Loss of identity after having a baby
Having a baby will change your life. But some new parents struggle because they feel they have lost their identity as an individual, as a person. They feel that the only identity is as a parent. Maybe this is how you feel, but there is plenty you can do to help you adjust to your new role.
What is loss of identity?
Loss of identity after having a baby means you have lost the sense of the person you were before the birth.
Your sense of identity comes from many things, including your:
Having a baby will bring big changes to many of the things that make you who you are. For example, it can impact your relationships and financial independence.
What are the symptoms of loss of identity?
It’s normal for parents to feel tired, worried or unhappy after their baby is born. This does not mean there is something wrong with you, or you are a bad person. But if you’re struggling to understand your thoughts and feelings, or if you’re finding it hard to get through each day, then it’s important to seek help.
What causes loss of identity after having a baby?
Having a baby can bring great joy and feelings of love. But it can also mean the sudden loss of or changes to aspects of your life. New parents, especially mothers, may feel like they have lost their:
- professional identity
- ability to make money
- social life
- time for leisure activities
- time with their partner and friends
- time to be alone
- confidence in how they look
These changes can happen as soon as your baby is born. Many parents feel unprepared or trapped due to the massive changes in their life.
Remember these feelings are completely normal. They don’t mean you don’t love your baby or that you aren’t doing a good job. It will just take some time to adjust.
What can I do about loss of identity after having a baby?
It takes time to get used to your new identity as a parent. Feeling valued and worthwhile in your new role will help you to feel better about it.
It’s important to have realistic expectations about parenting. Try not to compare yourself with other parents, especially in the media or on social media. Resist reading too much parenting information from untrustworthy or unreliable sources and trust yourself to look after the baby. Don’t get too hung up on comparing milestones with other mothers, especially in a mother’s group. There is a wide range of ‘normal’ for babies and young children. Just like there is a huge range of ‘how’ you can parent your child.
Try to enjoy your baby, by cuddling and playing with them. Get showered and dressed, get out of the house and make contact with family or friends. Joining a parenting group or playgroup is a great way to meet new people who are at the same stage of life as you.
Make sure you look after your health by eating properly, getting sleep and rest when you can, and exercising. Make time for yourself and ask for help so you can do this. And make sure you relax when you can, rather than trying to get the chores done.
When should I see a doctor?
Adjusting to a new baby usually happens quite quickly and is not too distressing. But if your feelings about identity loss don’t go away and they’re affecting your life, it could be a sign of postnatal depression or anxiety.
Signs of postnatal depression and anxiety may include:
- difficulties bonding with your baby
- feeling sad, worthless, guilty or numb
- mood swings and crying for no obvious reason
- problems concentrating or remembering things
- restlessness, worrying
- sleep problems
- thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
- withdrawing from family and friends
If you think you may have postnatal depression or anxiety, talk to your doctor straight away. There is treatment available to help you. This is not a sign of weakness, or that you are a terrible or unfit parent.
Resources and support
To look after your baby, you also need to look after yourself. There are plenty of support services that can help, including:
- your doctor
- your local child health centre
- PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia) — 1300 726 306 (9:00am to 7:30pm AEST, Mon to Fri)
- Beyond Blue — 1300 22 4636 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week)
- Tresillian National Parents Help Line — call 1300 272 726
- ForWhen National Helpline — 1300 24 23 22 (9:00am to 4:30pm AEST, Mon to Fri)
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.
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Last reviewed: June 2022