis, improving a latch etc etc etc. Even though as a midwife helping my clients deal with plugged ducts was something I did on a regular basis, I couldn’t help myself from consulting mommy-blogs and group forums in case there was a tip or a trick that I hadn’t heard about or tried for myself. There wasn’t anything new. And eventually the voice of reason in my head whispered: “Umm…excuse me? Hello? You know all this information already. Why are you looking for answers from random people on the internet instead of trusting what you already know or asking for help from the actual people who you know are experts!” The answer is – new baby, survival mode, desperation… Even if you know it’s not helpful, it’s common to not be able to help yourself from traveling down the internet rabbit hole in search of an answer.
You can find anything on the internet – and this is a wonderful and terrible thing. For some people, researching things about their baby can be reassuring and provide insight into new ideas or ways of doing things. For other people, the internet is a source of anxiety, suggesting afflictions that you’ve never heard of or offering ways of parenting that make you question everything you’ve been doing so far, even if it’s been going ok! If your internet searches are taking up hours of your time or causing your to feel anxiety, dread, or overwhelm, it might be time to put the internet away in favour of another activities to pass the time or find information.
Things to consider
Tricky times. Where and when are the times that you find yourself scrolling the internet? For me it was when I was feeding my baby or bouncing them to sleep.. For you it may be when you wake up in the middle of the night with insomnia, or waiting for your prenatal appointments or ultrasounds, or on the train commute to work. Take note of the where and the when that pulls you into the endless internet scroll. This is where we are trying to find a replacement activity.
Find something that you enjoy. Maybe it’s an e-book, or a blog you enjoy. Maybe it’s a show or movie. Whatever it is, finding an alternative to ‘the internet’ is the goal. It might take some experimenting to figure out what works for you because your interests may change in pregnancy or postpartum. You may not have an appetite for true crime podcasts in pregnancy or for murder mystery shows postpartum. Reading a home design blog that you once enjoyed may make you frustrated because you don’t have time to tackle the home-improvement projects you’d like to. Experiment and with different things and check in with how you are feeling in order to find something that works for your present season and state of mind.
Decide once. This is an idea that I learned from one of my go-to middle-of-the-night podcasts - The Lazy Genius. The idea is that you make a decision once, so that you don’t have to continually decide on that thing. What this looks like in the situation we’re talking about here is: “When I’m up feeding my baby at night, I watch Gilmore GIrls” or “When I have insomnia, I put on my audiobook for 60 minutes” or “When I’m waiting for appointments, I find new recipes”. Making the decision ahead of time saves you the mental energy rather than having to decide in the moment.
Determine your go-to resources. Instead of searching the whole internet for answers, stick to a few reliable and trusted resources – maybe it’s a trusted website, but even a trusted website can lead you to another rabbit hole. I’ve found that the best resources are actual human people – your partner, a health care provider, or a trusted friend or family member who can help you determine whether or not the problem you’re worrying about is something that you actually need to worry about – or whether it’s something that’s normal – “Is it normal for my baby not to poop for 24 hours?” “Is it normal for my baby to be noisy when they sleep?” If you determine that yes, this is something of concern, book an appointment with your healthcare provider to give you a definitive answer or recommend treatment or follow up.
Even with these strategies in place you will likely find yourself scrolling on the internet in the middle of the night. It's going to happen. But recognizing when it happens, how it makes you feel, and reflecting on whether it is helpful or not, is a big step. As your situation changes, you'll need to adapt the where and the what -- your pregnancy insomnia is replaced by middle-of-the-night baby-rocking; you've listened to all of the podcast episodes in your favourite show. If anything is certain with pregnancy and a new babies, it's that no one stage lasts very long. But making small changes when we realize that the internet is causing us more harm than heal, is a big step forward in the journey to positive mental health in pregnancy and postpartum.