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If you’re struggling with adjusting to life as a new parent then you’re not alone. Becoming a parent is a drastic life change and it’s not uncommon for this transition to have an impact on your mental health. To start with, there are a lot of challenges to navigate and these come with a whole spectrum of emotions, both positive and negative. It’s normal for parents to take some time to settle into their new role, so don’t panic if you don’t feel confident right away. It’s all a learning process that requires time and practice.
In the early stages of parenthood, some of the challenges that you may experience could include:
If you’re currently struggling through any of these issues, here are a few reminders that we hope will help…
Give yourself time to adjust to your new role as a parent
There are no shortcuts when it comes to learning how to be a parent. Like with any new role, it takes time to adjust and develop your skills. To begin with, there will likely be a lot of trial and error involved when finding what works for your baby, from how to hold them to how to feed them. This requires patience and it can feel frustrating at times, but it can also be incredibly rewarding when you make progress.
You also need to practise patience with yourself. Adapting to a new sleeping pattern and a new family dynamic is exhausting and you’re bound to have less energy. This might mean that you can’t reply to messages, exercise or clean the house as often as you’d like to, however, try not to be too hard on yourself. There are only so many things you can balance at once.
Remember, there’s no such thing as perfect parenting
You may find that the expectations that you had of parenthood don't meet your reality, and this could be disappointing. Perhaps you can’t feed your baby the way that you’d initially hoped, or you aren’t bonding with your baby as quickly as you’d like.
It’s important to acknowledge that every family’s situation is different and all babies are unique in their needs and temperaments. Some babies are easier to console than others, while some may have health issues or allergies that you’re still learning about. Naturally, this means that parenting styles and approaches vary from child to child.
There’s a lot of pressure to be the ‘perfect’ parent, but in reality, there isn’t only one way to be a parent. This is why it’s really important that you try not to compare your experience of parenting to others, especially when it comes to what you see on social media. Not everyone is up-front about their struggles, but all parents have good and bad days. We’re all only human, after all.
It’s okay to feel mixed emotions towards parenting
While you may experience feelings of happiness and love following the birth of your baby, you may also deal with some more challenging emotions, such as frustration when trying to settle them, or anxiety that you’re doing something wrong.
If you’re going through a difficult time with your baby, this may cause you to have negative feelings towards them, which you may feel guilty about. However, these feelings don’t mean that you’re a bad parent or that you don’t love your child.
You also might feel like your new role as a parent is taking over your identity and this could cause you to miss your old life. Remember that it’s normal to have ups and downs as a parent and this is all part of the adjustment process.
Reach out to your support network
If you’re going through a particularly low patch, don’t be afraid to reach out for help from your support network to see if they can help with the baby. Getting a good sleep, or having some time to yourself can really help to turn your mood around.
It could also be beneficial to talk to other parents about how you’re feeling, as the chances are that they can probably relate. It can be really reassuring to know that it’s not just you that’s going through something. Joining a parent or baby group is a great way of meeting other families so that you can share your experiences.
If your mental health doesn’t improve, seek professional help
Although it’s normal to feel stressed when becoming a new parent, if you’re experiencing ongoing feelings of depression or anxiety, make sure that you get in touch with a healthcare professional. You could be suffering from postnatal depression or another form of mental illness.
Asking for help doesn’t make you a failure and seeking support is the best thing that you can do for your family.
Fathers can experience postnatal depression, too
It’s important to mention that it’s not just mothers who feel the emotional repercussions of parenthood - fathers can be impacted too. In fact, according to the NCT, men are twice as prone to becoming depressed in the year following their child’s arrival than the general population.
Look out for the signs of depression and if you’re struggling more than what you consider to be ‘normal’, then make sure that you talk to someone about how you’re feeling. There is help available.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can give you a toolkit of practical strategies to help you cope with your mental health after becoming a new parent. ieso offers online CBT which is great if you’re looking after a newborn, as it’s flexible and can be completed from the comfort of your home.
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