It’s time to talk about Dad’s baby blues (and we don’t mean his eyes).
Most parents will agree those first few months with a newborn are some of the toughest they’ll ever have. But while medical practitioners and those close to the family are keeping a keen eye on mum, are they paying enough attention to what’s going on with Dad?
It’s easy to empathise with Mum. She’s the superhuman who grew and gave birth to their treasured little human. But Dads aren’t just along for the ride — their life is also forever changed and challenged by the pressures of parenting. So much so, baby blues in new Dads is more common than most of us would know.
Research suggests that 1 in 10 Dads experience anxiety and depression in the year after having a baby.
While it may not be as obvious, there’s several reasons why dads feel the blues in the first few months after a baby arrives.
- Their hearts grow exponentially too. The protective instinct and the desire to get things ‘right’ for their children can be just as overwhelming and all-consuming as Mum’s.
- Life has changed forever. Demands on their time has been completely consumed by their love and sense of responsibility for this new little being.
- Many dads work full-time during this challenging time. They worry about providing financially for their families. Not to mention the whole new level of fatigue that comes with working full-time and sleepless nights with baby.
- Working dads worry about not being with their partner and baby. It’s natural for dads in this situation to feel upset about missing out on special moments, like their baby’s first smile or words.
- Naturally, dads worry about the wellbeing of mum and bub and want to help. However, it can be difficult to know the best way to support a stressed partner who might not always be able to express what she needs.
- And let’s not forget the dads who live away from their children. Being separated can bring frustration about the past relationship, sadness about being away from the baby and uncertainty about how to be a father from a distance. Separated dads often feel they have very little support compared to other parents.
So it’s no wonder that dads, not just mums, can feel the baby blues. Signs Dad might not be coping can include:
- being continually fatigued (even after catching up on a few hours of missed sleep)
- withdrawing from friends and family
- experiencing changes in appetite or weight.
There’s also a higher risk of alcohol and substance abuse when these feelings set in.
Thankfully, research shows that many dads who experience emotional distress after the arrival of a baby will feel significantly better within 12 months. However, some dads can suffer silently for several years after their child’s birth.
And while we all know the demanding days of newborns do end, the pressures of raising children don’t — they just change.
It’s important for dads to recognise early signs if they’re not coping, and reach out for support so they can be the parent they want to be for their kids.
Research with fathers of young babies also shows that social support (e.g. chatting with mates about worries, or getting advice from family) is associated with lower levels of depression. In fact, research has looked at men from all backgrounds — farmers, men with autism, older men — and found that all of these groups have better mental health when they have social support.
If you’re a dad and you’re feeling down, there’s different ways you can talk about it. Text a mate. Drop round to a friend’s house. Catch up with work mates. Here are some ideas about who you can chat with.
You don’t need to tell them your life story (unless you want to, of course). Sometimes it’s helpful to just say “I’m not feeling great.” Give it a go — we reckon you’ll be surprised with the result. Most people are happy to lend a hand (or an ear) for a mate.
If you don’t feel like talking to a friend, you’re still not alone. Search the oneplace community services directory to find support in your local area with anything you’re experiencing, such as anxiety, depression or relationship worries.
For more tips about getting support to cope with the stresses of family life, join our Talking Families Facebook community.