Enough is said and written about how women cope with a newborn- from prenatal classes to stress on yoga & meditation to postnatal counseling and consultations provided by doctors, caregivers & family. Women indeed deserve so much attention & care because it’s them who carry the baby for nine months, endure the trauma and pain of childbirth and cope with haywire hormones. It’s indeed a beautiful sight to see a new mum glowing with pride and love, carefully tending her bundle of joy with the doting dad gazing at the duo.
Did I just speak about the dad who is standing beside gazing at the newborn? Does anyone know what’s going on behind that smile full of pride, amazement…….and shock!
How Fathers Cope With A Newborn
Becoming a father can be an exciting and overwhelming experience. It will probably be one of the biggest events of your life. Although everyone expects newborn to bring along mainly joy, the truth is that with a baby comes a lot of stress for both parents. Although postnatal depression is often regarded as affecting only mothers, equal numbers of fathers go through a similar period of depression and need time (and at times assistance) to cope up with a newborn.
Also read “5 Critical ways Fathers impact Child Development”
Sad Dad Syndrome- Does it really exist?
In women, Postpartum Depression or PPD, as it’s generally referred, is triggered largely by hormonal fluctuations. So the relevance of this in men is generally questioned. Well, they couldn’t possibly have this condition since they can’t be pregnant or give birth. However, several studies show that a man’s hormones also fluctuate during pregnancy and after birth, for reasons that are still unknown. Testosterone levels drop, estrogen, prolactin, and cortisol go up. Some men even develop symptoms such as nausea and weight gain.
The hormone-linked effects may not directly be the reason for PPD in men, but it does seem to be a genuine psychological reaction to a life-changing event. And ironically, because the hormones in dads are not directly linked with child-birth, men don’t produce the post-natal chemicals that help mums form an immediate and strong bond with their baby. As a result, it generally takes men longer to feel a real emotional connection with a newborn.
And clearly, the society and linked social norms also send such messages to men about manhood & fatherhood. Providing financial security, ensuring safety etc are few of the many ‘duties’ tagged to a new dad resulting in a lot of worry, anxiety, and demoralization around career and work-life balance.
Also read “6 Financial steps to take as new Parents”
Well, undoubtedly rearing and nurturing a new life can be extremely stressful and there are several other factors that add on to the worries for a new dad, like-
• Adjusting to the new lifestyle– With a newborn in tow, keeping the household activities going on smoothly and maintaining social life active can be a challenging task. The thought of handling all this along with long crying spells of the baby and sleep deprived nights- it’s not an easy road ahead!
• Financial strain- The cost of having a baby doesn’t just comprise the cost of delivery and ultrasounds but continues even after the baby is born. Vaccinations, baby gears, diapers and other baby supplies are a thing to manage. The stress multiplies because of the fact that all this needs to be sustained on one source of income (in most cases where the mum takes unpaid leave or quits work to take care of the baby.)
• Less time with your partner- Having a baby means sharing your partner’s attention with a third party. It’s common for a new dad to feel left out.
• Loss of sexual activity- Recovery from childbirth, physical exhaustion and stress can take a toll on your sex life, which might strain your relationship.
• Limited paternity leave- If you aren’t able to take time off when the baby is born, it might be difficult to keep up your regular work schedule and find time to spend with your newborn.
Also read “Newborn Checklist- What to buy before the Baby arrives”
But why are we talking about this?
The condition called Sad Dad syndrome or Paternal Postpartum Depression (PPPD) has been garnering a lot of attention all across the globe in past few years owing to a paradigm shift seen in the role of dads in today’s times. With dads increasingly expected to be more hands-on besides working full-time, there’s greater stress owing to more responsibility, new financial worries, a radical change in lifestyle and their relationship with their partner. The new-age dad, as some like to call “Father 2.0”, is not just involved in paying the bills or setting a tone of the household, but is seen as ‘the other Parent’ well versed with changing diapers, feeding the baby or even staying up in the nights! In a way, this generation of fathers is feeling the psychological, social, and economic stressors that some mothers have long experienced.
Unlike women, men express their mental and emotional state in different ways. Most men wouldn’t even know that they are facing coping issues with a new baby around. But in situations like these, ignorance is NOT bliss. Experiencing physical fatigue, lack of appetite, weight fluctuations are a few early signs of stresses a new dad might be going through. Most new dads admit feeling sad, guilty, angry, isolated and even ashamed in the first few weeks of having a baby.
What you can do, dear Daddy!
Well, as they say, the problem is half solved if detected on time. If you know a new dad going through coping issues with a newborn or are yourself one, you would be glad to know that we have some simple ways and strategies to help you cope up with the new life.
Strategy # 1 Acknowledge your feelings
Accepting how you feel about the situation is the first step to cope with the changes life has got around. Strangling yourself with guilt would just add to the problems. Instead, be more self-compassionate by recognizing that it is perfectly normal to feel the need for time and may be a little bit of support to adjust to the changes in life with a newborn.
Strategy # 2 Talk it out
This is the most critical step in the process of coping with a newborn. Most men shy away from talking about their feelings or expressing their fears with their partner. Sharing your feelings with your partner doesn’t mean that you are whining or complaining about life. After all, that’s what parenthood is al about- discuss, negotiate and find solutions.
Strategy # 3 Take it Slow
With so many changes in lifestyle, a newborn somehow keeps everyone on toes from day one! But taking each step at a time helps soak in the changes easier. Many men aren’t prepared for the birth of their child and can feel overwhelmed by the responsibility thrust upon them. New dads must refrain themselves from over-exerting in finishing tasks and jobs in hand. Rather take moments in between to enjoy your little bundle of delight.
Strategy # 4 Focus on self-care
Parenting is believed to be our first introduction to selfless unselfish love. But think about it- does giving your whole self and life to the child make you an ideal parent? In reality, sacrificing yourself for your children can be the least selfless thing that you can do for them. Try to make sure you are eating well, getting physical exercise and getting as much sleep as possible. Small things such as going for a regular walk or for a game of soccer will make all the difference in your personal coping and give you the energy to respond to the demands of parenting. Try & involve yourself in any activity that takes you away from parenting for a while, brings you peace, and reminds you of who you were and what you enjoyed before the baby arrived.
Strategy # 5 Participate in Parenting responsibilities
Parenting skills can be best learned only by practicing. Instead of spending more time out of the house and worrying about the whats and hows of life, throw yourself in the parenting role and gain confidence with small victories. This could be as simple as designating one hour in the evening to look after the baby. Instead of withdrawing yourself from the situation or family, get involved in the daily care of your baby like dressing, playing, bathing or just burping- it is the best way to build your skills & confidence.This would not only be a great way to bond with the little one but also give some time to your partner to relax.
Also read “5 must-have books for babies”
Strategy # 6 Attend to your relationship with your Partner
Often the fathers who cope best make efforts to stay connected with their partner. Don’t neglect to spend time with each other even though you are both busy with the baby. Take small steps, make little efforts and you would see things becoming much easier for both of you to cope up with. Talk about what your plans are, how you want to take things further, what your fears are, how you can support your partner etc. Once in a week arrange for a babysitter and take some time out for a cup of coffee together. Talking and listening are the best ways to relate to your partner.
Strategy # 7 Redefine romance
Let’s face it, intimacy and romance as they were once defined become much more difficult once you become a parent. Privacy, time and even energy- all these seem nonexistent for new parents. During this stage of parenting, find new ways to stay connected physically. Indulge in some puppy love while your partner is breastfeeding the baby, hold hands when sitting with the baby in your lap or just cuddle up together at night. Be patient with your partner if she doesn’t have a desire for even this. Remind yourself ‘this too shall pass’ and you will be able to regain spontaneous, uninterrupted lovemaking in the future.
Also read “Love is in the air? Wait till you have kids”
Strategy # 8 Educate yourself
Many times we find difficulties in coping with a changed scenario or circumstances because of lack of confidence or required skills. You’re not alone if you feel nervous or unsure about being a new dad. One way to cope with this is to educate and update yourself. Parenting books, videos, websites…you can find information by any of these mediums. With a better understanding and clearer thoughts, it would be easier for new dads to cope with a newborn.
Strategy # 9 Spend time with the newborn
Acknowledging that you have a new life around for whom you would be responsible is a difficult feeling to sink in. But spending time with your bundle of joy can make things easier for you. Physical touch with a newborn has been found to have a splendid effect on the parent as well as the baby. Take a few minutes out to talk to your little one, touch your baby’s hands, give a few pecks and hugs- these work great to build a bond and connection with the newborn. Every word that you speak, every gesture that you display helps develop the baby’s language & learning and strengthens your relationship with him.
Also read “5 Toys you must buy for your Baby”
Strategy # 10 Learn from fellow dads
It would not be wrong to say that the biggest problems for men when it comes to coping with a newborn is the lack of support available. You would hardly see a man come up and discuss his worries or inhibitions or even fears related to coping with a newborn. In such scenario, it is best to break those barriers and leave such inhibitions behind and talk to fellow dads in your friend circle. Talking to people you know and trust who have survived the trials of early parenthood can help you realize your feelings are common. You would find a lot of Dad Communities on Facebook, join one of those, read about others’ experiences, share your learnings and try & help yourself and all new dads cope up with a new baby.
Strategy # 11 Know that this is not the end!
Most men, who are gung-ho as soon as they find out that they are having a baby, admit to feeling trapped and caged once the baby is born. Simplest things like watching television or going out with friends seem like things of the past. Getting back to pursue your hobby or fulfilling your desire to go on all-guys-bike-trip alone might seem like an impossible dream. However, the key to success as a new dad in coping with a newborn is to relax your expectations and to go with the flow of the daily ups and downs along the way. It can help to look at everything in a positive way. Get your lost sense of humor out of the cupboards and start enjoying the funny side of parenting. What more, start capturing moments through photographs and videos. When you are feeling low, have a look at those and give it a laugh! This would give you solace and help you not take parenting too seriously.
Needless to say, if you’re experiencing symptoms of depression, there is no harm seeking professional help. Knowing the signs and symptoms can make it easier for you to get support and treatment early.
Go Mommy…..or better still Go Daddy!!!