From interrupted sleep to changing routines, the challenges of becoming a parent for the first time affect all new mums and dads. And while welcoming a new baby to the world is a beautiful time, finding some aspects of parenthood difficult to cope with is natural and expected.
Luckily, there are many ways to stay positive and look after your wellbeing when you’re struggling a little (or a lot). So here are some of our favourite coping strategies for new parents.
Take it one day at a time
Thinking about the months and years ahead can feel overwhelming, especially if your baby isn’t sleeping well. So, don’t think too much about the future. Focus on what you need to do each day or even every hour. Remember that your only obligations as a new parent are to make sure your baby has enough food and is content, and to look after your wellbeing. Don’t worry if you didn’t achieve anything else during the day. Try not to take on too many other responsibilities, either. Limit your commitments, and don’t be afraid to say no to people who are inviting you out if leaving the house feels too hard.
Remember that everything is a stage
If your baby seems unsettled when you leave home, remind yourself that they won’t be grumpy and flustered forever. Stages come and go every few weeks. Coping with challenges involves accepting that you may have a few difficult weeks and knowing that things will eventually get better.
Surround yourself with positive people
The people you spend time with have the power to lift you up or bring you down. Surrounding yourself with negative people who constantly tell you how hard it is to be a parent can make you feel worse. Try to spend less time with people who prefer to focus on the negative aspects of parenting. Connect with others who are positive so you can bring out the best in each other. Also, connect with people who have the same sense of humour as you. Laughter and humour can be an effective coping strategy.
If you notice other new parents having a hard time, support them. Treat others how you’d want to be treated. Supporting others builds community and connection, which can help to boost your mood, too.
Look after your health and wellbeing
Just as a healthy diet supports a healthy mind and body, an unhealthy diet makes you feel worse – inside and out. Aim to eat mostly fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein, and drink plenty of water. Try to make time to move every day – go for walks with other new parents. Sleep is precious, so always sleep when you get the opportunity and avoid the temptation to watch TV or your phone.
Enjoy the journey
It sounds cliched, but babies grow up quickly. Newborns turn into toddlers then primary-school kids in the blink of an eye. The first few months with a new baby will fly by as you get used to your new way of life. Gently remind yourself of this when you’re feeling down. Even when you’re finding life difficult, parenting doesn’t have to be a constant struggle. Overall, becoming a parent for the first time can be rewarding, enjoyable and life changing.
Ask for help
If you’re struggling to cope, it’s essential to talk about your feelings and ask for help. The first and often hardest step is acknowledging there is a problem and asking for help. Reach out to friends, family, your GP, or a trusted health professional. You can also phone CAREinMIND on 1300 096 269 to speak to a counsellor.
The CAREinMIND blog is delivered by On the Line. The views in each post do not necessarily reflect those of North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network.