Being a parent is one of the most rewarding jobs, but it can also be one of the most difficult. Many new parents worry that they don't know what to do. However, there are practical ways to deal with the challenges of being a new parent so you can enjoy parenting your baby.
Your emotions after having your baby
It's normal to have strong emotions while you're pregnant and after your baby is born. You will probably experience joy, love, delight and surprise. And at other times stress, anger and frustration.
Many people learn how to be parents as they go along. It can be harder to deal with your emotions if you are:
Often, having a baby is different from what you expected. You might be worried about different things, such as if:
- the birth did not go as planned
- breastfeeding is harder than you thought it would be
- you are having some bad days
Many parents feel lost — as though they are not coping. However, over time, you will learn to be a parent, and your confidence will grow.
It's also common to experience negative feelings towards your baby. Talk to your doctor or child health nurse if these feelings are:
- don't go away
- keep coming back
Common worries and fears for new parents
It's normal to feel worried or anxious when you are caring for a new baby. Here are some common worries, with tips on how to manage them.
Worried the baby will die while they're asleep
Many parents fear their baby will choke, roll over or experience sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI).
SUDI and SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), are very rare in Australia. To reduce the risk:
- always place your baby on their back to sleep
- make sure your baby's face and head are uncovered
- keep your baby away from smoke, before and after birth
- do not let your baby get too hot
- breastfeed your baby, if possible
For their first 6 months, the safest place for your baby to sleep is in a cot in a room with you.
Worried you do not love your baby
It's common for parents to feel they have not bonded properly with their baby. It can take days, weeks or months until you feel close with your baby.
You will likely feel a mix of emotions. If you feel very low and disconnected from your baby, talk to your doctor or child health nurse.
Worried you will harm the fontanelle
Babies have soft spots on their heads called the fontanelle. The fontanelle is tougher than you think.
While you should always take care of your baby's head, you can't hurt them by gently touching or stroking over the fontanelle.
Worried you will drop the baby
There are ways you can reduce the risk of dropping your baby:
- Baby-proof your house to prevent tripping or falling.
- Check there are no snags on carpets or rugs.
- Keep objects away from stairs.
- Take your time when walking around with your baby.
Worried the baby is not normal
Parents often compare their baby's development with that of other babies.
Remember that children develop at their own pace, and reach milestones at different times.
Up to about 1 in 7 children experience a developmental delay of some sort.
It's important to get your baby's development routinely checked using the check-up sections in their Child Health Record.
Trust your instincts, and if you are worried, talk to your child health nurse or doctor.
Worried the baby is crying too much
It's normal for newborn babies to cry. Crying may increase in your baby's first few weeks and peak at around 6 to 8 weeks of age.
Babies aged 6 to 8 weeks cry for an average of 2 to 3 hours per 24 hours. Crying is usually worse in the late afternoon and early evening. But it can happen at any time and may last several hours.
Crying usually improves by 3 to 4 months of age.
Check with your doctor if:
- your baby's crying or irritability comes on suddenly
- their crying sounds different
- you are worried about your baby
- you are finding the crying stressful or upsetting
Worried the baby is sleeping too much
Some babies sleep most of the time; others wake a lot. On average, newborn babies sleep for 16 hours in a 24-hour period. By 2 to 3 months, the average is 15 hours of sleep.
For the first few weeks, your baby should be waking to have 8 to 12 feeds in 24 hours.
If you are concerned about your baby's sleep and feeding, talk to your child health nurse. If you are breastfeeding, a lactation consultant can advise you on how often to feed your baby.
Worried about money
Many parents worry they will not be able to provide financially for their baby.
It's important to start planning before the birth and to budget once the baby is born. You may also be entitled to government assistance, including:
- Parental Leave Pay
- Family Tax Benefit
- Child Care Subsidy
- Parenting Payment
For more information about payments and benefits, visit the Services Australia website.
Resources and support
Talk to your partner, or someone else you trust, if you have worries or fears. You can also talk to your doctor, midwife, or child health nurse.
For more support and information, try the following organisations:
- PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia) supports the mental health of parents and families during pregnancy and in their first year of parenthood — phone 1300 726 306.
- ForWhen provides mental health support for expecting and new parents. Phone the National Helpline on 1300 24 23 22.
- Gidget Foundation supports the emotional wellbeing of expectant and new parents — phone 1300 851 758.
- Beyond Blue provides mental health support and information. You can call a counsellor on 1300 22 4636 or chat to a counsellor online.
Speak to a maternal child health nurse
Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.
Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.
Last reviewed: July 2023