Planning ahead for after the birth

The first few weeks and months after having a baby can be very emotional. You may feel a huge mix of emotions from joy, love and pride to worry, sadness and frustration.

Many women and birthing people find it hard to talk about their negative feelings after having a baby because they feel under pressure to be happy. 

We are bombarded with perfect images of life with a newborn in nappy adverts and on social media all the time. This can make new parents feel quite guilty and ashamed about feeling anxious or unhappy.

“From Facebook you’d think everything was fantastic with my sister-in-law, but my mother-in-law said she’s really struggling. Women feel the need to keep up an act I think, it’s terrible!"

Dana, mum of one

Knowing more about some of the things that new mums can struggle with may help you feel more prepared. 

"We went into hospital at noon and we were home by 7pm. It was surreal. They just let you leave with a tiny person who’s completely dependent on you. There’s no preparation for that.” 

Lisa, mum of two

Know that if you are feeling low, you’re not alone. Up to 1 in 5 women and birthing people develop mental health problems such as depression or anxiety during pregnancy or in the first year after childbirth. Find out more about mental health during and after pregnancy.

The ‘baby blues’

Having the ‘baby blues’ after giving birth is very common. It tends to start in the week after birth and stops by the time your baby is around ten days old.

Symptoms can include:

  • feeling emotional and irrational 
  • bursting into tears for no clear reason
  • feeling touchy
  • feeling depressed or very anxious.

These are all normal feelings caused by hormone changes as your body gets used to no longer being pregnant. You’ll be very tired too, which may make you feel worse.

Having the ‘baby blues’ is not the same as postnatal depression or anxiety.

If your symptoms aren’t getting better after a couple of weeks, talk to your health visitor or GP. You may need more support.

Real life with a baby

You’ll have so many happy moments with your baby. But life with babies can be messy and stressful. Your baby may want to be with you all the time and they may cry if you put them down even for a second. 

It can be very stressful if your baby cries all the time, doesn’t sleep much at night, or spits up milk after every feed. Be sure to discuss any of these issues with your health visitor, who will be able to offer you help and support. 

It can also be upsetting if you want to breastfeed but find it painful or a struggle, or can’t do so for other reasons. Some medications aren’t suitable for breastfeeding, but you may need them to stay well. 

There may be other reasons why breastfeeding is not for you. There’s no need to feel guilty if you decide not to breastfeed. Although breast milk is very good for your baby, the main thing they need is for you to be well.

You can get lots of information and ideas about real life with a baby and dealing with problems in our after the birth section.

"I was setting myself up for failure: because I want to be the best mother I can, I’ve read all these books and sometimes, they aren’t very helpful. When I can’t stop my baby crying, I feel like a bit of a failure.” 

Ellie, mum to an 8 week old baby.

Planning for visitors

It can be lovely to share your new baby with family and friends who come to visit, but it can be tiring too. There’s nothing wrong with saying no if it gets too much or if you feel you have to be a hostess for them.

If you are trying to get used to breastfeeding, remember you’ll be doing it almost all the time in the early days. It may not bother you at all, or it may take you a while before you feel OK to breastfeed in front of other people. 

If you do want company, there are things you can do to make things smoother:

  • Don’t feel that your house needs to look its best. Friends and family will get how hard it can be to tidy the house with a new baby. 
  • Ask guests to bring food with them to eat or make their own tea and coffee. They could even bring something you can freeze and have later.

Let people know if you only want them to stay for a short time and don’t be afraid to ask people to leave if you’re feeling tired.

You don’t need to have everyone visit at once. Many people will be happy to wait a few weeks until you’ve settled in as a family. 

“Having babies is wonderful. Washing up? Housework? Leave it. Leave it all. It can be done any time. You will not get back that time of just sitting there and taking it all in, looking at your new baby.” 

Sarah, mum of two

Asking friends and family for support

Looking after a new baby is a 24 hour a day job. You and your partner, if you have one, may want to do it all. But asking for help from other people can really make a difference your wellbeing and your baby's. You could ask family and friends to:

  • look after the baby while you have a nap or a shower
  • take the baby for a walk
  • do a few chores around the house, such as cooking or cleaning
  • be your shoulder to cry on if you’re feeling low.

Asking for help doesn’t mean you aren’t coping with being a mother. All new parents need care and support. 

Honouring the postnatal period 

Watch our video interview with doula and educator, Mars Lord (founder of Abuela Doulas) talking about different cultural traditions in the postnatal period.

A new role and identity for you

Becoming a parent for the first time can have a massive impact on how you see yourself. You may love your new role straight away, or you might struggle to adjust to the changes. 

If you were working before and enjoyed your job, it can be hard to lose that and become what some people call “just a mum”. For others, being a mum feels like the only job in the world. It’s OK to have a mix of these feelings, too.

“I got really annoyed about having this baby attached to me all the time and a little girl running around, clinging to my legs. I felt very trapped by motherhood, which I’d never felt before, so I was really sad about it.” 

Laura, mum of 1

Loving your baby

Some people fall in love with their babies from the moment of birth, and some find that their love grows slowly over the first few weeks as they get to know and care for their baby. Both are normal.

If you don’t feel anything at all for your baby, it could be a sign of postnatal depression. Talk to your midwife, health visitor or GP about how you feel. No one will judge you.

“I came home on day three or four and the moment I walked in the house, I just burst into tears. I thought, ‘Oh here we go again’. I got the same feeling of anxiety, that I wasn't going to cope. There was nothing nice about it." 

Stephanie, mum of one

Living on less money

Most women and birthing people who have been working face a drop in income when they go on maternity leave (or stop work). And for those who don’t work, the added cost of a baby can also come as a shock. This can be very stressful. 

There are lots of parenting benefits available. You can find out about them at Maternity Action or

Changes to your relationship with your partner

Many couples find that their relationship changes a lot after having a baby. Going from being a couple to a family is a huge change and it can put a lot of strain on a relationship. Looking after the baby means you have much less time for each other. 

There can be arguments over money and who does what in the house. Some people find they lose interest in sex for a long time after having a baby, which can also put pressure on your relationship.

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 are at home with your baby, your partner may be jealous of you having all that time with them and frame it as you ‘doing nothing’ all day.

You may be jealous of them going out and getting a break from the baby.

If you can, talk to each other about your hopes, fears and expectations about life with your baby. Discuss what kind of parents you want to be and how you can support each other. There’s lots of good advice and support at the Couple Connection.

Coping as a single parent

If you are going to be on your own, it’s vital to think about who you can ask for emotional and practical support in the months after your baby’s born. 

You may also need to sort out financial support and contact arrangements with your baby’s other parent, and work out your options for the future. You can get help from single parents charity Gingerbread.

Making new friends

Being at home with a new baby can be lonely if you’re by yourself with no adults to talk to. Many people find that their pre-baby friends are not around during the day or not on the same wavelength any longer. 

It can make a big difference to how you feel if you meet other parents by going to local groups or for parents and children. You can find out about local groups from your health visitor or children’s centre. 

There may be fitness classes or even parent-and-baby film screenings advertised in online groups or social media. There are also lots of internet forums for new mums.

“I've discovered this whole world that I didn't know existed. I used to go to work in the week and now we're going to antenatal classes and groups …It's been so reassuring, being able to talk things through. It is really helpful.” 

Edie, mum of one

Depression and anxiety

Up to 1 in 5 people develop mental health problems during pregnancy or in the first year after childbirth. Low mood, anxiety and depression are common. 

It’s very helpful if you, your partner and your family read about the symptoms so that if you do become unwell, you notice what’s happening. 

The sooner you get treatment, the sooner you’ll feel better and fully enjoy the early months with your baby.

Find out more about specific mental health conditions in pregnancy and after the birth.

Will I be able to breastfeed if I'm on medication?

Breastfeeding has benefits for your baby, and health professionals will support you to do it if you can, and if you choose to.
They should talk to you about treatments that you could take if you decide to breastfeed. 

Many types of medication for mental health problems can pass through your breastmilk, but in most cases it is in tiny amounts (a lot less than the amount that would have been passed through during pregnancy). 

A few medications may affect your baby though, so health professionals will discuss the risks of starting, stopping, continuing or changing medication with you.

Read more about support and treatment options.

The most important thing to your baby is that you are not unwell. Ask your healthcare professional for more support and information about bottle feeding your baby, if that’s what you decide is best for you.

What if my baby goes into special care?

If your baby is born early or they’re poorly it can be a huge shock and you may feel that you’re being asked to make big decisions while you’re in a daze. 

You may find it hard to bond with your baby if you are frightened about whether they will be OK. You can be prepared for what happens if a baby needs to go into the hospital’s special care unit by reading up on premature birth.

What if my baby has a disability?

If your baby is born with a physical disability, learning disability or health condition, it can be hard to come to terms with the fact that they are different from the baby you imagined when you were pregnant. 

There are charities that will advise and support you as the parent of a disabled child, and who help parents to share and support each other.

You can find out more at Contact-a-Family and find out about government support.

The Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists (2017) Maternal Mental Health – Women’s Voices. Available at: (Accessed February 2024) (Page last reviewed 02/17)

NICE (2022) Depression – antenatal and postnatal. Available at:!topicsummary (Accessed February 2024) (Page last reviewed 04/2022)

NHS Choices (2022). Feeling depressed after childbirth. Available at: (Accessed February 2024) (Page last reviewed: 15/07/2022. Next review due: 15/07/2025)

Review dates
Reviewed: 21 February 2024
Next review: 21 February 2027