Becoming a mother for the first time can be one of life’s most magical and rewarding experiences. But for many, feeling overwhelmed with a new baby can also lead to feelings of anxiety, not to mention the challenges of recovering from birth and adjusting to a completely new way of life. Many of us find ourselves facing ‘new mom stress’, at a time when the world tells us we should be glowing with happiness.
It’s OK to feel that way. Becoming a parent isn’t all baby giggles and sleepy snuggles. You can’t predict what life will be like when your newborn arrives, but there are things you can do to look after your own mental health as you step into your new role as a parent.
Focusing on Maternal Mental Health
This month is Mental Health Awareness Month, a national movement to raise awareness for mental health in the USA. And since up to 1 in 5 women develop mental health problems during pregnancy or in the first year after the birth of their baby, raising awareness for maternal mental health is imperative.
At DockATot, our goal is to support new parents in the care of their little ones. We’ve collated some tried and tested advice for dealing with new mom stress, as well as some resources and organisations to go to if you need support.
How to Cope With Stress As A New mom
Motherhood is not the most relaxing role. We can vouch for that. But there are things that you can consciously do to protect your mental health and put yourself in the position to be the best mom you can be. Here are a few ideas that worked for us.
Relax Your Standards
Real life does not look like Instagram. Fact. When you are caring for a small human who relies on you for its very survival, a spotlessly clean house, losing that baby weight, having a picture-perfect life… It really doesn’t matter. That can wait until they’ve started school. It can be hard if you’re a bit of a perfectionist, but remember, being a parent is the one thing that no one is perfect at.
When you have a baby, you may find that lots of people offer to help. Jump on that! And if they don’t offer… ask. Anyone that’s had a baby will understand how it feels, and will happily help, even if they don’t know you that well. If that means someone holding the baby while you have a shower, or someone popping to the shops to get a pint of milk - don’t be afraid to ask. And if you’re lucky enough to have doting family or friends, absolutely lean on them to take care of the baby while you get some ‘me time’.
Go for a walk
Just get out of the house. Pop baby in the stroller and go for a walk round the neighborhood. Days can feel long when you’re at home with a newborn, so combat cabin fever and try breaking your day up with a stroll. A change of scenery and gentle exercise can release endorphins that will help to lift your spirits and (extra bonus) it might send your little one off to sleep.
Find Other New moms
It can be daunting, yes, but put yourself out there and meet new moms. Seeing other people can relieve that intensity of 1-2-1 time with your baby and alleviate stress. Baby groups, parenting forums, social.mom - make the effort and try to meet new people. Having a baby is a little like orientation week at university, in that you find yourself in a big pool of people desperate to find their community. It might not seem like it, but that mom at your Baby Sensory class doesn’t actually have it all together - she needs friendship as much as you do.
Feeling Overwhelmed With A New Baby? Here’s What to Do.
- Stop. If, in the moment, you feel like your emotions are out of control, put your baby gently in a safe place and move to a different room in your home. Get some space, breathe, calm down.
- Talk. Don’t bottle-up your feelings and pretend that everything is perfect. Talk to your partner, your mom, a friend, your midwife, anyone that will listen (see below for details of helplines). You may find that what you’re feeling is perfectly normal and that there are solutions for the challenges you face.
- Realise you are human. You can’t do it all, you are not perfect and no one expects you to be. You are enough for your child, whether you feel it or not.
Where to go for support
Sometimes self care is not enough to overcome mental health challenges. If you find that you’re struggling to cope, or experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression, please don’t struggle alone. The following websites can signpost you to the support and guidance that you need. And never feel anxious about asking for support from a health professional - it’s their job to help you.
https://www.postpartum.net/ - call the Postpartum Support International helpline (1-800-944-4773) or visit their website for help and advice.
Mental Health America - take a mental health test to determine whether you’re experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition and receive advice.
Postpartum Progress is a nonprofit created by moms for moms with maternal illness. Visit their website to read other moms’ postpartum depression stories, access free resources and to find a list of postpartum depression support groups.
The Blue Dot Project exists to raise awareness of maternal mental health disorders and to combat the stigma and shame that so often surround them. Visit their website for free self-help resources.
Crisis support - if you or someone you’re concerned about are in crisis, please contact a health professional - your doctor or midwife, call 911 or go to A&E at your local hospital.