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Mental health and your newborn

Last Modified: July 09, 2018

Women & Children

As Janell Lane, MA, LHMC, Parkview Health, pointed out*, motherhood comes with a range of emotions. Some feel normal, and others can prompt feelings of inadequacy or doubt. But it’s important to know that you are doing the best you can. We asked Kathy Detweiler, maternal child health nurse navigator, to share more about the unique challenges of motherhood.

What are some of the stressors of bringing a newborn home?

Babies are "needy" little people. They can't feed or dress themselves, and sometimes struggle to communicate what they need. Imagine any person moving into your space. Even adorable little people bring a lot of change with them and that is always stressful.  Advance knowledge of change does not always make it easier.

What are some of the barriers new mothers experience when it comes to addressing these stressors?

While bringing a newborn home is very exciting, it also a time when most people in the household are not getting a lot of sleep. Things that used to be routine, like meals and showers, can seem overwhelming or impossible. Many people are physically, geographically or socially isolated from the support people they need. Often, friends and family are quicker to offer suggestions, criticism or judgment than actual help. When there is so much information available on social media, sometimes it is hard to separate fact from opinion and know where to turn for help.

What resources are available to cope?

There are resources for housing, food, and child care in many areas to support families. Most importantly, new families need friends and peer support. Knowing that others are also struggling with this adjustment, learning together, and sharing experiences is probably one of the most important aspects to coping. Find a breastfeeding support group, a moms group, or some friends and neighbors that can journey with you. If you don't know where to turn, let us know and we can help to connect you.

How can a partner be helpful?

Go for a walk together. Help with household tasks. Cook dinner. Offer help with baby care so that she can take a nap. If you can't be there to listen, help mom find someone else who can listen. Pay attention to mom's moods and changes in her personality. If there are concerns, call her doctor. Know that you may see her struggling before she sees it.

What are some simple coping mechanisms?

Sometimes the simplest things, like taking a deep breath, praying, visiting a friend or a long bath or shower can be helpful.  The important thing is to do them intentionally as self-care. Call a friend and go out for coffee, go for a walk. Stay connected to people and activities you enjoy.

Any other words of advice for new mothers?

There is a misconception that "good babies" sleep well and eat on a schedule. Actually, we worry about babies that sleep more than four hours at a time for the first month, and we want them to eat about 8 times a day. They don't know how to tell time so expecting them to stay on a predictable schedule is likely unrealistic. It is important to watch the baby and how they communicate that they are hungry, tired or stressed. There are many other misconceptions and myths floating around, so check in with your providers to get the facts.

It is also important to be patient with yourself as you are learning all this together.  Forgive yourself for not knowing all the answers.  Even the most experienced, seemingly perfect mothers, struggled many times when nobody was watching. If you feel overwhelmed or disconnected from the baby, reach out to get help.

For more information, call Kathy at (260) 402-7333.



*This video was produced in collaboration with Chi Eta Phi Zeta and Parkview Health. Special thanks to the FIMR Mental Health Taskforce for their collaborative efforts.




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