- Tips on dealing with newborn father frustration and anxiety after a baby
- Paternal Postnatal Depression
- What next?
I’m a father who has experienced the same newborn father frustration that you may be going through now. Newborn father frustration is a common occurrence that will almost definitely happen at some point, especially while the baby is a newborn. However, this is not something to fear or dread but one that you can prepare to make it a little easier.
The first step is to accept that even if you do everything you possible can to help mum and baby it will still be an overwhelmingly challenging experience for dads. Babies, especially at the very beginning, can feel unmanageable and make you feel like you’re not good enough – this, in turn, leads to frustration and for some a feeling of hopelessness and depression. My tips won’t change that but I hope to be able to help you understand what’s going on and make dealing with the situation easier.
Tips on dealing with newborn father frustration and anxiety after a baby
Here are some tips which can help you deal with and overcome newborn father frustration and feelings of anxiety.
Don’t take it personally
It’s easy for a dad to think that if the baby cries or can’t be soothed by them then it’s because of you or that your baby simply doesn’t like you. This isn’t the case at all. Babies are cranky and going through so many changes all at once which is what makes them so temperamental. During the early days and weeks, all a baby does is eat, sleep and poop. In the first two weeks, it is said that babies do not have a bond with anyone as they still think they’re in the womb. As some parenting experts have said, it can take up to 6 months for a dad and baby to properly bond and it’s the baby who probably feels the most frustrated as their bodies are going through so many growth spurts, they’re constantly hungry and they can’t communicate.
It can take an awful long for a dad to build a bond with a baby, much longer than a mother would need and that’s perfectly normal and you shouldn’t take it personally.
Go through the checklist
If your baby’s cranky then go through the checklist of problems to try and solve it and therefore end the frustration of hearing them cry. Here’s what to check:
- Are they hungry? Prepare a bottle or support mum in getting comfy ahead of breastfeeding.
- Does their nappy need changing?
- Is the room too hot or too cold?
- Are they tired or over-tired? If they haven’t slept in a while try rocking them or singing to them in a dark room to get them to sleep.
- Do they need winding? Try rubbing their tummy or lying them down and doing bicycle legs.
- Lastly, try walking them around and even using toys or books as a distraction
In some cases, and ones that I’ve experienced myself, a baby may be ‘inconsolable’ and seem to cry infinitely. Some examples of this are shortly after injections or during a bad bout of teething pain – in this case, we recommend hanging in there with them and just keep cuddling them until it passes.
Blow off some steam
A fantastic tip for dads who are right in the middle of a frustrating period with the baby is to try and do something to blow off some steam from time to time. We recommend doing something physical such as going to the gym or going for a run. This will kill two birds with one stone as you are keeping fit whilst dealing with the tension.
Of course, it should go without saying to time this session so that you aren’t leaving mum in the lurch. Disregarding your parental responsibilities to go to the gym will only lead to creating more frustration in the household. Instead, speak to your partner and explain your plans and organise a time for you to get out that will suit the family. This may mean a 6am gym class or even taking the baby out in their pram for your run. Whatever it is, the release of endorphins from the exercise are bound to help your mood.
Eat well, stay hydrated
There should be no downplaying the effects of a healthy balanced diet and being well hydrated when it comes to keeping frustrations at manageable levels. When a new baby enters your life, especially if it’s your first, it can be tempting to eat takeaways or cheaper food which can be prepared easily and quickly. However, a bad diet can affect your mood and provide your body with poor energy which can make you more likely to get into a bad mood and frustrated if you’re dealing with a cranky baby.
Knowing what foods we should and shouldn’t be eating can be really confusing, especially when it feels like the advice changes regularly. However, evidence suggests that as well as affecting our physical health, what we eat may also affect the way we feel.
We aren’t dieticians so we can’t recommend a specific diet for anyone but we can give some helpful advice on what kinds of foods to eat:
- Prepare healthy meals in advance
- Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables
- Avoid foods with excess sugar
- Avoid red meat
- Drink water over carbonated drinks and caffeine
- Try and avoid heavily processed foodS
As a final food tip for dads, why not take more of a lead in the kitchen and take over the cooking to give mum a break? This can help both of you eat well, give you a focus and ensure you are doing something helpful for your family.
Get some rest (when you can)
Feeling tired all of the time is a common feeling with a newborn and that goes for both mums and dads. The baby may be keeping you up all night and during the day you might not get much of a chance to nap. However, there are two of you there to help who can take the night feeds in shifts (if you’re bottle feeding or using expressed milk) and to give the other one a break. It’s important to let mum get some rest when you can help her but don’t neglect your own need for rest, either!
If you’re feeling knackered and the baby’s in a good mood then why not sneak off for a quick nap. If it’s not your turn doing the night shift then don’t waste any precious time playing video games or watching a film or scrolling through social media – get your head down on a pillow and get some rest. If you’re a dad of a breastfed baby and night feeds just aren’t possible then consider sleeping in another room from time to time so that only one of you is tired which is a lot better than both! This way you’ll be refreshed in the morning and able to help out more.
Communicate how you feel
Letting your feelings build up in a stressful situation is no good for mum, dad and ultimately the baby. If something’s bothering you or you’re struggling with something (such as bonding with the baby) then it’s always best to talk openly about it in a calm and structured manner. Let your other half know you’re struggling with getting to grips with being a dad and having the baby (chances are, she’ll be struggling as well) and see if there’s anything you can both do to make things better. Always understanding what the other person’s feeling will help avoid arguements and frustrations building up. Plus, your partner will probably appreciate being able to open up to you and let her frustrations be known as well. Of course, just communicating is only half the story – listen and make positive changes following your discussions.
Don’t compare with other people’s experiences
This isn’t just a baby tip for frustrated dads but a tip for every parent. Every baby is different – from their appearance to their mannerisms, sleeping patterns, eating patterns, you name it. Therefore, comparing your baby and experience with another is usually pointless and may even lead to more frustration. You may see people post on social media that their baby sleeps through the night, naps during the day, is always laughing etc but do remember people generally only post the best bits of their day. The reality will be very different.
Trust me when I say that every baby is different and in time you’ll get to know your baby’s ins and outs and your bond will get better and better. As a side note, if you’ve got a breastfed baby then expect more challenging behaviour in general. This is important as breastfed babies are actually in the minority and many comparisons may be with bottle fed babies.
Breastfed babies cry more, laugh less, and generally have more challenging temperaments than formula-fed infants, a study has found. But such behaviour is normal, and mothers and fathers should learn to cope with it rather than reach for the bottle.Dr Ken Ong, Medical Research Council
Paternal Postnatal Depression
One of the biggest frustrations as a new dad is that all the attention is either on the child, the mother or both. In some cases, the dad can be forgotten about which can lead to frustration and perhaps even depression. Paternal postnatal depression (PPD) is the term for new fathers who become depressed as a result of the baby coming into their lives. PPD is complicated as there are so many factors which can cause it. In this simplified guide, we’re going to give an overview on what PPD is, tips for dads to avoid it and of course tips for mums who just want to know if their partner might be going through it.
What is postnatal depression for dads?
Paternal postnatal depression is a term to describe the feeling of anxiety and depression in the fathers following the birth of a baby. The most common time for PPD to happen is in the first year following the birth, with most cases happening between 3-6 months following the arrival of the baby.
Frustration isn’t the only symptom of postnatal depression. Here’s a list of symptoms we’ve sourced from the NCT.
- Fear, confusion, helplessness and uncertainty about the future
- Withdrawal from family life, work and social situations
- Frustration, irritability, cynicism and anger
- Marital conflict
- Partner violence
- Negative parenting behaviours
- Alcohol and drug use
- Physical symptoms like indigestion, changes in appetite and weight, diarrhoea, constipation, headaches, toothaches and nausea.
Paternal postnatal depression is very real and should be treated with respect. If you feel it’s all getting on top of you and you have feelings of frustration or depressed or perhaps your partner appears to be showing symptoms of depression then please don’t ignore it.
Newborn father frustration is going to happen to some extent but it’s important to learn some methods of staying on top of it for your mental health to be able to be the best father you can be. Just remember to stay healthy, communicate often and seek help if you feel it’s too much.