When your newborn smiles at you for the time, you’re on a dazzling high. Several hours later, you just want to curl up and cry when a relative asks why she’s not sleeping. Sound familiar? According to a recent study by babycare brand Munchkin, 57 per cent of new mothers find the first four months of motherhood a whirl of confusion as they cope with the flurry of emotions that having a new baby brings.
Ask any new mum and she’ll admit it. “The sheer joy of having a baby is often combined with frustration, and you may feel annoyed with the people around you for not behaving the way you want them to,” notes clinical psychologist Angharad Rudkin.
It’s normal for your emotions to change as regularly as your babe’s diapers. With the right strategies, you can channel these moods to your advantage...
Mood 1: Oversensitivity
Sometimes it feels like you left the hospital with a new personality as well as a new addition to the family. “When I told my regular barista that I loved his lattes and would never miss one, he jokingly said I was only there to collect enough points to get a free java,” recalls Natalie Wong, 29, mum to Mia, 16 weeks. “I was offended and had to blink back tears.”
Intense sensitivity comes from being tired, but also from doing a job you’ve never done before. “When we feel unsure of ourselves, we become finely tuned to other people’s reactions to us,” Rudkin notes. “If we’re critical of ourselves, we expect criticism from others, too.”
Master it There’s a silver lining to this, Rudkin says, “Being attuned to your little one’s needs is a great quality in a mum.” If you find yourself heading towards a meltdown, stop and notice your body signals. If your neck is tense and your heart is pounding hard, focus on deep, steady breathing. Once you recognise the warning signs, you’ll find it easier to manage your feelings. With the right strategies, you can channel these moods to your advantage...
Mood 2: Ecstasy
When you watch your cutie curl her tiny fingers around yours, nothing else seems to matter. “Feeling complete bliss is common and this is partly to help new mums cope with the tough side of motherhood,” explains GP Amy Howarth. Dopamine, the chemical that makes you experience pleasure, is released as you hold, rock or feed your baby. “I love it when Sarah and I are alone,” reveals Irnisa Kamarudin, mum to Maisarah, 9 months. “When I gaze into her eyes, I’m stunned that I made her.”
Master it Whenever you’re feeling down, take a look at photos from your kewpie’s early days. They can have a powerful effect on you. Midwives always recommend looking a picture of your baby to trigger the letdown reflex when you express milk. So in the same way, pictures can have a huge impact on lifting your mood in the weeks and months following childbirth. Alternatively, if you've created a memory box for your child, take a look through the keepsakes to evoke the same rush of love.
Mood 3: Confidence
Many women discover a new sense of self-assurance after they give birth. “You have less time to think about your weaknesses,” notes doula Lucy Symons. “Before you had a baby, walking into a café to meet a group of new people was daunting. Now you stride in with vomit stains on your shoulder, but you don’t care — you’ve finally managed to put your sweetie down for a nap and that’s all that matters.”
Master it Confidence can shift up and down in an instant, so rather than just accept you’re having a good day, spend a minute trying to capture exactly what you’re feeling. “Describe the feeling to yourself,” suggests Dr Anna Symonds, a clinical psychologist. “What’s making you feel so positive?” Write these thoughts down and review them when you need a confidence boost.
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Mood 4: Anger
“There’s nothing wrong or unusual about feeling annoyed — it’s how you manage the feeling that counts,” advises Judy Reith, parenting coach and author of Be A Great Mum. Most importantly, be kind to yourself and don’t feel guilty.
Master it Put your mini-me somewhere safe and go and calm down. If you need to lock yourself in a room and yell, do it. Alternatively, ask someone to babysit, so you can have a break to recharge and relax. And don’t feel bad about ranting to your bestie — just do it out of earshot of your young one, so she doesn’t pick up on your emotions. If no one knows what’s going on in your head, they can’t help you.
Mood 5: Confusion
Becoming a new mum means you have a new job with crazy amounts of responsibility and zero experience. You also have to make a multitude of important decisions every day. “I felt really anxious for the first few months because I didn’t know what I was doing,” says Emma Chee, 27, mum to Oscar, 13 months. “I’d decide to get Oscar off to sleep one way, but when it didn’t work and he’d cry, I’d question whether I should be trying another approach. I was in a complete muddle.”
Master it It’s normal to feel uncertain — it’s a sign you’re putting lots of thought into how you’re bringing up your offspring. It can work out for the best if it drives you to question what you’re doing and to seek advice, so you can make the right choice for your offspring. Try talking things over with your husband, a relative or doctor or do some research online. Once you have enough information, you can match it up with your values as a parent and make an informed decision.
Mood 6: Empathy
If watching your sweetie sneeze makes you want to weep, you’ve developed the all-important emotion of being a mum — empathy. “It’s triggered by hormone changes that start during pregnancy and enables you to bond with baby and look after her,” doula Lucy Symons explains.
Master it Your kewpie is 100 per cent dependent on you and your hubby, so it’s crucial that you’re in tune with your emotions. When you can imagine how your peewee is feeling, you can respond quickly and accurately to her needs. “Sometimes, our emotions get skewed in the post-baby state,” Dr Symonds notes. “They can be amplified, which can make you feel vulnerable.” If you’re not feeling empathetic, spend some one-on-one time with your tot. She suggests that you try to connect with your cutie through massage and play, or just by gazing into her eyes. Being in tune with all of your emotions is key to parenting.
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