How To Handle Being A New Dad | SLMan

How To Handle Being A New Dad

How To Handle Being A New Dad
LAURA FUHRMAN/UNSPLASH
Becoming a dad can trigger a host of emotions – from joy to fear and everything in between. Throw a lack of sleep and broken routines into the mix, and it’s no wonder some new dads can feel a little off kilter. SLMan sat down with the experts to discover their rules for coping…

Remember You Are Still A Couple

“Welcoming a new baby can be a complete lifestyle overhaul. It’s important that you and your partner talk about how life might change, what your expectation of each other as a parent is, and how you want to support and be supported. Making sure you are connected and on the same page will go a long way to supporting your mental health and that of your partner. You might also start opening these conversations with others that you trust – for example, close friends who already have children.” – Amy Launder, psychotherapist & psychological coach
 

Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself

“While there’s no doubt that new mums take the brunt of the work when a baby is born, dads also have their worlds turned upside down. Your sleep is disrupted, your routine is thrown for a loop, and this can cause a real increase in stress, and in turn raise levels of the stress hormone cortisol. A cruel evolutionary joke is that spiking your blood sugar is a very effective way to stop the cortisol/stress response, which is why many of us turn to food when we are stressed. The combination of disrupted food, sleep and life can be very hard on a new dad’s mental health. Feelings of irritation and frustration are also common. This was certainly true of me 18 months ago when my daughter was born. Little things I used to brush off drove me nuts, and I found myself snapping for almost no reason at all. Other new dads may find themselves withdrawing from friends and family, becoming reclusive in their actions. What’s hard is that dads don’t want to be a burden on an already intense situation, so they often try and suppress their emotions or turn to less than healthy outlets to deal with them.” – Mike Molloy, founder, M2 Performance Nutrition
 

Understand It’s A Time Of Transition

“After having a baby, a huge amount of attention is placed on the new mother and baby, and new dads are often left to their own devices, which can leave you feeling isolated and unsupported. Plus, it can be quite a lonely time for a dad once all the visitors have been and gone, and you’re left to your own devices. Remember that a few days of feeling down or anxious is completely normal, and part of adjusting to having a new baby. Tiredness and fatigue for longer periods of time are also completely normal.” – Amy
 

Try Writing Down Your Thoughts

“Journalling for just five minutes before bed was a game-changer for me in the first few weeks after my daughter was born. It allowed me to process all the emotions and thoughts I’d had that day. When I made this part of my nightly routine, my sleep and mood improved, and I was a better dad overall. Don’t stress about writing like Shakespeare – just write. You can use bullet points, single words or sentences, whatever works for you. It’s just about getting the thoughts out of your head and down on paper.” – Mike

"What’s hard is that dads don’t want to be a burden on an already intense situation, so they often try and suppress their emotions or turn to less than healthy outlets to deal with them.”
Mike Molloy

Explore The Gut-Brain Connection

“We’re learning that gut health and mental health are intimately connected. The brain can impact the digestive system and the digestive system can in turn impact the brain. With that in mind, you need to keep your gut health in shape. To do this, focus on eating largely unprocessed foods – make lean meats, fruits, vegetables, potatoes and other starches, and nuts and seeds the majority of your diet. Avoid foods that have ingredients labels with foods you’ve never heard of and consider supplementing with an omega-3 and probiotic, both of which can help support a healthy gut.” – Mike
 

Try Not To Rely On Caffeine

“There’s no doubt you’re going to have a few sleepless nights with a new baby, but try to avoid the temptation of overdoing it with coffee. It can be easy to become addicted to the stimulation coffee provides, causing more harm than good. Instead, try to exercise if you are feeling tired or low. It doesn’t matter if it’s running, weightlifting, rock climbing or CrossFit, just get your heartrate elevated. The endorphins will help you to feel better.” – Mike
 

Understand The Post-Baby Blues Can Happen

“Approximately one in five women will experience a perinatal mental health problem (a mental health condition from the point of conception until a baby’s 1st birthday), while around one in ten new fathers are likely to experience a mental health condition during this period. Postnatal depression, however, isn’t currently a term used for dads or partners, as it’s solely used in clinical practice to refer to women who have given birth. Nonetheless, there is a growing recognition of the impact of the birth of a child on a dad’s mental health and an awareness that more needs to be done.” – Dr Leanne Hayward, consultant perinatal & general adult psychiatrist, Priory’s Wellbeing Centre & the Priory hospital in Bristol
 

Know What To Look Out For

“Triggers to many mental health deteriorations can be precipitated by significant life events. The birth of a child is a recognised and significant life event. For dads, there aren’t the hormonal changes that occur in women at the time of childbirth although risk factors include having an existing mental health condition, poor social support, family and genetic factors, and sleep deprivation. Symptoms that suggest you may need help include changes in mood, irritability, poor sleep, loss of appetite, loss of interest in activities that used to bring pleasure, poor concentration, hopelessness and feeling inadequate as a father. Some dads may also experience PTSD after witnessing their partner giving birth. If your symptoms last for two weeks or longer, or begin to significantly deteriorate, it’s important to seek help. The earlier you seek treatment, the sooner you will feel better.” – Leanne

"There is a growing recognition of the impact of the birth of a child on a dad’s mental health and an awareness that more needs to be done.”
Dr Leanne Hayward

If You’re Really Struggling, Know The Treatment Options

“If you are depressed and have spoken with a medical practitioner (always start with your GP), it’s important to understand how you can get on the path to recovery. Treatments include self-help strategies and talking therapies for mild conditions, with the addition of medication for moderate to severe conditions. If your partner is under a perinatal mental health support team, there may be a dad’s support worker linked to the service who can offer support.” – Leanne
 

Chat To Other New Dads

“As a new dad, you feel a strong responsibility to take care of your family, both the baby and your partner. There has often been very little support for dads in this situation. Fortunately, there is now a whole host of new dad support groups in nearly every major city and online too. Sometimes, finding out that you’re not alone with your thoughts and fears is all you need to get back to your normal routine.” – Mike
 

Remember To Support Your Friends Too

“If you’ve had a close friend who has just had a baby, it’s important to show up before they need support, instead of just saying you’ll support them. We often say, ‘Just shout if you need anything,’ but often new parents won’t ask. A better approach is to offer specific support –to do a food shop or cook dinner for them. Ensure your support is over a long period of time, not just in the weeks after the baby is born, and try to focus on your friend, the new dad, not just on the new mum and baby. If you notice that either of the new parents are struggling, be a listening ear and encourage them to get professional support.” – Amy

 

If you are a new dad and struggling with your mental health or just need a helping hand, these are the services to know…

Fathers Reaching Out
PANDAS
The Dad Pad
Dads Matter
This Dad Can

For more information from our experts, visit AmyLaunder.comPrioryGroup.com and M2PerformanceNutrition.com

 

DISCLAIMER: Features published by SLMan are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. Always seek the advice of your GP or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programme.

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