Try to find yourself a support network. It could be made up of friends, family and/or local support groups for new parents. If you are finding it difficult to build a support network, then try peer support groups, online support or specialist organisations. Parental loneliness is a very common feeling, for both mums and dads. You may love your child, but they’re not much of a conversationalist! You’ll be amazed at the similar feelings all new parents have.
Make sure you have a support network
Look after yourself
It’s hard enough looking after a new baby so how can you look after yourself? But it’s really important - if you look after yourself, you’ll feel more able to look after your baby(ies). It may seem impossible, but try to regularly schedule some ‘me time’ where you can. Relax - maybe in the bath, read a book or anything that makes you feel good. Even if just for a few minutes. Why not try some physical activity? Go for a walk with the pram or even try dancing to your favourtie songs. You’re not expected to go for a 10K run or go to the gym! Baby steps.
Let some things go
Most pre-baby lifestyle dreams don’t go to plan after-baby. The house might not be as clean as before and you might not have the energy to cook a gourmet meal but that’s ok! Be realistic! If you ever have a burst of energy to batch cook some nutritious meals and freeze them, you have something easy to shove in the oven for those really difficult days. Have a look at some make and freeze recipes on BBC Food. And, don’t beat yourself up if you’re relying more on convenient food during this hectic time.
If you have a friend or family member offering practical support, such as doing your laundry, cleaning or cooking for you, take it! Take it whilst you can!
Lack of sleep can have a big affect on your mental health, and make problems seem out of perspective. If you can, try to nap when your baby naps. If that seems impossible, then see if your partner, family or friend could take care of the baby while you can catch up on some z-z-z’s.
Find time to relax
How can you relax?! Again, it seems impossible, but if you can get just 5 minutes to do something that relaxes you, it will help. Some deep breathing, reading a book or listening to calming music. CBeebies Radio has 8-hour loops of calming sounds you and your baby can relax to.
Have fun with your baby
Nobody is perfect
Are you seeing new parents having the most magical time on social media? Then get off social media! It’s common for mums and dads to feel stressed, anxious and depressed during and after pregnancy - you are not alone.
Know when to get help
We hope some of the tips above can help you manage your mental health but it’s important to know when you need to get more help.
There are many mental health problems that can occur during or after pregnancy. These include pre and postnatal depression, perinatal OCD, postpartum psychosis and postpartum PTSD, amongst others. And not just mums – dads' mental health can suffer too.
If you find yourself feeling very low, or are having thoughts that are difficult to deal with, which you feel are impacting on your day-to-day life, then seek further help.
- Talk to your local doctor (GP) or health visitor – your doctor can offer support and treatments. This could range from medication to therapy (there are lots of types of therapy, including counselling). They can also refer you to a mental health specialist.
- Peer support – Talk to people going through similar experiences. Your GP or a quick Internet search should help you to find a group in your local area. There are also plenty of online peer support groups if aren’t able to meet people face to face.
- Friends and family – Talk to friends and family you can trust. They can help you in so many ways, including taking you to a doctor’s appointment if you need someone there with you.
- Charities and specialist organisations – There are charities and specialist organisations that can help you cope with perinatal and postnatal mental health problems.
This all may sound a bit scary but it’s all there to help. Mental health difficulties are more common than you think, and there’s help out there to get you through difficult times.
Tips and advice have been sourced and adapted from the following sites. Explore them for more information and support.
- PANDAS foundation – advice and support for pre and postnatal depression, including local groups and online support. Free helpline available on all landlines 0808 1961 776
- Action on Postpartum Psychosis - national charity for women and families affected by Postpartum Psychosis.
- Homestart - a local community network of trained volunteers and expert support helping families with young children through their challenging times.
- Mind – national mental health charity.