Jane Fisher, the Jean Hailes Professor of Women’s Health at Monash University says the birth of a baby (particularly a first baby) is a major life change that can be accompanied by mixed feelings, with many parents feeling under-equipped to care for, and manage a household with, a new baby.
“The time following the birth of a baby is an important time of adjustment for families,” says Professor Fisher. “Parents have as much to learn as their new babies do so having access to evidence-based information and opportunities to learn caregiving skills are helpful.”
Professor Fisher says that it is also important for parents of new babies to talk about their experiences and hear about the experiences of other parents who are at the same life stage.
“In recognition, we have established the What Were We Thinking Blog that lets new and expectant parents around Australia describe their experiences and hear how others are managing. What sets this blog apart is that all posts are moderated by, and commented on, by health professionals and other experts in the field,” said Professor Fisher.
The blog follows the experiences of over a dozen mums and dads, who share the highs and the lows of their journeys with honesty and a touch of humour. Bloggers discuss expectations before and after their baby is born, changing relationships, dealing with ‘the fog’ and feelings of doubt in the early weeks, reaching milestones, going on holidays, learning how to settle your baby, respond to sickness and share the load, finding ways to have time out, as well as juggling work and home.
Blogger mum Alex found that breastfeeding was the hardest thing she’d ever done in her life. “I don’t mean to show off, but I have a number of wonderful talents; I can solve problems and build flat pack furniture. I can calculate reasonably hard sums and can speak a second language. But breastfeeding is hard.”
When you have a baby many people offer advice about how things should be done. “It is helpful to be encouraging, kind and supportive, but this is not always what happens,” says Professor Fisher. “Learn how to speak up for yourself and your baby in a way that is assertive. Sometimes you need to ask people directly either to assist with the work or not to persist with suggestions that are unhelpful.”
“It is normal to feel worried, irritable and tearful some of the time, but if these are the main feelings a new parent experiences most of the time and there are no moments of joy, then it is worth consulting a health professional,” she advises.In Australia about 10-13% of women will experience depression and/or anxiety during pregnancy or in the year after giving birth. This depends on a number of factors including how well understood and supported you are by your partner and family; whether you have experienced a mental health problem in the past; how easy or difficult you find it to adapt to change; whether you are experiencing other difficult circumstances at the same time as having a baby; and how easy or difficult it was to conceive, be pregnant with, give birth to, and feed your baby.
While rates are much lower among men, many men can feel worried, in particular about the responsibilities for their family’s financial security. Some men deal with worries by using alcohol and up to one in four can drink too much.
“It is really important for babies to experience care, like being bathed, changed and soothed, from their fathers. As confidence in caregiving increases, pleasure in fatherhood usually grows,” says Professor Fisher.
Postnatal Depression Awareness Week is an initiative of PANDA.
For information on postnatal depression go to http://jeanhailes.org.au/health-a-z/mental-emotional-health/postnatal-depression/
Read more from the What Were We Thinking bloggers and experts at http://wwwt.jeanhailes.org.au/
If you would like to share your experiences of becoming a parent and write for the blog email WWWTblog@jeanhailes.org.au