It’s amazing how a simple chat or visit with another adult can help to pass the time, lift your spirits and ease any loneliness. Try to stay in touch with the people in your support network as much as you can. It’s also important to ask for help if you need it.
“I was a huge bundle of self-doubt when my daughter was born. I used to text my sister a lot, with at least 5 baby questions in 1 message. “Is this normal?” “Is that normal?” Looking back, it must have been quite annoying, but she didn’t let it show. She has 3 children, so I suppose she’s developed a lot of patience!”
It’s also a good idea to try and meet other new parents. Talking to other people with similar experiences can really help you find reassurance and keep things in perspective. Your midwife, health visitor or antenatal group such as the National Childbirth Trust (NCT) will have details about local groups you can either visit in person or find online.
There are also apps, such as Mush or Peanut, where you meet other new parents in your local area.
Rest when your baby rests
You’ve probably heard this a lot, but it is good advice. Looking after a baby can be very tiring. Newborns don’t know the difference between night and day, and it’s normal for babies to wake up regularly. You were probably up several times last night to feed, change and comfort your baby, and will probably do the same again tonight.
With all of this in mind, it’s important to take every chance you can to recharge your batteries. Everything else, including the tidying up, can wait. Find out more about coping with sleepless nights.
Build your bond with your baby
Instead of focusing on the fact that your partner isn’t there, try to think of this time as an opportunity to bond with your baby. Babies are born ready to communicate and, like all relationships, it takes time to get to know each other. Try to get to know their cues, such as when they want to be fed, sleep or just need a cuddle. You won’t always feel like you know exactly what you’re doing, but you will start to understand their needs more often. This can help increase your confidence.
Develop a routine
Routines will go out the window every now and then. But trying to put a bit of structure into your time can really help. This may be something as simple as having a morning walk, an afternoon coffee or a regular baby group session. Breaking the day down into small chunks can help ease the feeling that there’s a long day ahead for you.
Try to get ‘day ready’ in the morning
Sometimes it just won’t happen (see below) but having a shower and getting dressed may help you feel ready for the day ahead. You’re also more likely to get outside and go for a walk or fresh air, which can help lift your mood and help you to recover after the birth.
Accept that some days will be more difficult than others
There are so many things that can make a difficult day when you have a new baby. Perhaps your baby is cluster feeding, crying for no apparent reason or it seems like they’ve had 1 dirty nappy after another. Or perhaps your baby seems quite content, but you’re feeling physically uncomfortable, a bit emotional or just exhausted.
Whatever the reason, there will be days where you don’t make it out of your pyjamas and that’s absolutely fine. Sometimes it’s just about getting through the day. It can sometimes help to try to spend some time doing the things that make you feel better.
“I’m often reminding myself that maternity leave is for looking after my baby, not for keeping the house running. Chores should still be shared between both partners. For example, it may help to make a meal plan and alternate who cooks the dinner. I remember being anxious about my partner returning to work but it allowed me to get into my own routine. I found having a few baby classes to look forward to really helpful, but I also needed a couple of days a week where I had nothing planned so I could get some rest in. Also, new parents should never feel guilty about those lazy sofa days soaking up their baby, all they really need in the early days is you!”
Have some background noise
It can be nice to have some peace and quiet, especially if it means you can rest too. But sometimes silence can increase feelings of loneliness. Having the TV or radio on from time to time can make a real difference.
Keep communicating with your partner
When one of you goes back to work, it can be a difficult adjustment. Both of you have a new role to get used to, and it’s easy to lose patience with each other when both of you are exhausted.
If you’re the one staying at home, you are suddenly solely responsible for baby care. If you are going back to work, you’re probably very aware of your new responsibilities as the ‘provider’. It’s sometimes easy for resentment to build up on both sides.
If you’re staying at home, you may feel envious that your partner goes to work and has a break from the baby. If you are working, you may feel like you’re missing out on valuable time with your newborn.
When this happens, try to remember that there are upsides and downsides for both of you and ultimately, you’re a team. Don’t forget to keep talking to each other about how you’re feeling and try to understand things from your partner’s point of view.
There may be small things you can do to make things easier for your partner to feel involved. For example, if you are staying at home with the baby, you could try to:
- send your partner some baby pictures while they’re away and let them know how you’re both getting on so they feel included
- understand that they may be too busy to talk sometimes
- give them a chance to spend some quality time with the baby when they get home.
It may feel sometimes like you barely see each other or have any time together that isn’t baby focused, especially in the beginning. But this will ease as your baby gets older.
If your partner is working from home
A lot of people are working from home now. This isn’t always an easy set-up, especially if there isn’t a lot of space.
If you are looking after the baby, try to give your partner the space and time they need to focus on their work. And try not to let them step away from their desk every time they hear the baby crying. It may cause unnecessary stress if neither of you can focus on what you’re doing.
Every couple is different. Some seem to cope well after having a baby and some struggle. If you and your partner are having problems and you can’t find a way to sort things out there is support available.
Ask for help if you need it
The first few weeks and months after having a baby can be very emotional and impact on how you feel about yourself.
Many women experience the baby blues, which usually passes after a couple of weeks. But some women develop postnatal depression or anxiety.
Postnatal depression is when you have feelings of sadness, hopelessness, guilt or self-blame all the time for weeks or months after you’ve had a baby. It can be very hard if you’re with your baby at home alone with negative thoughts. It’s also important to remember that dads and partners can also be affected by mental health problems after having a baby.
Don’t be afraid to tell your midwife, health visitor or GP how you feel. Up to 1 in 5 women develop mental health problems during pregnancy or in the first year after childbirth. Your healthcare professional will help you get the support you need.
If you are parenting after loss
If you are parenting after loss, you may feeling a lot of mixed emotions. This is completely understandable – parenting after loss can be overwhelming and confusing.
Try to talk to your midwife, health visitor or GP about how you feel. They will help get the support you need.
You can also talk to our midwives on Tommy’s free Pregnancy Line 0800 0147 800. Open 9am-5pm, Monday to Friday. The midwives on the line have received training in bereavement care and welcome calls from parents who have lost a baby.
We also run a pregnancy and parenting after loss support group on Facebook where you can talk to other parents who have been through a similar experience.
If you are the parent going back to work
“As the working partner, I try and help out in the mornings and evenings before work. That way, I feel like I’m helping my partner and also getting to spend time with our baby.”
As we mentioned earlier, when one of you goes back to work both of you have a new role to get used to. If you are going back to work, you may feel a new responsibility as a ‘provider’ for your new family. This can be difficult sometimes, especially if you didn’t get a good night’s sleep the night before work. It can also be hard to come home and help your partner when you’ve had a long or difficult day.
Try to remember that there are upsides and downsides for both of you and ultimately, you’re a team. Don’t forget to keep talking to each other about how you’re feeling and try to understand things from your partner’s point of view.
- check in with your partner if you can while you’re at work, even if it’s just by text
- respond to your partner if they contact you, if you can
- tell your partner as soon as you can if you need to leave early, or if you’ll be home late
- try not to get frustrated if the house is messy when you get home – remember that your partner has their hands full and may have had a difficult day
- be ready to look after your baby when you walk through the front door, even if you just want to sit down – try to ask your partner if they need help first
- respect your partner’s wishes, when it comes to baby care – for example, avoid the temptation to pick the baby up as soon as you come through the door if they are sleeping as your partner may have spent a long, difficult time getting them to sleep.