Ask DadPad, Being a Dad
Ask DadPad: Coping as a new dad in lockdown
Posted on 15th May 2020
There’s no denying that – as well as being exciting and joy-filled – becoming a dad can also be stressful, tiring and scary. Finding yourself on lockdown, without access to friends and family who would otherwise be able to help out and offer support, might make things feel even worse. Here at DadPad, we wanted to share some of our ‘top tips’ which will hopefully help you during this time.
- Look for the positives: you and your partner have the opportunity of having baby all to yourself, without visitors or other interruptions! Although having a family member or health professional on hand to watch over you can be reassuring, it can also make you feel under pressure to ‘get things right’; this is your chance to learn what works for you and your family. There’s no worry about keeping the house tidy or being dressed and presentable, just in case someone pops round. Instead, you now have the chance to just ‘be yourselves’ and do what suits your family best each day. Interestingly, there is also anecdotal evidence emerging that self-isolation and lockdown is giving some mums a better start with bonding and breastfeeding right now, as they are able to devote more time and focus on baby and baby’s feeding needs.
- Make the most of this opportunity to spend time with your baby, forming a relationship with her and developing your own confidence as a dad. Bonding with your new baby is one of the most important things that you can do – for you, your family and your baby – and there are lots of ways that you can help this to happen. A great start is to get involved with the ‘hands on’ care of your baby, such as nappy changes and bath-time, so that you can each get to know the other. You should also make time to just sit and hold your baby – you will be able to develop communication skills by first simply looking at each other, and then you can begin to talk and sing to baby. It won’t be long until baby starts to mirror your actions, and then to ‘chat’ with you. And, although it might not feel like you’re doing much, you’re actually helping your baby’s brain to develop in the most amazing way:
Babies do an incredible amount of growing in the first months of life and most of this is hidden away in their extraordinary little brains. Babies are born with billions of brain cells which can only function properly when they connect to each other. These nerve connections are made when babies experience being talked to, touched, fed and comforted.
Being sensitive to your baby’s signals and responding to their needs enables your baby’s brain synapses connections to form. This gives them a lifelong capacity for resilience against stress and emotional imbalance. In turn, this leads children to make sense of their emotions, understanding the world around them and feeling security in the relationships they have.
From @CFTPerinatal Facebook page – 11.05.2020
- Keep an eye on each other’s mental health. This is always important, but especially so for new parents and with the added worries and changes of lockdown. Know what to look out for – in both yourself and your partner – and make sure that you seek out someone to talk with if you think that would be a good thing to do. You can get information on key warning signs and where to go to seek help from the DadPad app if this is available in your area. Alternatively, have a look at the following websites:
- Take the opportunity to get out and about in the fresh air as part of your permitted daily exercise (adhering to all social distancing requirements, of course). This is a lovely time for you and mum to enjoy each other’s company, in different surroundings, whilst baby gets fresh air and a sleep, in either his pram or sling – you’ll be amazed what a difference a change of scenery can make to how you feel! An alternative option is for you and mum to take it in turns to get out on your own, either with or without baby. This gives each of you a bit of ‘space’ from each other, and the chance to recharge your batteries. Exercise is also a great way to help you deal with stress and depression.
- Bottle up your feelings or worries. Make sure that you take time to talk with baby’s mum – perhaps during your daily walk, or whilst prepping a meal? – to find out how each of you is doing, physically, mentally and emotionally. This is a great practice to get into as you start to build your family life together, and being honest about your emotions is really important. If you have worries that you don’t feel that you can speak to your partner about, try reaching out to a friend or family member that you trust, and/or speak to a health professional, such as your Health Visitor or GP. Remember that it’s important for your baby and his future wellbeing for you to stay positive and emotionally well, so do seek help if you feel it might be needed.
- Worry about reaching out to others if you feel that you and your family might need some help, advice or support with any aspect of parenting. Even though we’re having to self-isolate and distance ourselves from others during lockdown, health professionals are still on hand to offer guidance. No one will think that you are a bad parent just because you are asking for help – anyone who’s ever had a baby will know how hard things can be, how much you can end up doubting yourself, and how you can occasionally feel that you are at the end of your tether. A chat with a relative or a friend might be all you need to get back on the right track; alternatively, get in touch with your Health Visitor, Midwife or GP, who will always be very keen to speak with and support you. After all, it’s what they are there for!
- Take out your frustrations on your baby. There will be days and nights when you’ve had no sleep, baby won’t settle and it feels as if nothing you can do is right. On these occasions, you may find yourself becoming upset or even angry with your baby. If you feel that this is happening, put your baby in a safe place, such as their cot or pram, and go into another room for a few minutes, just to calm down. Shouting at your baby will only make the situation worse, as baby will be upset and will cry more. Shaking or hurting baby is something that you should NEVER, EVER do, as it can cause serious and lasting damage to baby, and maybe even death. The ICON website is a great source of information to help you learn to cope with baby’s crying they also have specific advice for coping with crying during lockdown.
- Forget to look after yourself! Both you and mum will be devoting pretty much all your time and energy to keep your baby safe, fed and happy, but it’s just as important to make sure that you take positive steps to stay well and reduce your stress levels, especially during lockdown. Things like healthy eating, daily exercise, catching up on sleep (if you can), and avoiding alcohol will all help. The NHS has some great advice about eating whilst breastfeeding and you can also get ideas on healthy living from their Change4Life website.
Finally, lots of groups and organisations are offering online support and advice during lockdown – some of our favourites include:
- DadsMatter – although based in Greater Manchester, the DadsMatter team’s website also contains links to a great range of resources for new dads all over the UK. They’re also on Facebook and Twitter.
- How Are You Dad – this website is seeking to help new dads find the support that they need to maintain their mental wellbeing.
- Mind – the mental health charity’s website is full of useful advice, guidance and information, including some great pages on post-natal depression and perinatal mental health and post-natal depression in dads/partners.
- Samaritans – if you’re really struggling and not sure where else to turn, don’t forget that the Samaritans are there for you all day, every day: 116 123.