Looking after yourself

The transition to parenthood is variable – for lots of reasons. As a result the journey into parenthood can have significant and wide ranging impacts on the emotional health for new parents.

For some the transition appears smooth and without any major stress, with many new parents describing early parenthood to be enormously satisfying and what they expected. For others the experience is far from what they expected, as the demands of a new baby cause ongoing and constant stress, which at times can feel relentless and beyond your ability to cope.

Stress in early parenthood

Bringing a new baby into the world requires you to develop many new skills, routines and constantly adapt to personal, social and lifestyle changes in this first year of your baby’s life. With this can come sleepless nights, crying spells, frustrations and feeling at times at a loss in terms of what to do and how to settle your baby and establish yourself in this new role and life phase.

Am I okay?

Whilst it is normal to feel stressed from time to time as you attempt to meet these constant and ongoing demands and changes, there may be times when you feel that things may be getting on top of you. It is normal that you will find it difficult to cope at times.

There may be times when you feel overwhelmed and as if you are reaching breaking point. If you find yourself in this situation a good strategy is to place your baby somewhere safe (for example, in their cot) and take a few minutes for yourself. Deep breathing, listening to a song that you find relaxing or calling your partner/a friend for support can all help to reduce your high levels of stress at the time.

If you are feeling this way frequently, and find yourself experiencing negative feelings towards yourself, your baby or life in general, talking to a heath professional can identify additional helpful strategies, support networks and/or identify whether you may be experiencing symptoms of postnatal depression and/or anxiety.

Is my baby okay?

For many new parents who have had little exposure to young babies, sometimes it is difficult to know what to expect and know what is normal in terms of your baby’s health and development – particularly in their first year of life. It is normal to feel unsure and want to seek reassurance.

If you find this to be the case, there are several helplines that can provide you with timely, helpful and practical advice regarding your baby’s health. Alternatively your maternal and child family health nurse or GP can also provide you with helpful advice. This can be invaluable to provide you with reassurance, or advise you when you may need to seek help from a health professional.

Some parents may find themselves in a position where they are frequently seeking such advice and reassurance from health professionals. In some cases, not all, this may be an indication you are experiencing postnatal anxiety, and this can cause you to be overly concerned and often perceive that something is wrong with your baby. It can be helpful to understand more about postnatal anxiety, and identify whether this may be relevant to you and where and how this can be effectively treated.

Managing stress

It is important to remember that there will always be good days and bad days for every parent, and it is normal to feel that at times you are not coping. To help you get through the hard days, there are a number of strategies that can help you manage stress, and make it through those difficult days.