How to adjust to parenthood

Aug 20, 2019

Starting a family is one of the most exciting things you may ever do. But it can be challenging too, and bring lots of changes – even before your baby is born.

From the time you find out a baby is on the way right through to the birth and the years that follow, you’re likely to experience a wide range of emotions – from joy, happiness and love right through to anxiety, self-doubt and frustration. In fact, it’s safe to say your life will never be exactly the same again.

If you’re having your first baby, you may find it difficult to adjust, as you’ll be learning lots of new things as you go along. Indeed, according to one survey by baby products manufacturer Munchkin, it takes almost five months for new mothers to adapt to their new lifestyle after the birth of their baby, with many admitting they were overwhelmed by the prospect of becoming a parent.

Learning to stay emotionally healthy at this time will help you to form a good and strong bond with your baby. So here are a few of the challenges you may encounter – and a few suggestions on how to cope with them.

Sleep disruption 

Lack of sleep is common during the first weeks and even months of being a new parent. Plus with the endless round of feedings, nappy changes and washing baby clothes, it’s no wonder many new parents claim they’re permanently exhausted.

During the night, think about taking turns in feeding your baby (if your baby is breast fed, fathers can bottle feed using expressed milk). Having some quiet alone-time with their baby at night can give fathers another opportunity to build a strong bond with their baby. 

Also try to catch up on your sleep whenever your baby is asleep, which may mean being more relaxed about things like cooking and doing chores around the house.

Most importantly, remind yourselves that this period of sleep disruption won’t last forever, and that you’ll probably settle into a routine when your baby is around six to eight weeks old.

Isolation 

If you had a hospital birth, you may feel isolated and anxious when you first take your new baby home. Suddenly you’re both on your own with no one to help or give you advice, which can be daunting to say the least.

But if you have friends and family nearby, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Many may choose to initially stay away because they think you need to have time on your own, but you’d be surprised at how happy most people would be to give you a hand.

Also try to get out and about as much as possible with your baby, as being stuck in the house can make you feel even more isolated. The change of scenery will boost your mood, and your baby will feel better for getting out into the fresh air too.

If you made friends with other parents-to-be at antenatal classes, why not arrange to get together with some of them? You may well find they’re having exactly the same experiences as you are, and talking about your feelings with others who know what you’re going through can make you realise you’re far from alone.

Relationship problems 

Many new parents feel there’s little time for their relationship as a couple when a new baby comes along. Studies suggest many parents feel less happy in their relationship after having a baby, and many fathers may feel left out, which can make them feel jealous of their partner’s closeness with the baby.

Make sure you’re both involved with caring for your new baby – new dads need to build their confidence and their relationship with their child as well as new mums. Talk to each other about the way you feel, and let your partner know if you’re struggling to cope.

Also start planning to do some of the things you did together before you had your baby, so you can enjoy time doing things as a couple, not just as parents.

Negative feelings 

A baby can turn your life upside down, so don’t be surprised if you have negative feelings from time to time, especially when everything seems more daunting than usual. These feelings are perfectly normal, so don’t be afraid to talk to someone about them.

Also try to remember that it’s fine for mums and dads not to fall in love with their baby immediately. Forming a strong relationship with your baby can take a while, especially for mothers who had a long or difficult delivery. And having negative feelings towards your baby doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent.

If your partner is affected by negative feelings towards your baby, it’s more important than ever to reassure them that their emotions are normal, and that they will pass in time.

Meanwhile, if a new mum shows a continuing lack of interest in her baby, it could be a sign of postnatal depression. If there’s a possibility you or your partner is affected by postnatal depression, it’s very important to speak to your GP about it and get treatment.

Article reproduced with the kind permission of CABA, the organisation providing lifelong support to ICAEW members, ACA students and their close family around the world.