Mental Health Awareness Week

Loneliness and the new parent

A woman with a baby and a toddler

Becoming a parent brings many joys and challenges. But what you may not have been expecting is just how isolating having a new baby can be.

Any major life change, be it moving home, experiencing a bereavement or even starting a new job, can create feelings of disconnection and isolation. When it comes to a new baby, it’s a major life change that is further complicated by the endless demands of a newborn, exhaustion from sleepless nights and the need, for the mother, to recover physically from the birth. Added to this is the huge contrast between what life looked like pre-baby and what it looks like now in terms of mental and emotional stimulation.

Back in 2018, a survey of more than 2,000 mothers by Channel Mum found that 90 per cent felt lonely since having children. Meanwhile, many men feel undervalued and unsupported in their new role as fathers, as whatever parental support is available is usually directed solely at the mother.

Tips for tackling loneliness as a new mum

In this short film, Mindful Mums participant Elisha shares what helps her connect to others.

More new mum tips

    • Get outdoors – getting out and about in the fresh air with your baby can do wonders for your mood and help you feel part of your community again. And you never know who you might find to chat to.
    • Join a mother and baby group – mother and baby groups offer numerous benefits, not least the opportunity to meet other mums, share experiences and establish friendships. You’ll be surrounded by others with whom you have at least one thing in common: you’ve both had a baby – giving you a starting point for conversations. Try not to wait for others to approach you. If you see someone standing alone, be brave, and approach them – the chances are they’ll appreciate it.
    • Social media, apps etc can help – whether you’re a fan or not, online platforms can be a huge boon to new mums. There are plenty of resources online as well as local Facebook groups where you can ask questions, gain advice and support and vent frustrations. There are also apps which can put you in touch with other mums locally, such as Mush and Peanut.
    • Reach out to friends and family – those you’re close to may assume you’re too busy with your new baby to want to catch up, so tell them most assuredly you’re up for a cuppa and a chat! When you’re together, try not to pretend everything is fine – after all, if you don’t tell people how you feel, how can they help you?

Need more help?

If you feel that what you’re going through is more than just a case of adjusting to new motherhood, do have a chat with your GP or health visitor. There is a chance you could be experiencing postnatal depression, which affects one in ten women in the UK and is very treatable.

Join Mindful Mums!

Since its formation in 2016, Mindful Mums has supported more than 2,000 women in Bromley, Lewisham and Greenwich during pregnancy and the first year of their baby’s life. While the groups were developed with the purpose of supporting women’s wellbeing, equally important are the connections and friendships participants form through attending them.

The Mindful Mums staff and volunteers

Some of the Mindful Mums team

A volunteer for the service says: “Seeing the mums meet in week one and leave at the end of week five as new friends, with a WhatsApp group in place in order to organise their next meet, makes my heart sing. I know these women have each other’s best interests at heart and will continue to support each other along their journey into motherhood.”

Women experiencing low to moderate level mental health problems can also be referred to Mindful Mums’ befriending service where they’ll be matched to a trained volunteer for one-to-one support. The befriender will encourage the mum to get involved in their local community, and can accompany them to mother and baby groups where they can begin to forge their own friendships.

They can also encourage people back to college or work. One woman who used the scheme said: “I was helped with finding activities for my daughter to attend, childcare and nurseries. Without the befriender scheme I would not have been able to return to university and finish my nursing degree. There is not one aspect of my life that has not benefitted from this scheme.”

Find out more about Mindful Mums

And for dads

The arrival of a baby can be isolating for both parents, not just new mums. Social opportunities for dads dwindle as well; their partner’s attention is focused almost exclusively on the baby; and the daily slog of caring for a tiny infant can be isolating. Men also have far fewer avenues of support than women: mother and baby groups are widely available, but groups specifically aimed at fathers are few and far between.

BLG Mind’s Being Dad service helps men learn more about looking after themselves, managing the changes and challenges of parenthood and supporting their partner. Importantly, the sessions also offer the opportunity to meet other local dads.

“I felt so isolated and alone.” Nev, who runs Being Dad, on why the service is vital.

Find out more about what Being Dad can offer in:

Bromley
Lewisham
Greenwich

More tips for dads

  • It’s good to talk – one of the best things you can do is tell friends, family – or your GP – how you feel. If people don’t know you’re struggling, they can’t help you. And remember: talking about how you feel isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s part of taking charge of your wellbeing and doing what you can to stay healthy for you and your family.
  • Find your people – yes, groups for new parents are usually aimed at women, but most will welcome dads. Or if you think there are other local dads who might feel isolated too, what about setting up your own group? (We suggest calling it Blokes and Buggies – you’re welcome). Local GP surgeries and community centres are usually happy to advertise initiatives like this, and you can promote it far and wide on social media.
  • Focus on self-care – whether it’s making plans to see old friends or going to the gym, try to ring-fence time to do the things that make you feel more connected to others and better about yourself.
  • Make time for your partner – having a baby can put a huge strain on your relationship. Although it’s much harder to go out together and enjoy the things you used to, it’s so important to make the effort as it gives you the opportunity to really listen to and share how you feel with your partner. Talking about the small stuff can also help stop it becoming the big stuff at a later date. Ask a friend or relative to babysit so you can have time together, even if it’s just for a walk in the park – or take a walk with the baby together.

If you need more help

If you feel you’re struggling to cope, talk to your GP. It can be daunting, but most people find that speaking to their GP and getting support can make a big difference to their lives.