Becoming a parent is overwhelming. It’s often something that we spend a long time looking forward to and preparing for – sometimes, far longer than the 40 weeks of pregnancy. But, no matter how prepared you think you are, when your baby arrives, everything changes.
It’s never quite what we expect, even when we’re welcoming home our second or even third babies. It’s more exciting, it’s more work, and it’s definitely more exhausting. It’s just more. New parenthood is like an assault on your emotions, as well as your hormones. You are busy trying to take care of a new life, your hormone levels are off the charts, your whole world is turned upside down, and any hopes of a good night’s sleep are long forgotten. It’s no surprise that your mental health might take a hit. Here’s a look at some of the things that you can do to boost your mental health in those astounding first days of parenthood.
Rest When You Can
One of the most unsettling elements of being a new parent is tiredness. You thought you’d been tired before, but not like this. Even if your newborn sleeps well, they’ll be up at least a couple of times in the night for feeds and changes, and you are unlikely to get more than a few hours of uninterrupted sleep for weeks.
This kind of tiredness makes everything seem harder and more emotional. While a good night’s rest is important to get all of the sleep stages, and you should try and get one whenever possible, don’t underestimate the power of a good nap, or even a two-minute power nap on the sofa.
Make Sure You’ve Got a Good Support Network
Your support network might not end up being the people that you expected it to be. Even close friends can grow apart when lives change. However, new friendships can be formed. Reach out to friends and family for a chat and accept help when it’s offered, but don’t underestimate the importance of the other support you might find. Chat to other moms on social media during the night feeds, say hi to the lady next to you at baby yoga, and join online parenting groups in your local area.
Take Some Time for Yourself
Many new parents find that guilt starts early. They feel as though everything has to be about their baby, and like everything they do must be for their baby. The baby’s needs dictate their whole lives, and it’s very common to find that after a few months, they’ve lost their sense of self.
Taking some time away for yourself is a good thing. Even if it’s an hour in the bath with a book, or a short walk while your partner has the baby, it can give you time to relax and be yourself. Remember, a healthy, happy parent is a better parent.
Let Some Things Go
You can’t do it all. More importantly, it’s ok not to do it all. Accept that right now for the good of your mental health. It’s ok if the bathrooms don’t get cleaned for a few days. It’s ok if you don’t wash up after dinner. It’s alright if you cancel social arrangements, or if you have to quit your volunteer job. Let some things go, either temporarily or permanently, and you’ll find life with a baby much easier.
Up to 80% of all new parents experience some level of the baby blues, with up to 20% experiencing the more serious postpartum depression. While the baby blues are completely normal and usually start to fade as you adjust to your new life, there are still some things that you can do to give your mental health a boost. But, remember, if you are worried about your mental health, or think that you might be suffering from something more severe than the baby blues, while self-care is still important, you should make an appointment with your primary care doctor.