Looking after your emotional health as a new parent

Becoming a parent can be stressful. We look at some common challenges and tips to help you get through this time of great change. 

Early parenthood can be challenging as you cope with the many new demands that come with having a baby. Everyone is different but it’s a good idea to be aware of some of the common challenges and have strategies on hand to help you manage.

Common challenges 

For some parents, stress may start during the birth, particularly if things don’t go to plan.

For others, the challenges begin or continue when trying to breastfeed. Many people expect breastfeeding will happen naturally and effortlessly. While this may be the case for some women, for many the experience is far from perfect, which can place significant stress on both mother and baby.

Other common challenges that can place stress on new parents include coping with an unsettled baby, which often leads to sleep deprivation and feelings of high emotion. Many new mums may lose confidence in their mothering abilities when they struggle with settling or comforting their baby.

You’re not the only one

Some parents don’t like to talk about the issues they are having due to their high expectations of parenthood or the fear of being judged by other parents. But this can leave many parents feeling like they’re the only ones struggling, further compounding feelings of failure, isolation and lack of support.

If you are finding it hard to cope it’s important to be know you’re not alone and to seek help and support. 
woman holding baby

Tips for new parents  

  • Join support networks, such as mum’s clubs.
  • Don’t forget about your own needs and take some time out for yourself.
  • Don’t expect too much of yourself – no one is a ‘perfect’ parent.
  • Remember that tough phases pass and try and hang in there.
  • Reach out for support – you don’t have to go it alone.
  • Don’t compare yourself to other parents – everyone is different.
If you feel overwhelmed and at breaking point frequently you may be experiencing symptoms of postnatal depression or anxiety. Both of these conditions can make it even harder to cope from day to day, so it is important to seek help early from a health professional such as your GP or your maternal and child health nurse.

The more quickly you seek help, the sooner you can get back to feeling more like you and to enjoying the special moments of parenthood.
 
For more information about identifying and managing stress in early parenthood and knowing when to ask for help, visit www.cope.org.au

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