Published on: 17th May 2023
It's common for new parents to feel some form of anxiety during the first few weeks after your baby is born. But when these feelings lasts longer or become more problematic, then please reach out for support through your midwife, health visitor or GP.
To support this year's Mental Health Awareness Week and the theme of anxiety, we caught up with mum Helen and Laura from our early attachment service in Rochdale to share their experiences and some advice.
Helen - mum to Zac:
"My anxiety hit an all time high after having my son. With a 17-year age gap between my daughter and son, it was like being a first-time mum.
I had a difficult end to the pregnancy, followed by him needing resuscitation and special care. We struggled with breastfeeding, he had tummy problems, and barely slept. I felt useless, helpless, and lost my identity.
My anxiety meant I’d spend an unhealthy amount of time scouring websites and social media for advice. Everyone had a conflicting opinion, which made my anxiety worse.
I was very lucky that two of my friends had similar age babies. They were my lifeboat, along with my mum and the health visitors and sure start staff I regularly spoke to.
They provided reassurance, built my confidence, and offered a shoulder to cry on when it got too much. I also started to make use of some mindfulness techniques I’d learned during a course. While cuddling my son, I’d use soothing lights, lullaby music and slow breathing to settle my mind.
My advice to anxious new mums is to stay away from Dr Google and the Facebook fear spreaders. Instead, build a support network of real people with experience to guide and ground you. And you can always refer yourself to talking therapies if you need more help to cope."
Laura - parent infant mental health practitioner:
"Having a baby is an exciting but worrying time.When we are in the perinatal period our anxiety is higher and our threat system is activated. This happens as a result of evolution when we were at increased risk of harm whilst living in the wild. Night times are particularly hard as this is when we would have been in the most danger.
However, for some people for all sorts of different reasons anxiety becomes overwhelming and it impacts on our bond with our babies.
An extremely difficult and traumatic birth can have an impact on both [parent and baby]. Baby is telling us that it affected him too, feeling unsettled with tummy ache and finding it hard to sleep.
Babies who are born in traumatic circumstances and need time in special care often need additional nurture and care when encountering sleep difficulties or feeding difficulties. This can be very upsetting and we can often experience a loss of the birth and time with our new baby that we were expecting.
Having a poorly baby is very tough and there are some excellent support groups run through SPOONS who run support groups for parents and babies who have spent time in special care.
Compassion-focused therapy (CFT) is fantastic for new parents who maybe struggling with anxiety and struggling with their relationship with their babies.
CFT is a fantastic way to develop a more compassionate way of being, develop our compassionate mind and reduce anxiety in the perinatal period. A big part of CFT is mindfulness and being in the present moment with our babies.
Developing a positive support network is crucial for parents, as isolation can exacerbate feelings of anxiety and overwhelm. It is tempting to turn to the internet for answers, however we know the internet is complex web of different advice.
Social media and other parenting forums can often be a place for people to project untruthful versions of themselves, which can make us feel lesser than. Please remind yourself that everybody struggles from time to time even if they are not open about it.
If online support and advice is something you're looking for. you can follow our facebook page Heywood, Middleton and Rochdale Early Attachment Service. We also recommend BBC Tiny Happy People for fantastic support, advice and information."