Parents preparing for their first child have so much to think about, from selecting childcare to making sure their little one has the right cot, toys and blankets. But sometimes, I come into contact with new parents that are so focused on their new child, they forget about looking after themselves.
In this article, I wanted to explore some of the key areas that surround mental ill health in new parents, and any advice that could help keep you healthy in those first days, weeks and months.
From the outset
Having a baby is a time of major change for parents, which can often have an unexpected negative impact on their normal daily lives. The responsibility for looking after the new baby, combined with sleep deprivation, can soon become overwhelming.
It’s important at this stage that new parents are able, and willing, to ask for help, especially when it comes to jobs around the house. There’s nothing wrong at all with asking for help, and new parents should never be afraid to say that they’re struggling. Communication is key, and as hard as it might seem, it’s something we all have to go through.
Remember, you’re not alone
According to the World Health Organisation, on a worldwide scale 10% of pregnant women and 13% of women who have just given birth experience mental ill health, primarily depression.
Post-partum depression is actually 3x more likely in new mothers who have a child who doesn’t sleep well!
Based on their report, very young infants can be affected by, and are highly sensitive to the environment and their overall quality of care. This means that they are likely to be affected by mothers living with mental ill health as well.
One of the most important things to remember is that it is OK to feel like you’re struggling, it’s perfectly normal. All new parents go through ups and downs, especially if it’s their first child together. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself, and as I’ve already said, ask for help if you need it.
Get help and support
As of April 2019, specialist mental health support was made available for new mums in every part of England, which means those living with mental ill health are able to get support and guidance, closer to where they live.
At the time of the announcement, Claire Murdoch, NHS national mental health director said: “Mental ill health during pregnancy or that affects bonding with a new baby can be devastating, which is why the NHS has invested in better care for expectant and new mums, with at least 9,000 extra women getting treatment last year.
As well as expanding access to world-leading talking therapy for anyone who needs it – the NHS Long Term Plan is further ramping up specialist perinatal care for every part of the country, offering tailored support to dads and partners and extending care to cover the first two years of a child’s life.”
Make sure you’re both looked after
Back in 2018, the NHS announced that the partners of new mums with poor mental health would also be provided with support.
According to their press release, Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England said: “At what should be one of the happiest moments of our lives, caring for a partner suffering mental ill health when a new baby arrives is a difficult and often lonely experience.
Alongside the backup and friendship of other new parents in NCT and other groups, the NHS has a role to play in helping support the whole family.
These days dads and partners are rightly expected to be more hands-on and NHS mental health services also need to step up and support families at times of extreme stress and anxiety.”
As part of the NHS Long Term Plan, If a new mum is suffering from mental ill health, the NHS will automatically offer a comprehensive assessment to her partner if they are suffering from mental ill health too and sign-post them to professional support if needed.
To find out more about Baby Sleep the Night, and the incredible work the team of certified sleep consultants do, take a look at the links below.
If you’re struggling to get your baby or toddler to sleep, or just want to have an open, honest chat about some extra help, the team of certified Baby Sleep the Night consultants are always free.
They each offer a free, 15-minute telephone consultation, so head over to the Consultants page and find out how they could help your baby sleep the night. Or if you’re more social, come and join our community on Facebook.