As a new parent, you may be surprised by the significant emotional challenges of parenthood. It’s perfectly normal for new parents to feel overwhelmed. After all, you are now caring for a newborn 24 hours a day! That’s why it’s so important for you to slow down and set aside a few weeks to adjust to your new roles, get to know your baby, share your feelings with your partner, and take care of yourself.
Feelings of frustration are normal, and may signal you need to take a break. Call upon trusted friends and relatives willing to care for your baby for a short time. Another way to cope is to put your baby in a safe place, like a crib, and leave the room for a few minutes. Never shake your baby. This can cause damage to your baby’s brain and even death. If you are overwhelmed by stressful feelings, contact your healthcare provider immediately.
Parenting is rewarding, but challenging, so we encourage all parents to take advantage of local parent education programs, including those offered through Women’s Hospital and several United Way agencies, such as Family Service of the Piedmont and the Family Life Council.
In the first few days and weeks after birth, some new moms experience the “baby blues,” which may include mood swings, crying spells, restlessness, or even changes in appetite or sleep habits. Symptoms may come and go, and may be related to hormone changes or simply adjusting to your new role. Partners, too, may experience the blues, and may speak about feeling left out or feel frustrated by the limited time with you or your new family.
While the overwhelming feelings accompanying the first weeks of parenting are normal and not cause for worry, about one in 10 new moms may experience postpartum depression. For some, the “blues” linger without subsiding or symptoms may occur later, but typically within the first year after birth.
Symptoms of postpartum depression may include:
- Feelings of sadness, doubt, guilt, irritability, hopelessness, or uncontrollable crying. Such feelings may interfere with your ability to care for yourself or your baby, and you may have trouble handling your usual responsibilities.
- Not being able to sleep at night when you are tired, even if your baby is sound asleep.
- Lack of interest in things you once found pleasurable.
- Excessive concern or worry about your baby.
- Fear of harming your baby or yourself.
With skilled professional help, postpartum depression is treatable and temporary. If untreated, symptoms can worsen or last longer than they need to, so reaching out for help is an important first step.
If you are concerned about postpartum depression, talk to your physician, and learn more about Cone Health’s Feelings After Birth Support Group, which is led by a registered nurse and enables new mothers to support each other. To learn more, call (336) 832-6682.
Occasional feelings of anger and resentment toward the demands of the baby are normal and occur with most parents. But sometimes those feelings are so overwhelming that parents fear they may hurt their baby. If you should have this feeling or find you are having trouble responding to your baby’s needs, seek help immediately.
Safe Surrender Law
In North Carolina, we have a Safe Surrender Law. This means that a baby who is seven days old or younger may be surrendered to “any responsible adult” without legal consequences. A “responsible adult” may be an on-duty healthcare provider, law enforcement officer, social services worker, or emergency medical services worker. Call 911 for assistance, if needed.