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Between feedings, diaper changes, holding, swaying and rocking, it can be easy to get caught up in the demands of parenthood — leaving little time to attend to your own individual needs.
It’s not uncommon for new parents to feel sad, anxious, overwhelmed or depressed during the baby’s first year of life. Whether it’s a mild spell of the baby blues or a more serious case of postpartum depression, also known as PPD, there are local resources that can help you get back on track.
One of the best things you can do to help your baby grow and thrive is to take care of yourself. Staying healthy physically, learning how to deal with stress, making time for yourself, and having good relationships with friends and family members will help you survive — and thrive — during your baby’s first year.
Having a support network in place can help you stay connected to family, friends, and resources. It also provides support to turn to when you need help and ensures that you feel understood and supported, in both the good and the challenging times. This can go a long way in supporting your emotional well-being.
These days — and especially during the COVID-19 pandemic — it is all too easy to isolate yourself as a new parent. In earlier generations, relatives often lived close to each other. Members of these larger extended families helped new parents “learn the ropes,” offered support and provided tender loving care. Now, many grandparents and other relatives who would like to help can’t, because they work full-time or don’t live close to the new parents.
As a new parent, you might find yourself struggling simply because you’re running on empty. That’s where your support network can help.
When you talk with other parents, you find out that you are not alone, that other parents share your struggles, joys and worries.
It can also be helpful to stay connected to people you are already close to, such as friends without kids, family members, former or current co-workers, etc. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and support when you need it.
When possible, plan for regular contact with adults, especially if you’re home alone all day with the baby. Even just having coffee with a neighbor, a video chat or a walk with a friend can be helpful in reducing feelings of isolation.
Another useful tool for combating isolation is joining a parenting group in your community. Ask your pediatrician for help locating a group, if necessary, or visit the Resources for Families website (https://resources.parentingnow.org). Parenting Now, WellMama, Nurturely, Daisy C.H.A.I.N all offer supportive environments for parents to interact with one another.
There are also private Facebook groups where parents discuss their questions, challenges and joys. This can be a great place to meet parents who are also looking to make friends. Once you’ve made a friend or two, seek them out for walks with your babies, small playgroups, or coffee while the babies sleep.
Staying connected to people you are already close to and building new relationships will help you thrive and weather the ups and downs of your new role as a parent.
In short, you can build your network by:
- Asking for help and support when you need it;
- Calling friends and family regularly to touch base;
- Planning for regular contact with other adults, especially if you’re home alone all day with the baby;
- Asking trusted friends, family and health-care providers for referrals to childcare service and other resources you might need.
Never underestimate the power of reaching out for help. When you seek support from friends or community resources, life can get better.
This fall, Parenting Now is offering virtual parenting groups, including Incredible INFANTs, Wonderful ONEs, Terrific TWOs, Thrilling THREEs, and Make Parenting A Pleasure. In addition, parents with babies younger than 1 can connect 11 a.m. to noon every Wednesday over Zoom during Baby Connection.
The content of this article is based on Parenting Now’s Parenting: First Three Years Program, available at https://parentingfty.org/