Even the most prepared of parents-to-be can feel overwhelmed when their baby arrives. Coping with the stress and responsibilities associated with becoming a parent can take its toll both mentally and physically. However, you won’t be alone in feeling you aren’t coping, and there are NHS resources available that can help you during this transition from pregnancy to parenthood.
Changing routinesIf you are the type of person that relies on strict routines and organisation, it may be a shock to the system when your usual routines are disrupted. Your baby may not respond to a strict schedule and you could find yourself with a baby that requires constant attention. Chores will be left unfinished, emails and texts unanswered, and sleep will be something you can only dream of. This lack of control can cause feelings of powerlessness and frustration, and the lack of sleep could leave you irritable, anxious and depressed.
Altered relationshipsSome couples find their relationship suffers once the baby arrives as one party may feel neglected, or money may become a concern. You could find that you each wish to parent differently or that one parent feels inadequate and unable to give the child the attention they believe they need. If you are a single parent with limited support, the stresses associated with caring for a new baby are often multiplied.
Mental wellbeing issuesDuring pregnancy and childbirth, your body undergoes numerous physical changes. Not all births are straightforward and if you experience injury either during pregnancy or childbirth, you could suffer from post-traumatic stress, which may hinder your initial relationship with the baby. Anxiety about your capacity to parent effectively can cause you to become depressed and leave your self worth in tatters.
Ways to cope when you're struggling with a new baby
Talk to the midwife or health visitor about your concerns
Midwives and health visitors are experienced professionals who will not be surprised by feelings of anxiety and depression. They will be able to allay any concerns you may have about your parenting skills and also point you in the right direction for support groups or individual support.
Don’t feel pressured to invite visitors to the hospital or to your home
When a new baby arrives everyone wants to celebrate, and it can be overwhelming to have a stream of visitors to your bedside or when you first arrive home. It is important to let your boundaries be known and if you want to take time to be alone with your baby then make it clear that you aren’t accepting visitors at this time but will let people know when they can see you and the baby. However, if you feel that you are reluctant to leave the home or see people for an extended period of time, this can be a sign of anxiety and you should speak to your midwife about this to see whether you require some support additional support.
Accept offers of help
If a trusted friend or relative wants to sit with your baby while you catch up on sleep, let them.
Talk about your feelings honestly
Whether you're talking to a health professional or to friends, let them know if you are struggling or if you want advice from experienced parents.
Try to find time to relax
Instead of trying to catch up on housework while your baby sleeps, take time to rest and unwind. Soak in the bath, take a nap, or watch your favourite programme. Do whatever it is that helps you to recharge.
Join a parent and baby group
Socialising with other new parents can help alleviate stress. Joining a parent and baby group is a relaxing, fun way to meet new people and to talk about your new baby and their development. Other parents may have advice about all manner of baby-related things, and the groups provide the opportunity for your baby to make new friends as they grow.
Try baby and parent exercise groups
Exercising at specifically devised baby and parent groups allows you to get some mood-lifting exercise and provides bonding opportunities for you both too. Be it baby yoga, or parent and child swimming sessions, these classes are great for both your newborn and your mental wellbeing.
Spend time outside
Spending time among nature can boost your mood, so make it part of your daily routine to go for walks. During the summer months you'll get plenty of vitamin D from sunlight, which is not only essential for regulating calcium, but is also fantastic for elevating your mood. Taking a stroll with your new baby is also an excellent way to soothe them off to sleep, giving you the opportunity for some 'me time' when you return home.