In those first few months after giving birth, life becomes a jumble of nappies and night feeds. And in the chaos, it’s so easy to lose sight of our own wellbeing. If life is starting to feel really tough at home with your new baby, don’t keep it to yourself. Reach out for help, especially if you’re struggling with any of the following:
1. Breastfeeding struggles
We only get a few days in hospital to learn the ropes of breastfeeding, so it’s no wonder many of us find it hard when we get home and have to cope with multiple daily feeds on our own. There are so many little things that can crop up with breastfeeding, from attachment problems and cracked nipples to low milk supply and crippling mastitis – whatever you’re struggling with, get help. Honestly, a lactation consultant or breastfeeding support nurse can make all the difference in these early days and help you get the feeding back on track.
Many Australian hospitals offer at-home visits from a qualified maternity nurse after you’re discharged from hospital. Some local councils also offer regular breastfeeding support groups. Alternatively, you can always call the Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA)’s National Breastfeeding Helpline on 1800 686 268, 7 days a week.
2. Postnatal anxiety or depression
The post-baby blues are much more common than we think, and yet many of us continue to suffer in silence, urging ourselves to push on, keep going, it’ll get better. It does get better, it really does, but sometimes we need professional help getting through the dark days.
If you’re having troubling, worried, or having anxious feelings, seek support. Insomnia, loss of appetite, intense irritability and difficulty bonding with baby are all commons symptoms of postnatal depression. Similarly, intense, regular feelings of anxiety are often linked with a less-known condition called perinatal anxiety. Just remember, you’re not alone – many mothers are also struggling through that first year with baby. Don’t wait for it to get worse, contact a support network like Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636, or PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia on 1300 726 306.
3. Birth injuries
According to a 2016 Medibank survey, nearly three in four Australian women who had a vaginal birth in the last five years have suffered an injury as a result. Perineal tears were the most prevalent, but other common injuries included haemorrhoids, damage to the pelvic floor and urinary incontinence.
Clearly, childbirth-related injuries are actually the norm, not the exception, but the vast majority of new mums are still trying to go it alone. Not only does this put our health at risk, it also has a significant impact on our self-confidence and relationships.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Whether you had a vaginal birth or a c-section, talk to your GP or family health nurse about any lingering problems you’re experiencing. They’ll be able to offer you health advice, and get your body feeling good again.
People tell you a lot of things about having a baby, but one of the lesser mentioned struggles is plain old loneliness. Being at home with a baby on your own can be very isolating, especially if you’re far away from family, or you don’t have easy access to a car or transport.
This is where mother’s groups, playgroups and baby activities come in. Granted, they’re not for everyone. But sometimes, just packing up the nappy bag and getting out to see a whole bunch of other weary, sleep-deprived parents with their babies can help fill out the day.
Your hospital will have assigned you to a mother’s group. But if that’s not your thing, just reach for your phone and start looking for what else is happening near you. Playgroup Australia runs very well-organised catchups. And your local council is usually running a number of fun, casual baby-appropriate activities.
5. Relationship problems
While parenthood can bring us closer to our partners, it can also drive a major wedge through a relationship. Suddenly, you’re having to negotiate the mundane logistics of childcare, housework, work, and all those incessant night feeds. Add to that other potential problems like sex (or not having any) and the loss of any couple time, and the pressures mount.
This is so natural. Keep talking to each other – especially about the hard stuff. Find a good babysitter you can trust, and lock in some alone time together. You could also consider some professional counselling to help you through the adjustment period.
Did you struggle with any other things in your first year with baby? Tell us about it.