When you become a parent, your life changes in lots of ways. Getting to know your baby and having a new routine will take time. So be kind to yourself and take things at your and your baby’s own pace.
You’ll probably find you have mixed feelings about it – perhaps joy, pride and love mixed with anxiety, tearfulness and stress. These feelings are normal, and you can expect to feel up and down as you get used to your new role.
By giving you love and understanding and practical help, the people around you can play a huge role in supporting you once your baby arrives.
If you’ve got a partner, they’ll be able to play a key role because sometimes they’re the only person you can be yourself with.
If you’re a single parent, having family and friends you can rely on and talk to will be just as important.
When your baby arrives, one of the best things you can do to help yourself is to keep talking and let someone know how you’re doing.
- your midwife
- health visitor
- family nurse
- a friend
If you think you need support, ask for it. Although this can be hard, it’s a positive step towards looking after yourself and your new baby.
Be open and honest
Your midwife and health visitor or family nurse will ask how you’re feeling when you have check-ups with your baby.
Be as open and honest as you can if you're:
- not feeling great
- worried about how your partner's managing
- concerned how you may be getting on without a partner
There will be lots of support available to you, and the sooner you get it the better.
Dealing with your emotions
Parenthood can be a wonderful, joyous experience and an emotional rollercoaster.
One minute you’re up and the next you’re down. It can feel tough going, exhausting and relentless. These are some of the common feelings that many parents have.
Emotions after your baby arrives
It's normal to feel a bit emotional after the birth – a lot of women do.
- not sleep as much so you’ll be tired
- not feel very well
- find you start crying for no reason and the little things that you’d normally take in your stride may suddenly seem like huge problems
These feelings can happen at any time, but they normally begin 2 or 3 days after the birth and can last for a few days. It’s sometimes called the baby blues.
As a new parent you may:
- have less social time and you can’t just pop out with friends
- not see as many people, especially if you’ve stopped working or don’t have a partner, close friends or family around you
Before your baby arrives, try and arrange some support and adult company. See if you can find a local baby group which can also provide social contact with other parents.
You might feel like there’s a lot of pressure to be perfect. It might make you feel guilty about what you’re doing, or not doing.
The truth is, no one's a perfect parent. Be kind to yourself and accept that you’ll do the best you can.
Some people expect new parents to fall naturally into the role of mum or dad. Often, this just isn’t the case.
Bonding with your new baby will be a journey and it will take time to get to know one another.
More about bonding with your baby
Mental health problems
Some women find their low mood doesn’t lift after birth and they become anxious or depressed.
Around 1 in 5 women will develop mental health problems when they’re pregnant or in the first year after their baby's born.
More about mental health problems after birth
Looking after yourself
Take care of yourself, and have some 'me' time to do the things that you enjoy. If you feel good, you’ll feel more able to manage and care for your baby.
Things you can try
- accept any help offered - it’s hard being a parent 24/7 and you’re allowed time off
- get a good night’s sleep if you can - If you have a partner, try sharing night feeds or ask your mum, dad or a friend to stay overnight and help you
- believe in yourself as a good parent - remind yourself of the things you’re good at and remember that being a good parent doesn't mean being perfect
- get out of the house and get active – being outdoors and getting some regular exercise are both great ways of lifting your mood
Dads and partners
This is a new experience for everyone and dads and partners have a big part to play.
If you're the dad or partner, try to:
- talk to your partner about any worries – chances are they’re feeling the same way
- share the care - staying at home with a baby can be just as exhausting as a day at work
- protect time to spend with your partner and your baby - think about what works best for your family
- take time to get to know your baby - talk to and spend time with them
- think about me time for you and your partner – make sure you both get enough breaks
- get out of the house regularly as a family, even for a short walk.
Don’t be tempted to take on more work. Extra money might sound good but extra help at home's even better.
Share the load
Being thoughtful in small ways can have a huge impact - run mum a bath or make dinner, or just put a towel in easy reach while she's feeding the baby.
Talk to your partner about how to share feeding, nappy changing, bathing and playtime so you both get time with your baby and time to do other things too.
When to get help
The feelings tend to go away on their own but it's important to get extra support if they last.
If they don't go within 10 days and you’re feeling worse not better, tell your health visitor, GP or family nurse.
If you haven’t got family support, there are often services that can help.
Ask your midwife or health visitor any questions you have about your baby. The more information you have the more confident you’ll be as a parent.