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  • Writer's pictureLaura

Stress and the First Year of Parenthood

Updated: Nov 3, 2021


The first year of parenthood is a memorable time. You’re getting to know your baby and becoming acclimated to your role as a parent. You learn how to feed your baby, how to clothe them, and bathe them. You regularly check in with your local health visitor to chart your baby’s growth and look out for every new milestone. It is truly an incredible period of growth for both you and your baby.


However, there is also a great deal of stress associated with new parenthood.


You often have to toss aside your pre-conceived notions as you actually experience parenthood. You may be stressed out by the endless nappies and mounting piles of laundry…by the constant feedings…and by your newborn’s continual crying. At times, you may even wonder whether you’re really cut out for the responsibility you suddenly now have.


The important thing to remember is that every new parent feels stress. It comes hand-in-hand as part of the job. And the stress will continue once your child is in school, once your child becomes a teenager, and if your child starts college, university and employment. In essence, the moment your baby is born begins a lifetime of stress for parents.


How can you best combat new baby-stress?


Recognition

Recognizing the amount of stress you’re under is an important first step. Many new parents become frustrated and irritable, never realizing that they are simply reacting to stress. Given the fact that new parents often get little sleep, the stress can be easily compounded.


Once you recognize your stress, it is important to engage in some stress relief. For many parents, this will mean calling a trusted friend or relative to take over during the rough times. Just a few hours away from your baby can help you to re-charge your batteries, enabling you to improve your coping skills.


Transition

The transition from independent adult to parent is huge, and it can take some time to get used to this.


It can sometimes be difficult for couples to transition into the new family dynamic and their newly held roles. If so, it can be particularly helpful if you and your partner arrange a date night while your baby is being looked after, as “couple time” can be extremely relaxing and beneficial for your relationship.


As an individual, suddenly becoming "mummy" or "daddy" can easily take over your entire existence. Maintaining hobbies, interests, work or outside relationships can help to integrate the "old" you with the "new" you, until you find a balance that works for you.


Embracing your inner child

A simple technique you can use is to play lullabies—not just for your baby, but for yourself as well. There is something so soothing about a pleasant lullaby—it can take a great deal of the tension away. Singing with your baby can also help to cement the bond between you and can help to eliminate stress. You might even try dancing with your baby—the best dances include both parents! Taking the time to relax with your baby can help to reduce the tension you feel.


Research

Knowledge is power, and books & articles can be another helpful resource. There are a number of books on the market that tell you what to expect during your baby’s first year, and reading such “baby how-to” books can take a great deal of the stress out of first year parenting.


Socialising

Arranging play dates for your baby can also be a helpful stress reliever. In some cases, you might be able to drop your baby off at a friend’s house while you do your shopping, cleaning, or other chores.


In other cases, arranging a play date or attending a baby group offers you the opportunity to get together with other parents who share similar stresses. Just talking with other parents, knowing you are not alone in feeling the way that you do, might help to ease your worries tremendously.


Exercise

Another tried-and-true formula for dealing with new baby stress is to put the baby in a pushchair and start walking. Just a short walk around the block can help to clear your head, helping you to better deal with the demands of new parenthood.


You might even enlist a friend to walk with you. Some parents even buy special jogging strollers so that they can run while their babies roll along. Such exercise can be quite relaxing, especially after a hard day surrounded by baby toys, nappies, feeding a baby TV.





It's your journey


Having a new baby is a time like no other. Therefore, you shouldn’t let stress ruin this precious, short-lived time of your life. By employing some simple coping strategies, you can learn to love your new role—despite all the stresses involved.


With all this in mind however, it is important to realise that we all respond to changes in circumstances very differently. There may be people who seemingly “have it all together”, but actually, behind closed doors, they feel exactly the same as you. Some may respond to parenthood better than they expected, others less so.


The important thing to remember is, that we are all on our own journey, and are coping the best way that we can.






One final note...


What if the emotions you are feeling is more than stress? Starting a family is a huge transition, and if you also experienced pregnancy, you will also have the physical and hormonal strains to work through alongside this transition.


But I wouldn't want to end a blog focusing on new baby stress without mentioning the very real, and very debilitating issue of Postnatal Depression. New baby stress and the “baby blues” do occur, however postnatal depression is a very different issue that many new mothers experience.


If at any point you feel unable to cope, unable to feel happy, low mood, trouble concentrating, feelings of worthlessness, insomnia, unable to leave the house or thoughts of self-harm, then please reach out for help immediately. This can be by reaching out to your partner, friend or family member, or to one of the following (UK) sources.


  • Speaking with your GP, midwife or health visitor.

  • Calling 111 (or 999 if it is an emergency)

  • Calling Samaritans on 116 123


You do not have to do this alone




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