Mental Health Tips for New Parents


04 May 2024

Mental Health Tips for New Parents

Ted Bradshaw, Cognitive Behavioural Therapist and father of three
Mental Health Tips for New Parents

When it comes to mental health, the idea of putting someone in a situation where they get less sleep, less headspace, a lot of repetitive tasks to do, physical limitations such as exhaustion or even a few weeks where they can’t move the same way (because they have recently had a human being come out of them) and expecting them to not be affected by any of that is completely unreasonable. Of course you might be affected by it.


Knowing that it might be challenging can be daunting, but it can also help you to recognise that if you do find it hard, this is totally understandable. And, it might even help you prepare a little bit.


Here are some of the top things that might help you get through it:


Keep it simple

In the first few weeks, while you are making all these adjustments and while the demands are high, it’s the simple things that make a huge difference. Looking after your physical health by making sure you get a bit of food in you and you get a little fresh air (even if that is only an open window). Trying to give each other time to have a shower, a nap or a little peace and quiet for a while.


Sometimes there are lots of people who want to come and see the baby and while that is lovely, it can feel like too much. It’s OK to keep those visits to a minimum and just let yourself have some space and time.


There is light at the end of the tunnel

When your baby is waking every hour, or you just can’t get them to feed, sometimes it can feel like this is going to go on forever, and that can feel really bleak. However, things will improve. No matter what the phase is that you are in (not sleeping, not feeding, not responding) things get easier with time and everything passes. Remember: there is light at the end of the tunnel. It might be a very long tunnel, but the light is there all the same.


Try not to compare

It can be easy to get caught up in comparing your situation with that of other people. Other children seem to be able to breastfeed easily. Other people seem to have nailed the sleep routine. Other people seem to find this really easy and I can’t even get myself in the shower.


The thing is, no two children are the same. Two sets of parents might do the exact same things and have different results. For example: a baby who struggles with gas more than another will find it hard to be settled after feeding. Two babies given the same amount of tummy time won’t start crawling at the same time. Try to keep your comparisons to a minimum, because they just aren’t fair.


Dealing with other people’s opinions

There is nothing quite like the topic of parenting that gives people the sense that they are allowed to weigh in with their opinions. You might find that people like to tell you what they would do differently or outright tell you they don’t think what you are doing is right, and this can be hurtful, it can make you feel self-conscious and it can even make you doubt yourself. Here are a couple of useful phrases if this happens to you:


“I appreciate you offering your perspective. I know you might not agree but I have thought this through and I am happy with the way I am approaching it.”

“I know it comes from a good place and you want to help. I do understand what you are saying, but I just have a different view of it, so I would really appreciate you respecting that.”

“I know you might think we are making mistakes here, but even if we are, they are our mistakes to make.”


Be patient with one another

When your batteries are low, things can get to you more than they usually would. Minor disagreements or frustrations can build up pretty quickly. However, if you know you are both likely to be a bit frazzled during this period, you can cut each other some slack. Offer each other some patience and things will be a little easier.


Make as much of the small moments as you can

There is nothing quite like having a baby asleep on your chest. Yes, sometimes you will be desperate for them to be asleep in a cot instead, but my word it is a wonderful feeling. Try to be there when it is happening. Yes, the house might need a dust or a clean but if it isn’t going to fall apart, then try and focus on that warm little bundle curled up on you. There’s nothing quite so mindful as that.

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