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 your baby more.
It is normal to have strong emotions while you are pregnant and after the baby is born. You will probably experience joy, love, delight and surprise, and at other times stress, anger and frustration.
Often, having a baby is different from what you expected. You might be worried the birth did not go as you planned, breastfeeding is harder than you thought it would be, or you are having some bad days.
Many parents feel lost — as though they are not coping. However, you will learn and your confidence will grow over time.
It is also very common to experience negative feelings towards your baby. If they are intense, keep coming back or last a long time, you should talk to a health professional.
Common worries and fears
It is 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 mothers fear their baby will choke, roll over or experience sudden unexpected death in infants (SUDI or SIDS). SIDS is very rare in Australia although, of course, it does occur. To minimise the risk, place your baby on their back to sleep, do not smoke, make sure their head is uncovered and do not let them get too hot. The safest place for them to sleep is in a cot in a room with you for the first 6 to 12 months.
Worried you do not love your baby: It is common both for mothers and fathers 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 for a long period of time, talk to a health professional.
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 touching or stroking the fontanelle.
Worried you will drop the baby: Baby-proof the house to prevent tripping or falling. Check there are no snags on carpets or rugs, keep objects away from steps, and take your time when walking around with the baby.
Worried the baby is not normal: Parents often compare their baby's development with that of other babies. But children develop at their own pace and they reach milestones at different times. About 10 to 15% of children experience a developmental delay of some sort before they are aged 3. 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 healthcare professional.
Worried the baby is crying too much: It is normal for newborn babies to cry a lot. Crying increases at 2 to 3 weeks and peaks by 6 to 8 weeks. It is more common in the late afternoon and early evening. If the crying sounds different or if you are worried, check with your doctor.
Worried the baby is sleeping too much: Some babies sleep most of the time; others wake a lot. For the first few weeks, your baby should be having 8 to 12 feeds in 24 hours. As long as your baby has plenty of wet nappies and mustard colour poo, there is unlikely to be a problem.
Worried about money: Many parents worry they will not be able to provide financially for their baby. It is 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 benefit and a parenting payment. For more information, visit the Services Australia website or call them on 136 150 to talk about payments and benefits.
Who can I call?
Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby on 1800 882 436 to speak to a maternal child health nurse for advice and emotional support. You can also use our video call service to speak face-to-face.
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Last reviewed: August 2021