It irks me that despite all the hoopla surrounding celebrities who share their experiences with postpartum depression and anxiety, and most recently Chrissy Teigen, journalists still confuse the "baby blues" with postpartum depression and anxiety. (And brava to Ms. Teigen for opening up!)
So let's set the record straight! The key distinguishing factors are when symptoms show up, how long they stick around and how severe they are.
Symptoms, which may include irritability, tearfulness, fatigue and excessive worry, can be present in both the baby blues and postpartum depression. So I get the confusion on the matter. But, if a parent is experiencing these feelings more than a month or so postpartum, then it isn't the baby blues anymore. The baby blues usually occur within the first week or two after the baby arrives, and most commonly around day 3-5. Hence the saying, "when the milk comes in, the tears aren't far behind."
Despite it feeling like forever in the moment, the baby blues should resolve within a week or two. If they last longer, it isn't the baby blues, it's likely postpartum depression.
The baby blues do not impede the parent's ability to take care of the baby or his/herself. The mom or dad is able to get through the day, despite transient symptoms. I liken it to a cloudy day, where the sun is able to peak through. There are moments of joy and moments of moodiness. Whereas with postpartum depression and anxiety, it feels like it's always cloudy, all of the time AND it does interfere with the parent's ability to care for the baby. With postpartum depression and anxiety, symptoms are consistent, and don't get better over time.
So the takeaway is that the baby blues are not "postpartum light." They occur across cultures and have no relation to being predisposed to depression or anxiety. While difficult to experience in the moment, the symptoms do resolve quickly.
Whether you feel you might be experiencing the baby blues or postpartum depression and anxiety, the best thing you can do is to share. Follow Chrissy's lead! Let your family and friends know that you need help. Don't suffer in silence. Help is out there, and it's not your fault you feel this way.